It has been a chaotic week for the Boston Celtics. First, Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett were headed to the Los Angeles Clippers. Then they weren't. Then were going again. And then they weren't. Then they were. And then the deal was dead.
As recent as Wednesday night, the trade was back on again, and it appeared to hinge on the approval of Clippers' owner Donald Sterling.
No big thing. Just ownership approval. From Donald Sterling.— Paul Flannery (@Pflanns) June 20, 2013
Clearly, given Sterling's track record, that is not exactly a small obstacle, and according to reports now, it may not be the only one.
NBA rules prohibit any trade/signing being made w/contingencies or side deals. Can Celts & Clips prove Doc & KG deals are "separate" moves?— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 20, 2013
If this crazy deal somehow goes through, the Celtics would probably then wave goodbye to Paul Pierce, as they have until July 1 to waive him before the $15 million he is set to earn in 2013-14 becomes guaranteed. Should they indeed part ways with him prior to that date, they would save $10 million. In the likely scenario that Boston does shed Pierce, you have to think he would follow Doc and KG to the Clippers.
Thus would end a magnificent era of Celtics basketball, prompting an all-out rebuild.
Is this the way GM Danny Ainge should be going about it, though?
It's a tough decision. You look at what the C's did this year, going 41-40 and losing in the first round of the playoffs after an injury-plagued season, and you think, you know what, it's time to move on.
But then, you look halfway across the country and see the San Antonio Spurs and what they have been able to do, and you have second thoughts. Tim Duncan is the same age as Garnett. Manu Ginobili is the same age as Pierce. Tony Parker is four years older than Rajon Rondo.
If the Spurs can do it, then why can't Boston?
Well, it's worth mentioning San Antonio has an incredible system in place that the Celtics just don't seem to possess. Gregg Popovich, his questionable moves in Game 6 of the finals aside, is an absolute genius, and he knows how to get the very best out of his players. As good of a coach as Rivers is, he has never been able to consistently do that throughout his tenure with the C's.
On the other hand, however, the Celtics actually lasted longer during the 2012 playoffs than the Spurs did, pushing the Miami Heat to seven games in the conference finals while San Antonio fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder in six, and some argue that had Russell Westbrook not torn his meniscus in the first round this year, the Spurs wouldn't have even made the finals.
It's certainly a conundrum, one that makes you wonder if this Boston team actually does have another run in it or if San Antonio just had everything go "right" for them, something the C's haven't had happen since 2008.
Being that the Celtics have been one of the hardest—if not the hardest—luck teams in the NBA over the course of the last five seasons, it seems somewhat hard to believe that things will magically turn around starting in the fall. But, you never know, do you?
That's why, as I sit here at the present time, I really do not have a strong feeling one way or the other on what Ainge should do. On one side of the coin, you look and see a once-dominant Heat team that is aging fast and think, "Maybe Boston can compete next year." But then, you remember the upstart Indiana Pacers and contemplate whether or not the C's would be able to handle them in a playoff series.
This was originally supposed to be a three-year plan, and it has been extended to six. Does Ainge dare try and go for seven?
Based on what has been going on this past week, it seems safe to say that Ainge feels this group is past its expiration date and is ready to be blown up. That means starting a new era of Celtics basketball built around Rondo, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger.
Is that the only way for Boston get back into legitimate contention?
Well, to be blunt, it doesn't matter what we think. What matters is what Ainge thinks, and it doesn't take much piecing together to realize where he is at right now. It looks as if he feels it is time to move on, and regardless of what your sentiments may be, it's difficult to blame him. Then again, if he turned around and said let's give it another run, it would be hard to chastise him for that, too.
This is one of those situations where you are damned if you do, damned if you don't. If Ainge decides to facilitate the rebuilding process by sending Garnett and Pierce packing and the C's go through another dark period like the 90s, people will be questioning if he gave up too soon. If he holds onto his veterans and the Celtics limp to another 2013-like finish, then he will be crucified for remaining too loyal to his guys.
One thing is for sure, though: it is going to take quite a bit of deft maneuvering by Ainge to get the Boston Celtics back into contention no matter what path he chooses.