With Doc Rivers finally headed to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for a future first-round pick, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Boston Celtics must now prepare to ship out Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce so they can begin the rebuilding process in earnest.
Moving Pierce elsewhere is easy and totally within general manager Danny Ainge's control. Boston can buy out its franchise icon for just $5 million, so long as it does so before July 1. That move would save the Celtics more than $10 million off next year's salary cap, moving the team comfortably beneath the luxury tax line.
Before any buyout occurs, though, the Celtics are likely to entertain trade offers for Pierce. One rumor from Bob Finnan of The News-Herald had the Cleveland Cavaliers offering a pair of second-round picks in exchange for the veteran small forward.
Whether by trade or by buyout, it seems that Pierce will be moving on from the Celtics in the very near future.
Garnett's situation is much more complicated. Originally included in what was technically termed a separate deal with the Clippers for center DeAndre Jordan, Garnett was supposed to have followed Rivers to Los Angeles.
Per Wojnarowski, KG reportedly would have agreed to waive his no-trade clause only if he could join his coach with the Clippers.
But the NBA stepped in, making it known that it wouldn't allow the Celtics and Clippers to essentially agree to two deals that were separate in name only. That intrusion from the league office appeared to have killed negotiations between the two teams, but the Clippers simply redirected their focus exclusively onto Rivers, apparently abandoning the half of the deal that included Garnett.
And now that the Clips have their new coach, it would stand to reason that they'd resume pursuit of a trade for Garnett. But there's a problem. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the NBA has made it crystal clear that any subsequent moves to send KG to the Clippers will be extremely difficult to pull off.
ESPN source says NBA does NOT intend to budge from Stern's stance & would see subsequent KG-to-Clips deal as connected & thus in violation— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 23, 2013
In multiple radio interviews Thursday, Stern made it clear NBA sees idea of Doc & KG both landing with Clips as one trade broken into two— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 23, 2013
Ken Berger of CBS Sports also reported that all parties involved understood that the league would nix any Garnett-to-L.A. moves.
The NBA will not approve any subsequent exchange of players between the Clippers and Celtics this summer, and the teams understand that.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) June 23, 2013
Stubbornness, thy name is Stern.
The league showed a surprising willingness to nix a trade it didn't like when the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Hornets previously agreed on a deal to send Chris Paul to Hollywood late in 2011, so this kind of dictatorial move is hardly surprising.
That deal-killing behavior from the league turned out to be a boon for the Clippers, who ultimately ended up with Paul. Now it seems the league is evening the score.
As for the Celtics, the timing is certainly right for a new start. Since 2007, Boston has operated on a year-to-year basis, hoping to hold on for one more run with its veteran core. But now that Rivers is headed to the opposite coast, there's little reason to suspect that the same strategy will be of use going forward.
Garnett won't want anything to do with a rebuilding effort, especially with Rivers (and probably Pierce) long gone. If the league won't allow the Celtics to move him to the Clippers, KG will have to reassess whether there are any other destinations he'd consider waiving his no-trade clause to visit.
Failing that, Wojnarowski reports that Garnett could still stick it out for one more year in Boston before heading back to the Minnesota Timberwolves to join his former head coach, Flip Saunders, in the front office.
And if none of those options seem appealing, retirement could become a very real possibility.
The Celtics had a great run over the past six seasons, but nothing lasts forever. It's time for a new chapter in Boston.