Boston Celtics: Has the Curtain Closed on the Big Three?

J.B. BirdContributor IIIMay 17, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 15:  (L-R) Paul Pierce #34, Ray Allen #20 and Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics look on in the second half while taking on the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Six of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 15, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

First of all, let me begin with a spoiler alert.

I do think the curtain has closed on the Boston Celtics' "Big Three" as we know it.

Celtics fans will never again see the "Big Three" dominate opponents like they did in 2008 and, to a lesser extent, 2010. 

However, I am not suggesting we have seen the end of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.

Far from it.

Nor am I suggesting that either of them will be traded this offseason—in order to mix things up.

No, my hypothesis is that the "Big Three" will evolve—or perhaps one could say devolve—next season to become the "Medium-sized Three."

Next season will begin the transition as Garnett, Allen and Pierce cede minutes and leadership to the next generation of Celtics players.

Danny Ainge has already flagged the possibility that Paul Pierce could come off the bench next season in order to preserve his energy and allow space for Jeff Green to develop.

This opens the door for Ainge to implement similar policies for the other two members of the "Big Three."

This is a strategy most successfully employed by the San Antonio Spurs. Former franchise players like David Robinson and Tim Duncan have been convinced to accept a lesser role for the greater good of the team.

Such a strategy allows a more orderly transition between one generation and the next.

The alternative is the often ugly situation where former greats insist on remaining the focal point of their team long after they have lost the skills to justify such a role. Team management, often with the complicity of fans, are too myopic to begin planning for life after their franchise player until it is too late.

Danny Ainge has gone on record to say that this is what happened with the "Big Three" of the 1980s, when a decade of dominance was followed by another of mediocrity.

And all because of a failure to properly plan the transition from one generation of players to the next.

Of course, there still remains some uncertainty as to which individuals will make up this next generation for the Celtics.

Apart from Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, none of the Celtics' young players are contracted for next year.

Of the remaining young players, some are expected to leave—such as Glen Davis—whilst others are expected to stay—Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic, Delonte West.

Regardless, whoever finds themselves on the Celtics roster can expect to see an increase in minutes as the Celtics management starts to invest more heavily in the future.

And when that happens, Celtics fans should welcome the change.

Sure, it will be hard for many to see stars like Paul Pierce become a sixth man or role player—not least for Pierce himself—but it is necessary for the long-term future of the Celtics.

All men are mortal, and it would be folly to plan for the future as if the "Big Three" were any exception.