Post-game Reactions

Before we begin, I feel like it’s necessary for a bit of full disclosure. Even after Rajon Rondo tore his ACL, I have been on the record, as being adamantly against trading Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce this year. That stance put me in the minority
amongst most NBA observers and non-Celtic fans once Rondo went down, including my colleagues here at CelticsHub, who made strong and very valid cases that the C’s are better off building for the future in the right deal then finishing out a doomed playoff run with a couple of their aging, but still valuable assets.

While I respectfully disagreed with those people, I knew that Danny Ainge himself was one of those who agreed with the masses. The Celtics’ president of basketball operations publicly said he would watch and wait to see how this team performed without Rondo and Jared Sullinger before making any decisions. He preached patience with Boston’s undermanned squad, but behind the scenes there is no doubt that Ainge was gauging the trade value of Pierce and conceivably Garnett in a trade to a California-based Western Conference contender. There was no guarantee Ainge would pull the trigger on any such deals, but there’s no question the option of a core-changing deal was a realistic possibility.

Pierce and Garnett probably started to understand this was a distinct possibility as well. The questions from the media started coming fast and furious at both players. Did they want to stay in Boston? Would you want to play somewhere else? Would you want to stay in Boston for a rebuild? Could you imagine the Celtics without Pierce? All hard-hitting, but very reasonable inquiries given the circumstances.

Doc Rivers and Ainge handed out their customary denials last week, but if you listened carefully there were no outright guarantees neither veteran was going nowhere. The door was left understandably open by both men that there would be changes. Because of this playing basketball outside Beantown became more than a just a passing thought for KG and Pierce. Instead, there was a very legitimate chance of it happening.

With these trade winds blowing, there were only two guys who could truly put a stop to the rumors. While it’s never an easy thing to blow a team up, it’s much more doable if said team is not playing well, which is exactly what the Celtics were doing for the better part of the season up until two weeks ago. A six-game losing streak, a below .500 record and a team’s most talented player going down for the year is a good formula to allow a GM the leeway to hit the reset button. With this in mind and the doubters lining up, Garnett and Pierce put their heads together and decided there was only one way to make sure they weren’t going anywhere in a move that brought back memories of the fictionial 1990 Cleveland Indians. (WARNING PG-13 FOR LANGUAGE)

Okay, so maybe there wasn’t a team meeting about winning it all. The point still stands though. The only way to ensure Ainge wouldn’t be tempted to make any moves involving KG and Pierce was to put together a run of incredible play before the trade deadline that could not be ignored, both on an individual and a team level. For as hard as it is to blow up a team that includes a Celtics lifer in Pierce and a man that has created and defined the Celtics’ defensive culture in Garnett, it becomes virtually impossible to do when said squad is riding a seven-game winning streak, including wins over Miami, Denver, and both LA squads.

With that noted, here’s how Pierce and Garnett have fared individually during the current seven-game win streak, compared to their season numbers:

During this 7 game win streak, Pierce is averaging 19 ppg, 10 rpg, 7 apg

Whole season for Pierce (18.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.3 apg)

Garnett is averaging 17.8 ppg, 9.7 rpg,  52.9% FG during the 7 game winning streak

Whole season numbers for KG? (15.2 ppg, 7.5rpg,)

While people can debate all the want about the effect Rondo’s absence has had on this team from both sides of the aisle, there’s one thing that can not be argued. Pierce and Garnett HAVE been motivated by the trade rumors, probably just as much as they have been by stepping it up in Rondo’s absence. They’ve taken their games to another level over the past two weeks to send a message loud and clear to Ainge: Don’t even think about breaking us up. We want to finish what we started here.

And that’s just what they have done. While Pierce and Garnett’s trade value is probably higher than ever after this recent stretch of incredible play by both Hall-of-Famers, you’d have to be crazy to think Danny Ainge would be willing to send Pierce and Garnett packing after this recent stretch. And while Ainge might forward thinking enough to consider making the move in the unlikely event he gets bowled over with an offer, I think Pierce and Garnett have done enough for ownership to officially veto the possibility. The backlash from this team’s fanbase would be too much for them to justify it.

Uncoincidentally, during the past week as the wins have piled up, the trade talk involving both men has gone suddenly quiet after Garnett’s proclamation at the Garden last Thursday night. So, rest easy Celtics fans. Pierce and Garnett aren’t going anywhere…and they have themselves to thank for it.

Now, it’s up to Ainge to get them some additional personnel help in the coming weeks, so they have a semblance of a chance at the winning the whole damn thing. They’ve earned it.

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Brian Robb

Brian Robb co-founded CelticsHub in 2009 and is the currently editor-in-chief. He is a producer and reporter at 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston and also contributes to Boston.com and Bleacher Report among other outlets.
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  • skeeds

    Oh Ainge would definitely trade them for the right price allright. But what people (and most importantly rumor-makers) tend to forget is what the right price is.
    First of all, there's not many players out there that would actually improve this team in KG's or PP's place. There's maybe 4 C's and 3 SF's in the game worth making the swap for, and none are available. As I always say, hell yeah Danny Ainge would trade KG for Noah or Marc Gasol. He can't though. He's not scared of going nuclear, but nuclear doesn't mean stupid.
    Secondly, we almost never mention what marquee players mean to their team financially. As long as KG and PP are alive and kicking, the C's are a primetime team. The garden stays full, jerseys fly off the shelf and ads are paid for. No executive is stupid enough to make a trade that won't improve his team's talent, AND would hurt its market value.

    • KillerGymRat

      I would take a 40 year old KG over Noah or Gasol.

      That's a terrible trade. And I would vomit in my mouth watching Noah backpedal down the court in greeen prettending his fingers are pistols after every (rare) time one of his embarrasingly ugly jumper falls.

      Just saying.

      And I agree with you on the marquee value. It's priceless to have two hall of famers.

      • skeeds

        Just to be clear, I'd take KG over any center currently in the NBA. Or any PF. That being said, you can't call a trade for Noah or Gasol terrible.
        You're allowed to hate Noah all you want, but you can't refuse he's a powerhouse on defense. And a center like Gasol who's actually offensively gifted is not just a rarity, he might be the only actual scoring center in the league.
        They're the 2 best big men in the game (in my opinion) right now, and are young enough to invest on for the next near decade. If Ainge decided to go nuclear and end the KG era, those 2 would be dream replacements.

        • KillerGymRat

          I absolutely can and absolutely do call it a terrible trade 🙂

          And I also respect your opinion and get why you disagree.

          I'm not big on Noah, as I think Thibs system is the powerhouse, and Noah just has a lot of energy and athleticism and IMO is highly overrated, especially when you factor in how many minutes he plays and how unskilled he is. Guys like Asik and Chandler get more rebounds in (5- 8) less minutes and clog the lane better. Hickson has nearly the same numbers playing nearly 10 less minutes. And nobody fears Noah as a shot blocker. He's a silmilar player to Manimal (who I would consider an incredible trade and who has a way bigger upside) as an energy guy who impacts the game more on effort than skill.

          I do really like Gasol, and I agree (with the demise of Howard and inconsistency of Cousins and Horford) he's one of the top 2 centers (even in a down year I'd still put Howard first) and argualbly the best all around player at the position. In contrast to Noah, he's pure skill. I still don't think either of their long term value negates the short term loss of KG.

          And don't forget Brook Lopez (not as a trade option) as a legit scoring center.

          • skeeds

            Alright, agree to disagree on Noah. Brook's definitely a good scorer, but I put Marc on top because he's got a more well rounded vocabulary instead of the 1-2 go to moves, and he can almost pass as well as his brother, which is too good for a 7 footer.

            As much as I get excited about the prospect of an actual young, athletic big man arriving in Beantown though, I agree. I'd rather hang on KG till the end.

            Getting Faried would be awesome though.

          • KillerGymRat

            Agreed we are.

            Brooks is pretty one dimensional. I'd take Gasol over him anyday.

  • IBleedGreen

    The only move Ainge should make is trade Rondo for a few pieces that will help us become a better team next season. As the team continues to win, people will realize how overrated he is. This team is clearly better without him.

    • janos

      is not a clear now is the to small time of see are you kididng me trade rondos come on man you are smarter this

      • IBleedGreen

        NINE and ONE

      • Sophomore

        Depends who you could get for Rondo. Rondo's a strong, strong player, but he's not an LBJ or Kobe, or a vintage KG – a dominant player on a championship team. You might be able to get comparable value. And if you could get an all-star or near all-star at the 4 or 5, that could easily be an improvement for the Cs.

  • All this week has done is raise the price. Personally, I see it as a win-win-win if one or both get traded: players win, because they presumably have better chance to close out their career with another ring; Celtics win because they reload (and let's face it, otherwise the future looks bleak); other team wins because they have obviously decided to "go for it now."

    The only losers are those fans who put a premium on things like "want to see him retire a Celtic"… which isn't without value, but this isn't the 1950's anymore (or even the 90's). I'm okay keeping them, and they are fun to watch right now… but I'd rather reload. Still, I can understand those who want to keep Pierce especially. If you had proposed trading Havlicek the last couple years of his career, I would have had an aneurysm.

    • The Cardinal

      Reload with who? Even if I agreed that with the concept of trading them for the "right" players (which I don't), who the hell are those players? LeBron? Dirk? Durant? Carmelo? Surely you don't mean someone like Marc Gasol or Martin Gortat or even Al Jefferson, do you? And I can't think of one small forward other than LeBron and Durant (I threw Carmelo's name in their just for the hell of it) who would improve this team going into next year.

      Hell man, I go back to the last year of the Sam Jones days when Hondo was THE six man, and it might not be the 60's and 70's anymore, but it is about the players' perception of RESPECT! Dumping PP and KG will absolutely guarantee no really good free agents will select Boston as a destination if they watch Ainge discard two players future HOF'ers who have clearly stated they want to end their careers in Boston.

      • skeeds

        Exactly. The missing link in all these speculations is how on earth any trade would benefit the Celtics. Every year we talk about the possibility of trading PP, and I can't think of one trade scenario we've heard that would make sense.
        I'd be ok if we blew it up and "retooled", even if it made me sad. But KG for Bledsoe and Buttler isn't retooling, it's compensating.

      • a) didn't say anything about "dumping". In this case, you would obviously only do a deal with their (KG, PP) blessing.

        b) Reload for the long term… not next year. Would have to be something that set us up with youth and long-haul. Didn't say I had the answer, said that's what I would prefer.

    • Banner18

      People have been saying "the future looks bleak" for the past 3 seasons. Numbers don't lie.

      • Phil725

        The numbers say that KG and Pierce have a level of heart and on court skill that should never be doubted…

        How about the future after they retire though? Because that looks really bleak to me.

  • High Rollers

    Word, Mr. Robb.

    Here is what I like. Rondo, as everyone well knows, is a one-man playoff machine. [You want to know why LeBron James is reaching his potential? 1) the Celtics, 1a) the Mavs with Jet, and 1b) a small-fry wearing the number 9 ripping his spotlight on more than one occasion.] We don’t have 9 this time around, but we have three new guys in Green, C-Lee, and New Shoulders Bradley. The stalwarts exined in Mr. Robb’s piece are going to do everything they can to stoke the young bloods’ fires from now until The Run.

  • I'd really like to see Pierce stay in Boston. I love the idea of players staying put in one place for an entire career. I also love to see the old guys putting what it means to be veteran of the game on display.

    The reality is that there's almost NO WAY based on the way the Celtics have played since Rondo went down that you can get "equal value" back for either of those guys – much less both of them. It would have to be a "for the future" type deal and even that would probably be tough to really sell.

    I'm thinking they'll stay put and I hope to all things holy that they'll get a chance to knock off Miami. I'm not in Boston and, to be honest, I'm not a Celtics fan, but I am a fan of HOW THEY DO IT and HOW THEY PLAY so I'm wishing them the best of luck!

    Even though I'm not a true green Celtics fan I'm honestly not sure how I've never seen this site before as I read a LOT of basketball content daily. I'm going to adding this site to my collection of Boston Celtics links on SignAndTrade.com so it'll pop up on my radar more often!

  • Phil725

    Probably an unpopular opinion, but I actually think Ainge is more likely to blow the team up now than he was seven games ago. Given KG's stance on waiving his no-trade clause while Pierce is still here, every blowing it up scenario starts with dealing PP. There's no other possible first move; you get something good for Pierce, or you stick with this team. I think Ainge's asking price for Pierce was always going to be sky high though, and that's why I haven't expected anything to get done all along.

    There are a bunch of reasons that Ainge wouldn't trade Pierce, with my personal favorite being that doing the extremely unpopular thing of trading him, then turning around and floundering a few years because of the contracts 'he' signed would likely cost him his job. Every GM in the league will make short term moves to improve their job security over the right long term moves for the franchise. That's one major advantage the Spurs have; it's always a long term focus.

    My point is, all this stretch means to me is that a team would be more willing to give up that Godfather package for Pierce. There is a deal out there would make Ainge say yes, as much as everyone here might wail at that idea. If you were the GM of a team currently at a second round ceiling like Golden State, would you give up a can't miss prospect for Pierce? I would. Just look at what he's done with this Celtics team. Any team he goes to is going to be a legitimate threat to make noise in the playoffs. Of course, I'd trade for PP because I'm biased, and I don't think any team would've said yes to that question seven games ago. Would they say yes after this latest evidence of how good he really is though?

    Trading Pierce was always going to be incredibly tough, but it's because he's been synonymous with the team for fifteen years, not because of how the team is playing now. PP's value around the league is going up as he puts up lines like 27/14/14. I don't see how this stretch changed Ainge's asking price though; he was already going to demand a ransom.

  • hydrofluoric

    My concern is, there are very few available prospect-type players who will EVER become as good as Pierce and KG are even in their current state.

    • Phil725

      I'd argue that there are none available, not few. You have to expect that when you make the deal though. No team is giving up a potential future Hall of Famer for a player over 35, even if that player is still playing at a Hall of Fame level.