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The Final Stand…For Now. Why Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett Will Be Back Next Season

It’s an appealing storyline on the day of Game 5. With the Celtics on the verge of elimination, facing an imposing 3-1 series deficit against the Knicks, the chances of a historic comeback for the injury-ravaged Celtics are slim. Things could end as soon as tonight for this crew, and this has led to the “what, if?” game.

“Could this be the last game for Paul Pierce in a Celtics uniform?”

“Will KG retire?”

“Is this the official end of an era?”

Before we get stuck addressing this for the next few months, I’m going to try to cut off some of that unnecessary worrying and make a preemptive strike tonight.

Read my lips. Even if the Celtics lose tonight, or later this series, chances are VERY high, I’d venture to say 99.9 percent high (in my opinion) that Pierce will spend next season in a Celtics uniform. Same goes for Kevin Garnett. Why? Let’s look at the facts and do some deductive reasoning.

1) Pierce isn’t going to retire. He’s old and his body is starting to breakdown. Guess what though? He is still a top-10 small forward in the NBA. Perhaps more importantly, he’s not going to walk away from 15 million dollars sitting on the table for him next year. He won’t see that kind of money again in his career for obvious reasons. He’s made plenty of it over 14 seasons, but an extra 15 million makes retirement that much sweeter. I wouldn’t walk away from a pile of cash that big and don’t expect Pierce to either.

2) KG (probably) isn’t going to retire.┬áThis one comes with a caveat, until we know the full extent of KG’s injury situation this offseason. However, Garnett is a man of his word. He’s as loyal as they come in the NBA. That’s why, when he signed a three-year extension this past summer, it spoke volumes. Unless his body won’t allow him play any longer, and (based on this season that hasn’t been the case), KG is not a person who would walk away from a contract in the middle of a deal. The 2013-14 portion of Garnett’s salary is fully guaranteed for about 12 million dollars. It’s the third year that contains a six million dollar buyout, giving him and the Celtics the option of letting him walk into the sunset if he wants. He wouldn’t have signed for three years though last summer, if he didn’t plan on playing at least a couple of them. As long as Pierce and Doc are around, I fully expect KG to stick around as well.

3) The Celtics aren’t going to trade or cut Pierce this offseason. Everyone keeps talking about this $5 million dollar buyout ┬áthat the team has on Pierce has this summer. It’s there, but guess what? I can almost guarantee you Danny Ainge won’t exercise it. Why? Buying Pierce out does the Celtics nearly no good both on and off the floor.

You see, the C’s are already well over the salary cap heading into next season. That won’t change, even if they buy out Pierce, they’ll still have well over 60 million dollars committed in contracts. That means no salary cap room, except to bring in someone via the mid-level exception. That’s not a good enough reason to cut Pierce.

Here’s another thing to consider. Pierce, even at age 35, is still one of Boston’s biggest assets and arguably their best player. Danny Ainge 101 tells you not to let your best assets go for nothing (Kendrick Perkins says hello). If Pierce comes back, Ainge can still dangle him at the trade deadline for an attractive prospect if 2013-14 is not a bounceback season for the C’s. If he cuts him? He gets nothing, except some minor luxury cap relief. He can attain that relief in other ways (trading other members of the roster). Throw in the fact Pierce is the heart and soul of this franchise, and it’s just not good business to cut the captain.

4) Rajon Rondo will want another season from Pierce/KG. This is the true wildcard in this entire scenario. The Celtics have a VERY outside shot at being amongst the elite in the Eastern Conference next season if they have their point guard back at full health. No one knows when, or if that will happen next season. However, I can guarantee you Rondo wants these guys back. Why? Because this Celtics’ team is destined for the depths of mediocrity next season (and beyond) if they don’t return, given the team’s ugly salary cap situation. Rondo realizes this and surely wants to make one final playoff run with the full crew intact and a hopefully improved supporting cast.

I’ll go into more depth into all of this during the offseason (which may arrive as soon as tomorrow, hopefully later). For now though, I wanted to cut off some of this talk and put people’s mind at ease heading into Game 5. Thankfully, win or lose, it shouldn’t be the last time we see Pierce or Garnett in a Celtics uniform.

That’s a good thing.


  • hydrofluoric


  • The Cardinal

    I tend to agree with your analysis of KG and PP. My crystal ball shows the Celtics will look to trade Lee (but only for fair value), not re-sign Wilcox, and possibly trade or release another guard. They most definitely should continue developing the young players on this roster that they like, and really work on signing an underrated/unrecognized gem for the veteran's minimum (a la Leandro Barbosa).

    The history of mid-level exception signings have resulted in a series of disappointments but if I had to guess, this time around they will try to sign the most talented player available regardless of position even if that turns out to be a point guard or a small forward.

  • High Rollers

    Man, thanks, B-Robb. I had just heard Bob This KG Era Is Ovah! Ryan over on ESPN authoritatively declaring the window shut. You give a better outlook AND you back it up with specifics about the C's situation.

    Nicely done.

    • janos

      is usual best post from best site nba celtics

  • janos

    only improves this articles -change very outside shot to is going to be best team next year ; but do not think is over tonight i like us win closest game and keep party going

  • Swissflix

    As much as i love KG and PP, they just don't work anymore as the core. And if their minutes get reduced, who's to pick them up? Jeff Green, Sully and Rondo won't make for a team that competes for a championship, no matter how well they perform. And we want that banner! Therefore i think reloading as quickly as possible should be the ultimate goal for the next 16 months or so. Having both retire would help. If Pierce wants to continue, Ainge might actually be forced to trade him.

  • Josh_5

    I like our team healthy next year and Sully will be able to spell KG with Green spelling Pierce. We just need an offensive 2 guard and a legit defensive/rebounding big.

  • CG12

    I wonder mostly about KG's health. He looks like he is really laboring out there. He can still be effective, but it doesn't come easy, and he loses individual battles that he would have won even last year. My guess (not a particularly revolutionary thought) is that whether he comes back depends a lot on the exact nature of his injuries. If he can be reasonably healthy going into next season, then he has a good chance of coming back. If he is going to be battling the same chronic issues for another entire season, I can't see him choosing to do that. The post-KG world will be a very scary place.

  • Ian

    When was the last time a point guard won their team a championship? The 80's. Here is my idea, trade rondo for a above average guard ala derek harper, derek fisher, chalmers, and a consistent scorer of the joe johnson magnitude. Pray to god that jeff green evolves into a superstar. And try to sign a few veterans. But Danny Ainge hasn't made one smart decision since 2008.

  • Ian

    I think Rondo is as amazing as everyone else, but face it. He isn't going to win you a championship. Just look at the Celtics record before he was injured. You think he'll have a better team than that anytime in the near future.

    • GymRat

      The Celtics record with Rondo (20 – 23). The Celtics record post Rondo (21 – 17).

      It's worth noting that the Celtics had a 20 – 18 record with Rondo prior to AB's return, despite having a bunch of new players who didn't know their roles or the defensive rotations, and Jeff Green was giving nothing close to the level of the all around play he is now. They lost 5 straight games with Bradley returning to the starting lineup prior to Rondo's injury which you can lay on Rondo, but I think it's pretty obvious Bradley's rust and the teams chemisty was just as much to blame.

      Rondo isn't the problem, trust me. It's our archaic offensive sets and grind out approach that only works when you have a rebounding edge. And no single player wins you a championship. Why do you think LeBron jumped ship and joined with two all-stars.

      Rondo is an elite point guard and the best player on the team at this point. Can you build a championship team around him? No. But let's be real, the Celtics are out of the championship conversation for the next 3 – 5 years regardless of if Danny chooses to rebuild right away…or let KG and PP ride off into the sunset. There are 30 NBA teams and only 3 (with Westbrook healthy) has a legitimate claim. Real title contenders are rare and our window closed last season in Miami.

      The conversation is really putting an exciting team together that can make a potentially deep playoff run. Looking at our roster and limited options options under the cap, Rondo is the cornerstone and the key to attracting other players. Green is a nice piece, but good luck waiting for him to become a superstar.

  • IBleedGreen

    The notion that you can built a team around Rondo is beyond blasphemy.

  • Dan

    I don't think we have any shot next year even with healthy rondo. This team as constructed connot score enough to win a championship and the defense might slip a little bit too with KG and Pierce loosing a step or two.

    I just want KG and pierce to retire or traded and we tank next year and get a good lottery pick in the loaded draft in 2014 and get a max FA with the cap space. But that's just me.

  • oldutican

    Keeping KG and PP and hoping to make run only happens if they can get an adequate big man and a back-up point, plus it would really help to get a 2-guard that can score. But how do you do that with cap limits? What market if any is there for Lee, Jet or Melo? Plus I believe both KG and PP need to come off the bench to insure their minutes are reduced and to put the ball more in Green's hands. Possible low-cost FA possibilities in sign-and-trades: Mozgov & Will Bynum.

  • celtics are done

    it is fishing style

  • g12

    Great objective commentary. It all only makes sense. Knock knock, anyone home up there in those comments regarding RR, PP and KG? WHO in the basketball universe is coming to Boston instead of those three guys. There is no one else to come in. Maybe we bring back Ricky Davis, ya think? How about Tyreke Evans since the Kings are still hopless and will be for years to come. Let’s get real. Josh Smith? Please no .. The fans pay the salaries. Give us a title run or give us those three guys, at least PP and KG, but dont give us that grey area. Please, stay the same or grow, but backstepping in the nba usually gets you no where fast.

  • Jeff

    I believe your analysis is accurate, though I'm a little more worried about Garnett's health (& pride!) than you. And Pierce, I think, still gets great joy from playing basketball. I only worry about the comment from earlier this year that he will be dealing with his neck problem "for the rest of his career and the rest of his life."
    The day dreamers above who want to tank & reload ASAP don't understand that that ain't gonna work. Can't build a championship around Rondo? OK. But Rondo, Bradley, KG, PP, Green–that's a solid core that has a shot, if you can get lucky with another couple role players.
    Right now, every time I watch Paul Pierce play I want to stand up and cheer; anyone who doesn't want as much of him as they can get doesn't understand basketball or is not a Celtic fan.

  • Jim

    The worst thing we can do next year is be mediocore and finish as a low seed in the playoffs. Sorry folks but the championship window for us is over. We need to get really bad before we can get good again. Drafting with a late round pick does nothing for the team but brngs in a project or a role player. How has Fab Melo been working out? Mid level exception? How did Rasheed Wallace work out and never mind what Jason Terry has done for us. It is time to rebuild folks!

  • GymRat

    The needs of this team are simple:

    1) Rebounding
    2) Rebounding
    3) Rebounding

    We were one of the worst rebounding teams in the leauge last season and absolutely nothing was done to address this (love Sully but a rookie with a risky back is not an adequate solution). Everyone talks about the hit in KGs and PPs production but the reality is this team doesn't get easy baskets and gives opposing teams multiple posessions off of succesful defensive stops. This wears your team out at any age. There's nothing more taxing then playing 24 seconds of great D only to be rewarded with having to do it all over again. There's a reason Tim Duncan is having a great year in SA. They surrounded him with big bodies and rebounding to give that team lots of easy looks.

    If this team had a Reggie Evans or two we would have an entirely different culture and we wouldn't be in the habbit of making scoring look so damn hard to do. Unless you have 3 supperstars in their prime (like we did and like the Heat copied) you can't expect to be the worst rebounding team in the league and win playoff games.

  • Renzo

    I just think Pierce and KG could accept to seriously reduce their salaries, so Ainge would find two good players or maybe one allstar to really improve that roster.

  • Chris Gi

    get K. Love for a dominant Center and KG will play as Power Forward!

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