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. This 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 that 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.