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On The End of The Paul Pierce Era and Start of A Rebuild

 

It was the right move. It was the best return the Celtics could get. I’ve repeated this over and over to myself in the past 24 hours. It still doesn’t make the reality of what just happened any easier for most Celtics fans.

Those young fans like myself grew up on Paul Pierce. They lived on him. Through the highs in the early 2000’s, in which he carried an underwhelming supporting cast to the Eastern Conference Finals. Through the lows of the mid 2000’s, when Pierce still gave C’s fans a reason to watch a bad team every night. On any night Pierce played, the team always had a chance in that era. You can’t say that about a lot of rebuilding teams. He was that good.

Thankfully, the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen brought brighter times to Boston. Pierce was awarded for his loyalty, sacrifice, dedication, and toughness. He won a title and with a little more injury luck he probably should have had one or two more.

The end was not pretty against the Knicks, and unfortunately it overshadows one of the best regular season efforts of Pierce’s career. With the help of Garnett, Pierce willed the Celtics from sub .500 team when Rajon Rondo went down and got them into the playoffs, at which point the odometer was empty.

Make no mistake, despite a tough postseason for the captain, Pierce is not done. Neither is Garnett. They can’t do it for 30-35 minutes a night anymore consistently, but both players are still borderline All-Stars. They came to play every night last year. They did their job, and didn’t complain, as the team lost player after player to injury and made ill-fated trades (Jordan Crawford).

They competed, even as the supporting cast brought in by Danny Ainge to assist them let them down.

That’s what makes this so hard. It’s one thing to say goodbye to franchise legends on a downward spiral. Pierce and Garnett are not there yet. (And neither is Jason Terry for that matter). These are all extremely valuable players, that were given away for a chance to build at the future.

In most other professions, you are rewarded for seniority and for doing your job well. You are allowed to go out on your own terms. It doesn’t sound like an unreasonable expectation, but in today’s NBA it is.

Listen, we all know the Celtics were going to rebuild at one point or another. It was going to be a painful process whenever it started and probably last for awhile. As long as LeBron James remains in the Eastern Conference though, chances are the Celtics wouldn’t be able to get back to the NBA Finals any time this decade.

Knowing this, I was content to see the team ride it out with Pierce and Garnett for at least another year. Most fans would have enjoyed watching them compete each and every night, with a puncher’s chance of being a feisty underdog in the playoffs. You had a bunch of younger players around Garnett and Pierce that could continue to improve and develop, benefitting from their influence. Is that really so bad a scenario?

It was to Danny Ainge and the ownership. And I understand that. The deal was the right one to make on paper. Ainge has acquired a litany of lottery tickets, and chances are he’ll hit on a few.

“I think we are in a much better position than we were when I got here ten years ago,” Danny Ainge said last night. “Where we sort of had to do it in pieces and move at a slower pace. Our objective is to do it less painful and do it with more speed and more pace.”

Ainge is right on that. There’s one difference he’s forgetting though.

Unlike 10 years ago, he no longer has Paul Pierce to build around.

Can Rajon Rondo be that centerpiece? We’ll find out soon enough.

  • Rob

    “Ainge has acquired a litany of lottery picks”. Where are they? All I see is our own lottery pick next year and the nets late first rounder.

    • Eugene

      "litany of lottery TICKETS"……small difference, and for what its worth I think the 2016 and/or 2018 pick could end up in the lottery.

      • dslack

        And the Nets 2017 pick could be a lottery pick too. Celtics might take 3 straight lottery picks from the Nets.

        • Phil

          I've been wondering about the logistics of that 2017 pick. You can't trade picks in back to back years because of the Stepien rule (which is why the C's picks are 14, 16, 18,) but does that not apply to swapping picks? If the deal was potentially 4 1st round picks, that would be even better.

          • dasein

            I'd guess swapping isn't the same as trading because both teams still have a pick. Different to I give you my pick and you give me a packet of chips.

    • Cart

      Three first rounders in 2014, 2016, 2018, and the first rounder from the Clips in 2015. That means for the next 3 years we will have two first round picks, hopefully at least one of which will be a lottery pick. While we did pick up Wallace's 10mil a year contract for three of those years, we were able to shed 2 of our highest paid players as well as Terry's deal. Looking ahead to the crazy free agent market in 2014, we are poised to be in a really really good place both with picks and financially.

      This deal was a great move for the future. You might look at that roster for Brooklyn and think they are immediate contenders, and think those picks we will get are guaranteed late first rounders. But just step back for a second. KG and Pierce have had injury issues the last several years. Jason Kidd is their coach and though I respect him as a player, the guy has no head coaching experience. Beyond their starting 5, what do they have? Nothing. They lost two of their best rebounders and double double guys in Evans and Humphries. Add to that the fact that they will take time to learn to play together, and its entirely possible they don't make the playoffs.

      So just relax for a bit and lets see what happens. Theres a lot of hope to be had here for the future.

      • WTF

        What have you been drinking? with all that talent, in the east, not making playoffs?

      • check12check

        well the nets are instant contenders for a title and maybe even front runners. the thing is though, they won't be a juggernaut for long. KG and PP don't have many seasons left. that 2014 pick doesn't look like anything special (ours own might be the freaking number one pick however), but that 2016 pick might be a gooooooood thing.

        I like Evans a lot too. Guy has a whole lot of motor

  • http://twitter.com/justincohn @justincohn

    This rebuilding process will be difficult, but that doesn't negate how necessary it is.

    As far as Pierce is concerned: Wow, what a player. One of the greatest Celtics of all time, and it is painful to watch him go. With that being said, best of luck to him in Brooklyn.

    Another quick point: I've read a lot of posts on here and on other sites from angered Celtics fans who are altogether pissed at Danny and ownership. There are some who are denouncing their fan-ship; there are others who are band-waggoning to Brooklyn. Remember this: this Celtics team, as it is now and as it has been for decades, has always found a way to be historically resilient, even when the going gets tough. Don't give up on your team just yet.

    They're the Celtics, after all. This is Boston we're talking about. Give it a few years, and maybe – just like before – we'll be right back where we should be: at the top.

    Again, best of luck to The Truth and KG. They'll always be Celtics to me.

  • hax

    Sad stuff.
    I'm wondering if Rondo & Green are safe. They are great players who can carry this team maybe even to the point of making the playoffs. If Ainge wants to go all in for Wiggins/Parker, this team is far from a tank roster.

    • fabzzz

      I have to disagree. Whats our starting five? Rondo, Bradley, Green, Sully, ???Olynk???. And our bench? Wallace, Humpries, Brooks, Jordan Crawford.

      Think about this lineup: Williams, Brooks, Wallace, Bass, Humphries. Or throw in Courtney Lee or Shav if ya like. Its still not looking good.

      I would have to make several giant leaps (like 'Jeff Green is a franchise player' type of leaps) to make a list of eight eastern conference rosters worse than this. I like the Pistons roster more. I like the Raptors roster more. I like Sixers roster more. Hell, I may even like the Cavs roster more. Honestly, are Green and Rondo and Bradley so much better than Irving and Thompson and Waiters? There is no way. I think I'd rather have the latter, honestly. And the Cavs just had the first pick in the draft. We gotta shot at that top pick people. On top of all that, who knows what kind of Rondo we;re gonna get, or if were even going to have him at all?

      This argument is also the saddest bright spot ever.

      • fabzzz

        edit. Just read Holiday was traded. Not so sure about the Sixers anymore.

  • james patrick

    How many of you loved Bill Simmons calling Doc out? That needed to happen regardless of what was happening with the team.

    • hax

      me! <3 Bill

    • Phil

      I thought the whole draft show was pretty interesting. I like TV Bill Simmons, it adds a lot when the hosts are willing to take shots and mess around with each other, especially live.

      Calling Doc out there was a good way to bring attention to the situation, because I didn't feel like it was a calculated strike or anything like that. I thought he handled getting thrown under the bus during the Doc interview pretty well too.

  • I_Love_Green

    Of every team in "rebuilding" mode (CHA, SAC, DET, WASH, CLE) and a few others, we're probably in the best position right now. Most of those teams have solid to great young players, but they don't have many assets to work with. Cleveland has to hope Irving, Thompson, and Bennet become all stars (Irving is the only one I see doing that), Washington has to hope the same from Wall and Beal, Charlotte…well its the Bobcats, Sacramento is a mess, and Detroit and a couple good-not great young guys.

    We have a top 5 point guard in Rondo who may actually come back better now that he'll be one of the main focuses on offense, Jeff Green who showed he can be a 20 ppg player in the 2nd half of the season last year, Sully who showed promises of a double double machine, and then draft picks out the ass. It may take 2-3 years but we'll be back near the top of the league again soon guys. This was a great trade.

    • Phil

      There are about three teams 'total' at are in a better position than Cleveland (Miami because they have a good chance to win at least one more title. OKC… and I think that may be it.) Irving isn't someone you hope is a future all star, he's a franchise player right now. Any team in the league would trade their PG for him except maybe LAC, and that's only because they want to win this year. They have tons of cap room, no bad contracts, and prospects galore. The Cs hope to be in three years what the Cavs are now.

      Here's the problem with forecasting the Cs team as it is now though; Green and Rondo playing well isn't good for the future. You get worse draft picks, and they would end up with contracts way too big to fit on the team. The team now isn't the team that's going to be here the next time the Cs make noise in the playoffs.

  • DreMo

    In 2014, Boston gets either Brooklyn’s pick or Atlanta’s pick, whichever is worse. And in 2017, Boston has the right to swap picks with Brooklyn, a source said.

  • DreMo

    Atlanta with It’s ugly situation .. could be in the lotto FOR us.

    • Mark

      Um, no.

      If Atlanta is in the lottery and the Nets are in the playoffs then we would receive the Nets pick.

      If Atlanta makes the playoffs and the Nets are in the lottery then we would get the Hawks pick.

      It's the lesser of the two meaning the pick furthest from pick #1.

      The only way we get a 2nd lotto pick next season is if both the Nets and Hawks are in the lottery. I'm rooting for that by the way.

  • I_Love_Green

    9 first round picks in the next 5 years….thats solid.

    • Mark

      And seeing as how valuable picks are, especially unprotected, during this new CBA means the next franchise player is around the corner. Either the draft or a package during a trade he's coming here soon.

  • I_Love_Green

    Also, I'm not entirely sure how the stretch exception works, but I read on Reds Army we can cut Wallace and stretch his contract out over 7 years for 4ish million each year. I'd rather have to deal with that than the 10-12 million he's owed the next 3 years.

    • hydrofluoric

      Not sure why it's a big deal – stretch him whenever you need the cap space, but it's not like the Celtics are going to be chasing Dwight Howard or LeBron James over the next two off-seasons. And he's certainly not going to make the team somehow too good to tank.

    • Phil

      It's probably better to just eat the salary immediately in my opinion. You aren't going to be able to sign anyone for the next two years anyway, so just bite the bullet then instead of worrying about a 4m charge in the 2020s. Look at deals like Memphis giving up a first rounder to shed around 5m of salary or Houston looking to sell Thomas Robinson to help clear space for Howard. It's possible you need the space in 2015, but it doesn't seem very likely.

  • High Rollers

    Bye, Truth. I'll always remember seeing you beat the Knicks in person with your signature shot and then Nate-Rob trying and failing to hop a ride on your back, flying clear over you. And then your bow at half-court. Priceless. Warrior, Entertainer, Truth. WET.

    Ticket… there are no words. God speed to Da Kid.

    Doc… thinking about you laying it on thick for Chris Paul is kinda making me taste my lunch again. A lot of us know it was complicated 'cause you got your heart and soul twisted up in the team that was. It happens. But really, the CP circus is nauseating. Hope you can keep your head out there in LA.

    Rondo… roll on.

  • BeanMan

    Like you said, nine first-round picks in the next five years is SOLID. I mean, look at where these guys were drafted in their respective year of entry:

    Paul Pierce: Drafted 10th overall
    Kevin Garnett: Drafted 5th overall
    Ray Allen: Drafted 5th overall
    Larry Bird: Drafted 6th overall
    Rajon Rondo: Drafted 21st overall

    There is a good chance we will hit on one or two of our nine picks with players of their caliber (OK, maybe not Bird). You do not need the first overall pick to land the next great Celtic of the next 10-15 years…

    I say let's move forward with the rebuild by moving Rondo in exchange for two or three unprotected first-round picks. Who would bite on such an offer? The worse the franchise, the better.

    Let's go Celtics!

    • roadsidenotes

      I have my doubts about Rondo's ability to be a captain. But I don't think he should be traded for draft picks.

      Garnett & Pierce couldn't be traded for known quantities. Rondo can be traded for a known quantity or known quantities. I wouldn't mind a lower caliber PG and a higher caliber PF/C, but if Olynyk & Sully can morph into "Mr. Offense and Mr. Defense", Boston might not need to swap Rondo for an upgrade in the front court. Just my thoughts….

  • hax

    Bill Simmons is amazing. Seriously, Danny should make him Head Coach for our tanking year(s) https://twitter.com/billsimmons

    • hax

      assistant coaches design offense & defense anyways. It'd still look like NBA basketball.

    • dasein

      Doubt he'd want to do that. It would expose the fact that he doesn't really know as much about basketball as he likes to make out.

      • Phil

        Simmons doesn't claim to know that much about personnel and the like now. He has opinions like every sportswriter, but he's written a lot more and more in depth about the history of the game. In the end, all of sportswriting is opinion anyway.

        That said, there are a few GMs/meddling owners who are worse at personnel and talent evaluation than the average sportswriter. I'm not sure I'd put Ainge in that category, but I also don't think there'd be a serious drop off.

  • hax

    Simmons has to be the head coach. It'd make this season entertaining. And any games vs. Doc and the Clippers would be MUST WATCH.

  • dasein

    This post is just to take the number of comments up to 34 :)

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