Win or no win, fans want to see their team playing efficiently and building toward something [if a better team beats you, so be it]. This begins by playing solid basketball, including doing the things teams need to do to win - hustle, box out, rebound, play defense, score efficiently (or grab offensive boards), score in transition, etc.
The C's may have hustled tonight (and played adequate defense), but they have suffered all season long from an inability to box out/rebound and score in an efficient fashion. They also turn the ball over too much. It's becoming embarrassing to watch this team play, even more embarrassing because there are THREE Hall of Famers on the team and FOUR All Stars (in the past two years). Think about that - FOUR of the starters are All Stars - and they cannot play consistent basketball. And, this is NOT on the bench. Four All Stars should be able to build a solid lead before handing off to the bench, and the Celtics actually have a solid bench this season. Bass, Wilcox, Pietrus, Bradley... they're playing well on both sides of the ball and in every facet in which Doc uses them. Yes, the team yearns for an influx of size, but simply adding a 7-footer will not solve the C's' problems. This Celtics team suffers from not playing good, solid basketball.
This is a CLEAR SIGN that Ainge needs to act now (but not in the way you may think)!!!
If your team cannot rebound or score efficiently, then your team is not good. And, if your team struggles to contain a young team playing without its second-best player, then your team is not good. The Celtics are not a good team right now.
This is the third time this season the Celtics have played the Cavs. They've lost by one once and won by three twice. Against the young and inexperienced Cavs (this last time without Varejao on the court)!!! Let's not even talk about the Celtics' inability since December to defeat the lowly Pistons. It seems like forever since the team knocked off the Magic and the Pacers.
The Celtics may be able to get themselves up once or twice to beat a contender like the Bulls or...(actually the Bulls are the only true contender they've defeated all season - without Rose!), but they cannot defeat the teams they should defeat and they cannot compete with the contenders on a daily basis, which means a first-round exit is likely.
Due to this poor play in the basics of the game, Ainge needs to consider a trade in lieu of focusing entirely on free agency.
Let me first explain why waiting out the season and working through free agency may not be the best idea: Ainge knows that the key free agents (Howard, Deron) are a hard-sell to come to Boston, and most other talented ('special') free agents have already been locked up. There are good (R or UR) free agents: BATUM, Asik, Eric Gordon, Hibbert, McGee, Mayo, Ryan Anderson... though most are Restricted, and NONE are true game-changers. So, most of the available talent in the off-season is 'complimentary'. Ainge knows, and has said repeatedly, that championship teams are built on 'special', game-changing players. He cannot, and I think won't, wait for free agency.
The Celtics have game-changing talents (four Hall of Famers) that aren't playing up to their talent level. With this talent, the team should be a championship contender, but instead it's a middling non-contender. The team needs to be shaken up, if not for this season, then next. Trade game-changing talent for game-changing talent. Mix it up. Get a new core in there now and give them the rest of this season as an elongated pre-season, with a shot at a playoff run. Aim for next season, where, if handled correctly, the Big-3 (4? 5?) could mount another championship run with a few new pieces.
Being honest, there are ONLY four players on the team worthy of being considered 'solo' trade material: Rondo, Allen, Pierce, KG. Everyone else is a 'throw-in'.
Personally, here are my feelings on trading the current roster:
Rondo - He's the team's big trade chip - a 26-year-old All Star PG who often acts petulant and stand-offish and whose game doesn't match his teammates' game. Don't misunderstand me, Rondo is a talent, an All Star, and a 'sometimes' game-changer, but I do not believe he's the answer at PG for this current Celtics team, nor do I believe he's worth building around in the next Celtics era. Therefore, he's tradeable. Since he's young and talented, he should bring back a plus-talent. If I were Ainge every trade would be considered, but I'd only trade him if it were for an equal or better talent.
Allen - You only trade Allen if you bring back younger plus-talent. Allen is too useful to any playoff team, incl. the Celtics, to trade for a measly draft pick or marginal young talent. Therefore, I wouldn't trade Allen and I would push to re-sign him in the off-season. It would take an absolute steal in order for me to consider trading Ray.
Pierce - Pierce would need to reap a haul in a trade to make it worth it. He's the Captain of the team. How often are Captains traded? Unless a trade brings back a young multi-All Star talent then it's a bad trade. Pierce is still the only player on the Celts who can create his own offense, and, don't be fooled, his shot will fall regularly soon enough. Also, and you can consider me soft, but Pierce deserves to retire a Celtic. It will be shameful if he doesn't.
KG - In my opinion, he is THE untradeable asset on the team IF the team is hoping to stay relevant in the next few seasons. First off, I believe he will re-sign with the team this off-season because he hopes to retire a Celtic. He has his ring. Believing that, trading KG will shatter the team defensively, leaving them with an inefficient offense and a below-average defense. He's also the leader of this team, notwithstanding the Captaincy of Pierce. KG is the vet elder who yearns to bring his best game every night. You cannot trade him for anything worth value, not even a $20 million trade exception.
O'Neal - Of course I'm open to trading him, but what's he gonna bring back? His salary is of use in a trade, at least. Because of that I'd include him in any trade...if another team will have him.
Bass - Personally, I wouldn't include Bass in a trade, as I consider him a plus contributor to the next few seasons. I'd push for Bass to pick up his player option after the season, and hope to re-sign him long-term. He is a good contributing player.
Bradley - He is certainly progressing this season, but there is no reason to believe that he'll eventually become a consistent contributing player, so I'd be open to trading him, but only if the talent matched up. If he brought back a 7-footer or a more-advanced guard, then I'd throw him in on a deal. Otherwise, I'd keep him and continue to develop him. If Rondo is traded, it's best to keep him as a backup for continuity's sake.
Wilcox - If the team made a push this season, then Wilcox could prove himself to be a big contributing factor. However, the team may not make that push, so I'm open to trading Wilcox.
Pietrus - If the team made a push this season, then Pietrus could prove himself to be a big contributing factor. However, the team may not make that push, so I'm open to trading Pietrus.
Dooling - If any team would take him, considering he's oft-injured and not-too-talented of late, then I would throw him in.
Stiemsma - No team would take him in a trade, as his salary and overall talent level are too low.
Johnson - I like his talent and would try to keep him. But, if another team wants him as a throw-in and the talent we're bringing back is plus, then I would trade him.
Moore - I like his talent and would try to keep him. But, if another team wants him as a throw-in and the talent we're bringing back is plus, then I would trade him.
Pavlovic - If any team would take him, considering he's not-too-talented of late, then I would throw him in.
Daniels If any team would take him, considering he's not-too-talented of late, then I would throw him in.
Something needs to be done. That is evident. This team, as constructed, is NOT a contender. Not this season. Not next.
Since Rondo is my main trade bait, you're probably wondering who I'd consider trading him for. Well, that will have to come in a day or two because I need to research and I'm tired of writing.