Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to trade season, everybody. We're going to hear everything from Rajon Rondo to the youngsters like Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, and Fab Melo being on the block. Even The Captain isn't immune to the rumor mill.
Ken Berger of CBS Sports has this report from the back rooms of the NBA:
Team executives involved in exploratory trade talks report that the Knicks (Amar'e Stoudemire), Lakers (Pau Gasol), Raptors (Bargnani) and Celtics (Paul Pierce) are open to discussing their high-profile names. In every case but one, the early indications are that none could be moved without a bad contract going back in return. (In Stoudemire's case, his health and the $45 million left on his contract after this season almost certainly will prevent any deal from happening.) The lone exception, executives say, may be Pierce, whose ruthless scoring prowess and championship experience come with another attractive feature: only $4 million of his $15.3 million salary is guaranteed next season. With the Celtics playing better since Avery Bradley returned from injury, president Danny Ainge once again finds himself trying to determine whether the remnants of the 2007-08 championship team have enough to make one more run. Some rival executives believe the Celtics recently waived Jarvis Varnado and Kris Joseph to create roster flexibility for a potential trade. If Ainge decides to stand pat, a deal involving Pierce -- which would mark the true end of the Big Three era -- could be re-examined around the draft or during free agency.
I worked retail in college and if I learned anything, you put the bright, shiny stuff up front so people will come into your store. It's not surprise that Danny is shopping The Captain around: his shooting might be a little off this year, but he's a former Finals MVP who can still get to his shot and make it in the clutch. And as Berger points out, Pierce's contract for next season is only partially guaranteed so anybody looking to pick up #$34 has a little bit of an insurance policy in 2013.
Say this is for real. Say Ainge would rip out the hearts of Celtics fans around the world and trade away the second leading scorer in the franchise's history. Who could they get? Yesterday, there was a story that Rondo has been clamoring for his buddy, Rudy Gay, to come to Boston, but that just sounded like two friends commiserating at a family BBQ. But could it be possible? Memphis has made no qualms about shopping Gay. They're trying to eliminate costs and Pierce's contract would fit that bill. The Grizzlies are poised to make a deep run in the Western Conference this season and could use PP's veteran leadership; two seasons ago, they beat the Spurs in the first round and lost to OKC in 7 with Rudy Gay sidelined by an injury. If Chris Wallace can't make a deal for younger talent, Pierce makes perfect sense for the win now, cut payroll later GM.
From the Boston perspective, I'll turn to the first article I ever wrote for the blog, The Captain & His Ship. Paraphrased, I'd rather lose with Pierce than win with anybody else. It's that simple. Disregarding how the team was playing, is playing, and might play down the road, you don't trade The Captain.