Here we go again. Seems like I write this same article every year.
The knee jerk reaction to mediocrity and disappointment is to demand change. I'm guilty of it too. I want a trade - even if it is a "sideways" trade, just for the sake of shaking things up. As long as it isn't a step backward or a "blow it up" deal.
But a lot of people feel differently. They want to hit the reset button and start the Presti-plan of acquiring draft picks and young talent to build a contender a few years down the road. They don't want to see an old team get older and waste away without getting value for what's left in their old legs. They point to that famous Ainge story where he pleaded with Red to trade Bird and McHale.
I get all that, I really do. But at the same time, I really don't.
We went down that road before. Ainge blew up a fatally flawed Celtics team many moons ago by trading Antoine Walker. It was the right thing to do in general though I'd argue he should have gotten a better return on his investment and it still took us years to hit rock bottom and pick up enough assets to trade for Garnett and Allen.
That's the thing with rebuilding. It may sound noble and worth it in the long run, but rebuilding flat out stinks. Losing, losing, losing, and more losing. A team full of Fab Melos, Gabe Pruitts, and JaJuan Johnsons trots out there and gets their hats handed to them on a nightly basis and all they learn how to do is lose.
I'm not afraid of change. I'm just afraid of rebuilding because more often than not, it doesn't work. At least not for a long, long time. If there's any small chance of rebuilding on the fly and using our few assets to pick up an All Star level in his prime, then I would prefer that route - though I'm not holding my breath.
It goes beyond that too. Blowing up a team means selling for nickles on the dollar. This is what Eric talked about in terms of taking a step back in talent. You can't do that and expect to head in the right direction.
Paul Pierce is only worth more to the Celtics than he is to anyone else. So right off the bat if you trade him you are not getting his value in return. The only teams that would be interested in him are ones that are going for a championship this year. I really don't think you can find a team that good that has enough expiring contracts to match Paul's contract. Even if they did, the only sweeteners we'd be getting would be some kid with "high upside" (read: project) and a non-lottery draft pick (in what is being called the worst draft in years). That's not worth flushing the "whole career as a Celtic" honor that Paul Pierce deserves to retire with.
Rajon Rondo would bring a better return but it seems unlikely that a team would give us his full value in a mid-season deal. There's a much better chance of getting value for Rondo in the offseason when another team can decide add him to their foundation. And struggles aside, he's still the only young star we have capable of (perhaps) carrying a team going forward. If you jettison him for a package of players, you leave us with no star left after KG/Pierce.
Since Garnett has a no-trade clause, he's not going to be the first domino, but if you trade Pierce there's a good chance that he'll draft up the waiver papers himself and demand a trade out of town or maybe just retire on the spot. Try getting good value for that.
So I say let it play out. The best case is that they find their mojo again and flip the switch and win a championship against all odds. The next best thing is that they do what they've done the last few years - go down swinging with pride in tact and heads held high.
The worst thing that can happen? Well, they just don't get it done and we start over in the summer. I'll let Rich Levine explain (and please, go read this whole article - very, very well done):
The way I see it, if the Celtics are as bad as everyone thinks they are, changes are coming anyway. For instance, let's say they're eliminated in the first round this spring, or embarrassed by Miami in the second round, or worst case scenario, if they don't even make the playoffs . . . I think that's it for KG and Paul. Don't you? You really think either one wants to go through another year of this in exchange for that? Obviously, that would be a horrible and emotional day in Boston. But seeing how it's even a remote possibility, I'd say it makes more sense to play this out, (if it fails) let them walk, and then start from scratch with a level head, rather than being stuck with whatever mess you traded them — or anyone — for in the heat of a regular season collapse.
See, we all know this ride is ending sooner or later. We've known it since it started back in 2007. I'd argue that we've gotten a lot more out of it than we should have even hoped possible - including one Championship that nobody can ever take away from us.
Change is inevitable. We'll be in a better position to deal with that change in the summer than we will be in the next month. If the ride is truly over, you can make a decision to either build around Rondo or really start over and deal him for a better package than you could get now.
So let it ride and let the chips fall where they may.