There are dozens of different directions that Danny Ainge could go in this offseason. Run it back, reload on the fly, rebuild around Rajon Rondo, rebuild by trading Rondo and others, tank completely for a shot at Wiggins, or some odd combination of 2 or 3 of those. Everything is on the table, ...everything.
It appears that the window has officially been slammed shut. We will not see the Celtics compete for a championship with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett as the best two players on the roster. I'd argue that they probably can't do it with Pierce and Garnett as the 2nd and 3rd best behind Rondo either - even though that's what I was hoping for earlier this year. Change is coming and I have a feeling it is going to be big change.
Ainge himself has said that he's been open to just about everything for a while now. When KG decided that he wanted to come back last summer, it made Ainge's decision very straightforward. There were no better options than to bring the band back together. It didn't work out as planned so Ainge looked at a lot of different options.
"Now," Ainge added, "if we knew we weren’t going to have Rajon healthy come playoff time, things might have been different. Different decisions might have happened. But we think Rajon’s going to fully recover and be as good a player as he’s ever been. And what happens with Paul and KG will be decided somewhere weeks after the season."
"I think the bottom line is that at the trade deadline we tried to do a lot," he said. "We had conversations about trying to improve this group of guys and giving us a better chance of winning now, and we looked at options like that. And we wanted to do things, but they just weren’t available. I mean, we couldn’t get what we wanted to make that happen. "We also talked about the possibility of starting fresh. With Rondo out and (Leandro) Barbosa out, you know, what were our realistic chances this year and what could we get? And there was just nothing that came about that would have helped us.
Which brings us to the present day. The first big decision is what to do with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Clearly those two are the biggest dominos and they are tied somewhat at the hip.
One thing that does seem clear is that the fates of Pierce and KG are intertwined. If Garnett does retire, or if they can convince him to waive his no-trade clause, then it might make sense to bid Pierce farewell. If they decide to part ways with their captain then that might make the decision easier for Garnett.
At the deadline Ainge couldn't move Pierce or KG because (in part) he couldn't find takers willing to pay a reasonable price. This summer he has an added option to cut ties with Pierce which would likely trigger a KG exit as well.
The Celtics are over the cap and will have to make some hard, cold decisions to change their fortune. The obvious target is Pierce, whom they can attempt to trade, buy out for $5 million, or assign the amnesty tag. Pierce has expressed a desire to stay in a Celtics uniform his entire career but conceded a few days ago that one way he might retire here is to return after a stint elsewhere, sign a one-day contract with Boston, then call it quits.
There are more decisions beyond that and all of them will be discussed here in great detail in the coming weeks, but my general guess is that we've seen the last of both Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce as Celtics. I think next year we'll have a team centered around Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, and Jared Sullinger. That's a solid nucleus but not enough to contend with.
Ainge might be able to bring in someone by trading Pierce but I'm not holding my breath waiting for a star in return. Another option would be to cobble together some salaries (Bass, Terry, etc.) along with some of our prized assets (Sullinger and/or Bradley) to get ourselves a star (or two) that might be on the market - similar to the way we got Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
Like I said, anything is possible - and not in the euphoric way that KG meant it after winning the 2008 title. Those days are done now. Change is coming, regardless of how we might feel about that emotionally. Ainge has the next move. What will he do with it?