Truth be told, this trade surely is the most controversial Boston's been involved in since 2007. Danny Ainge just might have truly outdone himself this time, as he gives away the core he worked so hard to build six seasons ago. Now, as the 2013-2014 season beckons, the only recognizable member from that championship team is Rajon Rondo, who currently sits at home, injured and probably just as confused as we all are.
But I am sure that Mr. Ainge has got nothing but the Celtics’ best interests in mind – after all, this is the man who gave Boston its first championship since the Bird era. This trade was a gutsy move for sure, but it doesn't lack its merits.
1. The Celtics weren't getting any younger.
Nostalgic sentiments aside, this trade could possibly be something good for Boston. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves here, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett weren't getting younger. Pierce was on the steady decline if he wasn't there already. Meanwhile, the team lived and died with KG. How long can the Celtics keep this up? The man has three years at most left in his playing tank. What will happen to the Celtics then, if he just ups and retires, leaving them with nothing but fond memories and an empty PF spot that used to be his? Same goes for The Captain.
As much as it would have been nice for the two to retire in the green and white, trading them away for some assets is really the much better option than letting them walk away without getting anything in return. Boston is getting a ton of younger players to support their already-young core in exchange for two veterans who could retire any year now.
Of course we really can’t put a price tag or trading chip on all the services they've done in Boston. Of course we are all indebted to them for the blood, sweat, tears, and everything else they poured on the homecourt. Of course they were the only reasons some of us stuck around with the Celtics for so long.
But they also owe it to us by leaving. More than anything else, everyone wants to win. Last postseason, the Celtics only got as far as the first round, where the Knicks put them away in six. If an older Garnett and Pierce were to stay, and if a still-rehabilitating Rondo was still inactive, how far do you think we’ll go in the next one? Will we even make it to the postseason this time? The team can and will only go downhill from there if that were the case. Now that Danny's gotten rid of our old guys, there's nowhere left for us to go but up.
We also owe it to them to let them walk, which brings me to my next point.
2. It’s (more than) what KG and Pierce deserve.
You can shoot me for saying this (and I know more than a few of you will), but I do sincerely believe that KG and Pierce have better opportunities to win in Brooklyn than with the current Boston team.
Sure, the Nets have a selfish PG in Deron Williams and an inconsistent shooter in Joe Johnson, but our two vets made it work with Rondo and Jason Terry. Okay, fine, so I guess it was unfair of me to compare D-Will and Rajon. But see, our two ex-Celtics have the right attitude to maybe set this Nets team straight. Who knows? Under their influence, D-Will might stop whining so much and Brook Lopez could learn a thing or two under Garnett.
Whatever the case, Brooklyn does offer KG and Pierce brighter opportunities than current Boston ever could. If they’re still in the hunt for one more ring before they retire, then maybe Brooklyn isn't such a bad place for them to restart that journey.
The best part about all this is that they still get to do this together. If their Brooklyn season turns out to be their last season, then it’s nice that they get to spend it with each other.
3. Rondo's opportunity to truly shine.
But where does this leave us? We now go back to Rajon Rondo, given he doesn't leave the team any time soon.
Think about it: surrounded with younger players and guys new to the Celtics system, Rondo could take this opportunity to step up now and become a true leader. If Ainge chooses to rebuild around Rondo, then Rondo himself is the biggest gamble. Will he step up to the challenge? Or will he wilt and buckle under the pressure?
For years, our PG has been ridiculed that his greatness was only because he had such an outstanding supporting cast. Now that he's the only superstar left on this team, Rondo needs to grab this chance to silence the critics and prove himself.
Skills-wise, I have no doubt in my mind that Rajon will take us far. Personality-wise, however, I’m not sure I can be so confident. After all, all the older players in the Cs' locker room have gone, leaving Rondo with no role models to look up to. Even Doc Rivers has gone off, leaving the point guard all on his own. There's also all those reports of his fights with some of the older Celtics and his immature antics.
The spotlight’s on Rajon now. For the sake of the Celtics and all us fans, I hope he doesn't let us down.
4. Boston’s opportunity to truly rebuild.
If it’s a rebuild Ainge wants, it’s a rebuild he’s going to get. And based on what we've seen so far, he seems to be getting rid of any and all traces of the past era he’s worked so hard to build. As I said, gone is a huge chunk of that 2008 championship team, leaving only Rondo in its wake.
This, now, becomes a chance for Boston to usher in a totally new era, different and possibly much more dynamic than 2008’s squad. We keep complaining about who we've lost, but take a look at who we still have: Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger. I wouldn't call this a particularly bad trio.
And with a new vacancy now at the head coach’s position, we could be seeing some new things from the Celtics. As much as I loved Doc, he did have the tendency to over-rely on his aging Big Three – maybe not because he wanted to, but most probably because he had to. The Celtics bench wasn't very spectacular last year, after all, with more than a few guys fading away into inconsistency and disappointment. With a new coach at the helm, I’m hopeful things will turn around for the Cs'.
The trade doesn't give us any instant solutions, a deep bench, or a watchable team. But it gives the team a step forward into a new direction. Rebuilding is a slow process and we would be delusional if we were to expect a trophy at the end of all this. We're going to have to sit down, buckle up, and wait. Trust the management. Trust the players. If it's any comfort, there are more than a few organizations in the NBA with worse management than ours.
If ushering in a new era requires us to ditch the old one, then usher away. Playoffs-bound or not, I’m at least assured we won’t have to face the same problems we did last year.
5. Jason Terry
Ah, now we get to the biggest disappointment of last year. Jason Terry, the Jet, paid like a superstar, but hardly played like one. Where do we even begin with this guy?
For one, I’m glad he’s moved out of Boston and into Brooklyn. Give them one of our problems in exchange for theirs (Humphries was a pain for the Nets too, wasn't he?). Nice going there, Danny.
Out of all the Celtics players we had last year, it was probably this guy I couldn't stand the most. For some reason, every time he opened his mouth to talk to the media, I’d only shake my head at my computer screen and wonder what exactly the man had done to warrant his after-game comments. Inconsistent and sloppy, Jet was prone to flashes of brilliance. But what flashes they were! And how quick they came and went too!
Personally, I’m glad he’s out of the Celtics now.
* * *
In the end, after a calm re-evaluation of the trade and its implications, it seems that there are multiple benefits we can check out in spite of all the outrage. Believe me, I know where all the outrage is coming from.
Outrage and disbelief were my knee-jerk reactions too, because which organization gives away the heart, life, and soul of its team for a bunch of nobodies? What possessed Danny Ainge to give away our Captain and our Ticket for Humphries and a group of third-stringers? Why Brooklyn?! Does loyalty not mean anything in this league anymore?
But it’s time to wake up now. Loyalty doesn't run this league anymore. Championships do. Nobody remembers players for being loyal. We remember them because they were winners. And the reasons why guys like Jordan and Bird stuck around with their home teams for so long? Because they weren't declining and still gave their hometowns reasons to believe. Now I won't deny that both Pierce and Garnett have been doing that for so long. But in a new Boston era, Danny's decided that either he didn't need them or they just weren't performing up to expectations anymore.
It’s a painful reality, but one we all have to face. In fact, had Paul Pierce only performed slightly better, then maybe this trade wouldn't have happened. Had Kevin Garnett been years younger, we wouldn't see him don the black and white next season. But they weren't. The reality of things is that they were aging veterans with maybe three or four years left at most. If Danny Ainge wanted to build a future with the C’s, then he certainly was going to have a hard time getting it done with these two.
For all we know, perhaps giving them to the better-on-paper Nets was a worthy send-off, no matter how bitter the pill we had to swallow. And on their part, leaving the desperate-to-rebuild Boston may have been a bigger thank you from them to us. Without their influence holding the team back, Boston can now really begin anew. They’re warped ways of saying thanks that’s for sure, but they’re still thank you’s.
Thanks, congratulations, lookbacks, and tributes to these two men are certainly in order. But the trade's been done and Ainge's dealt his hand. I doubt he's finished working his magic, but whatever happens, he's going to need this fanbase. And however reluctant we may be to accept the idea, we're going to need him too.
After all, he's brought home Boston's first championship since the Bird era. Let's see if he can do it again.