Rajon Rondo is the only player or coach left in Boston that owns a Championship ring from 2008. In the last week we've lost Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and now it even looks like we'll lose Brian Scalabrine from the broadcast booth (he's reportedly looking at an assistant coaching gig in Golden State - great for him, sad for us).
We are pretty used to the roster turning over every offseason, but it was mostly the bench playing musical chairs. "The Core" was always constant. A starting five of Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, and Perkins never lost a playoff series. Perkins was the first to go and that was tough to take if only because it signaled the beginning of the end. Ray left and it was like betrayal. Now that Pierce, Garnett, and Doc are gone, it just seems like The End. It was inevitable but that doesn't make it any easier.
I'm sure that I'll take some time in the coming days to put some thoughts together for the era that just ended, in particular Paul Pierce, but I also kind of feel like I've been doing that for weeks, months, and years already. That's how inevitable this has been. Some (including Danny you'd think) believe that it was actually overdue. But none of that matters now. It is done.
Which leads me to the next logical question. So now what?
Well, let's review our roster as it stands after the agreed upon deal (that won't be official till July 10).
Undrafted Free Agents: Lamont "MoMo" Jones, Phil Pressey
That's 20 players. It goes to 19 if you assume D.J. White won't be picked up, but that's still 4 over the roster limit of 15.
As for the draft picks? Well, there's a lot of them now.
2014: 2 firsts (Boston, Brooklyn), 0 second; 2015: 2 firsts (Boston, L.A. Clippers), 2 seconds (Boston, Sacramento); 2016: 2 firsts (Boston, Brooklyn), 1 second (Boston); 2017: 1 first (Boston), 2 seconds (Boston, Sacramento); 2018: 2 first (Boston, Brooklyn), 1 second (Boston)
Of course there's also the big unknown of the coaching staff. The only guy apparently sticking around is Jay Larranaga. It sounds like Summer League will be his audition for the Head Coaching gig and the team will look at other assistant coaches around the league looking for their big break.
I feel like I do when I lay out all the pieces of a "some assembly required" toy for my kids. Where do I begin? There's no manual here and the pieces don't all fit together. Part of that is because Danny Ainge cannot possibly be done this summer. There's more work to be done.
I've already seen where Chris Mannix suggests that the Bobcats might be interested in taking Kris Humphries off our hands - but it isn't clear for whom (possibly Ben Gordon, but I'm not sure he makes any more sense than Mr. Kardashian). We could cut some of the unguaranteed guys at the end of training camp to get down to 15, but it would make more sense from a value perspective to bundle a few guys together to pick up one or two guys that make sense for us long term.
Or perhaps Ainge will swing even bigger and look to land a big name player with some of these assets. But it seems more likely that plan will wait until at least the trade deadline and possibly next summer.
It is also possible that Ainge could go in the other direction and shop Rajon Rondo for a trade. However, the team is at least publicly saying that they intend to build around Rajon and keep him as the face of the franchise moving forward. But we'll have to see if Rondo is on board with that and you know that Danny will always listen to offers (and you know the offers will come in now).
So how good is this team as currently constituted? Not very. Granted, Rondo very well could average 12 assists a game, Jeff Green might average 20 points per game, Sullinger might average a double double, and we might enjoy seeing some talented young players blossom next year. But all of that does not necessarily translate into wins.
On the other hand, is that team bad enough to be in the high-lottery sweepstakes? Note: It is more than just Andrew Wiggins, there's a few game changing prospects at the top of next year's draft that might be worth "tanking" for. But a lot of teams seem to be screaming for the bottom like a jet plane that lost its wings. Can they be THAT bad with a healthy Rondo and Sullinger? I suppose they could "hold out" Rondo for a few extra months, but does anyone really see him agreeing to that (as stubborn and proud and driven as he is)?
Still, if I had to guess, I'd imagine that we'd miss the playoffs next year and we'd have a small chance at winning the lottery. So there's that I suppose. Still, I don't like the idea of tanking for all the reasons that Jackie Mac lays out in her latest article. It is generally not good for developing the young players.
"Guys like Rondo, Jeff Green, they're established," he said. "The guys you get concerned about are the Jared Sullingers, or and the rookies, who need someone to shepherd them through the ups and downs of a difficult season. It's easy to develop bad habits, unless you have a core of veterans who stay on top of you. "It puts the onus on the coach to find a way to have the players respect him, to convince them to play hard for 82 games, instead of playing hard for the first 40, then realizing it's a hopeless endeavor."
It is one big roll of the dice, but at what cost? And what if you don't get the right roll? What then? Well, there will be time to debate that in the weeks and months to come. Management has said in the past that they don't intend to "tank" but who knows if they can be believed at this point? It is splitting hairs between "tanking" and "rebuilding" so we'll see what the next moves are.
The NBA is all about superstars. They are the ones that deliver titles. So the focus now needs to be finding that superstar that will bring us another title. It could be Rondo if he takes a few steps forward and remains healthy. I don't think Jeff Green has that in him. Maybe the team can somehow win the lottery next year. Or perhaps they'll go the 2007 route and trade a bunch of these guys for a star player or two that are looking for a new start.
Again, I can't imagine that Ainge is done for the summer. It is a good thing that Danny is "energized" for this rebuilding, because he's got a lot to do. Not just this summer, but at the deadline in February and for the foreseeable coming years.
Rebuilding starts with tearing down and gathering materials. It is hard to know what the final result will be without knowing the architect's plans or the variables that will play their part in the next year. But hopefully it will lead us to another team that we can all be proud of again.