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Picking Up the Pieces

Posted By Michael Johnson On May 15 2011 @ 3:20 pm In Boston Celtics | 1 Comment

So where do we go from here? The future for the Boston Celtics is certainly ambiguous. Though the Big 4 still remain on the books through the 2011-2012 season, any are liable to be shipped off at a moment’s notice. The Celtics have proven that they can no longer hang with the big boys of the conference, and have done so in convincing fashion. A move is imminent this summer; the question has just become who it will be.

Ray Allen, despite being the oldest of the bunch, has proven his durability and longevity over his 16 year career. With Ray, you know what you are going to get. He will provide the team with some of the hottest shooting streaks known to mankind (think this year vs. the Knicks), but there will also be times he struggles to score, rendering him completely ineffective (think 2008 playoffs). His game is catered towards an extremely lengthy career. He’s a jump shooter who could ostensibly maintain this style of play for 3-4 more years.

Kevin Garnett, since his knee injury in 2009, has steadily been on the decline ever since. Though he has shown flashes of brilliance in the following years, it’s easy to see that he isn’t the player he once was. He is still one of the most intense players in all of basketball. He will still put his entire life on the line to win. But he is simply decaying at a rate that is more rapid than his counterparts. Though he has arguably become the most popular face of this franchise over the past four years, it will be hard to justify his presence in the coming seasons.

Paul Pierce has been with the Boston Celtics for 13 seasons, leading the team in scoring for the last 11. He’s experienced every possible tumult you can think of in that time period, ultimately leading to winning his first championship in 2008. He’s earned his spot in Celtics lore, as his name will now be mentioned with Russell, Bird, and Havlicek as one of the greatest to ever lace them up. His game has transformed over the years, as he’s now one of the most efficient players on the C’s roster. For all of the ill-will I’ve harbored towards this organization since the Perk trade, those feelings would be all the more magnified if the Celtics were to let go of Pierce. Though KG and Ray deserve all of the adulation in the world for the successes of the past couple of years, Pierce will always be the face of this era.

Now clearly you don’t need me to give you a synopsis of what the big three has done over the past several years. You’ve seen it yourself. But for the sake of understanding this team’s future it feels like a necessity. Understandably we will not be receiving much in return for any number of the Big 3. They are all far beyond their prime and reaching the twilight of their careers. No team is going to give up a major player for another in the midst of their nadir. But as I mentioned previously, this team as presently constituted is not going to cut it. Therefore in the eyes of the pragmatic individual, Kevin Garnett may be the best to part ways with. Dealing Garnett to a struggling franchise for a handful of young, but potentially talented players might be the best way to go. Just as he came in 2007, the Celtics might be best served to let him go in the same fashion.

While Rondo should be fully recovered and back to his old self by the start of next season, there are still many questions about the Celtics youth. Big Baby is no longer under contract and Jeff Green is a restricted free agent. Keeping either will be difficult given the Celtics current financial situation. In fact the only remaining players outside of the Big 4 will be Avery Bradley and Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal. Looks like a bleak future as is, doesn’t it? The salary cap for this past season was 58 million dollars, with the luxury tax set at 70 million. For the first time in quite a while, those numbers could actually decrease in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. As is, the Celtics Big 4 constitutes 56.5 million dollars in salary next year, giving them virtually no wiggle room in signing outside of the Mid Level Exception and anyone who will take the veterans minimum.

The answer has become clear. After being handled in 5 games by the Heat, it is time to retool. Outside of the Big 4, there is no room left to sign anyone of significance. If this team would like to be the 4 or 5 seed in the East next year, they would do well to stand pat. But if they have aspirations of doing any better they must make a drastic move. Knowing Danny Ainge and his proclivity to make moves in the past, I don’t think that is too much to ask.

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