Should The Boston Celtics Trade Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett This Season?
It was all good just a year ago! Last season, the Boston Celtics weren’t quite as dominant as they’ve been in past years, but they were respectable. Led by their Big Three—Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett—the Celtics made the 2011 NBA Playoffs, beat the New York Knicks easily in the first round, and gave the “other” Big Three—LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh—and the Miami Heat a run for their money in the next round before ultimately bowing out. But that was last season. And, this season? Well, the Celts have looked like a shell of their former self.
In a word, the Celtics look old. Pierce seems like he’s a step slower than he’s been in the past—which is really saying something, considering he was never the quickest guy to begin with. Allen has been forced to rely on the three-ball and his shooting ability to score points, which hasn’t always worked. KG isn’t playing with the same tenacity and passion as he was back in his heyday. And the team’s point guard Rajon Rondo—once considered to be the weak link on a team full of superstars—is suddenly looking around like, “What happened?” and trying his best to keep the Celtics competitive. And, unfortunately, it hasn’t been working as Boston is off to a horrendous 5-8 start. It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that the team’s general manager Danny Ainge has already come out and publicly admitted that he’s open to the idea of trading Pierce, Allen, and Garnett in order to help the team stay competitive moving forward.
“It’s a different era,” Ainge told the Boston Globe earlier this week. “I sat with Red [Auerbach] during a Christmas party [in the 1990s]. Red was talking to Larry [Bird], Kevin [McHale], and myself and there was a lot of trade discussion at the time, and Red actually shared some of the trade discussions. And I told Red, ‘What are you doing? Why are you waiting?’…He had a chance to trade Larry [to Indiana] for Chuck Person and Herb Williams and [Steve] Stipanovich and he had a chance to trade Kevin [to Dalas] for Detlef Schrempf and Sam Perkins. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I mean, I feel that way now. If I were presented with those kind of deals for our aging veterans, it’s a done deal to continue the success.”
But, even though they’re struggling, is that really the best option for the Celtics right now? Sadly, yes. Pierce is 34, Garnett is 35, and Allen is 36. None of the them are getting younger anytime soon and, as a result, none of them should be included in the long-term future of the Celtics franchise. With the exclusion of Pierce, none of them spent their entire careers with the Celtics, either, which makes this slightly different from the example that Ainge brings up involving Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. They were both Boston lifers and deserved to retire with the team. Allen and Garnett could be better served going to help out a contender for a year or two before hanging it up. But, above all, the Big Three just isn’t that big of a deal anymore. They’re not going to guide Boston to another title. Even if they catch fire, run off a streak of 10 wins in a row and suddenly move into contention for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Celts aren’t talented enough anymore to make a deep run in the postseason.
So while there are probably plenty of Boston fans out there who want to see the Big Three play together until they retire, Ainge needs to make a move—and make a move quickly!—in order to help the Celtics stay competitive once Pierce, Allen, and Garnett are gone for good. And that starts with entertaining offers from other teams for each of them. It’ll be hard to say goodbye, for sure. But Boston enjoyed their last hurrah last year and it’s clear that their reign in the Eastern Conference has come to an end. So, who wants to make Boston an offer? Danny Ainge is all ears—as he should be—right now.