Kevin Garnett is the soul of the Boston Celtics. He inspires his teammates. He motivates them. He tutors them. He's a leader. He actually wants to be a Celtic.
He's also a very good player. He's obviously not what he was 10 years ago, or even back in '08, but he still remains one of the top defensive bigs in the league. He's still an elite player. A team needs elite players to win.
Paul Pierce deserves to retire a Celtic. He's been with Boston his entire illustrious career. He's expressed a desire to be one of the few players in the modern era to spend his entire professional life with the same, single organization. Plus he's still a productive player. I care about loyalty. I believe in loyalty.
I also care and believe in identity. The Celtics are more than just a uniform. They're an ideology, they're a personality. I don't understand all these fans who want to trade everybody off the roster. Do that and we're not really watching the Boston Celtics anymore. Some guys are just too integral to the chemistry and identity of a team to move them.
I realize that the Celtics as currently constituted are not likely to contend for a championship any time soon. But that's true with or without Garnett and Pierce. Pawning them off for the sake of pawning them off (and that's what most of the fan trade proposals would lead to) does not necessarily accelerate the rebuilding into a champion. Bottoming out and rebuilding through the draft doesn't necessarily work either, as many perennial lottery teams can attest. It really comes down to money, astute draft selections (wherever a team may pick), and exploiting other teams' contractual mistakes (overpays and redundant acquisitions).
Instead of trading everyone away and just as likely turning into the Charlotte Bobcats as the next Oklahoma City Thunder, I'd rather see Ainge build around what the Celtics already have, instead of wasting it. Garnett and Pierce are still talented enough to be the second and third guys on a championship team. Bradley, Green, Lee, and Terry are all championship-caliber role players. Sullinger appears to be headed in that direction as well, if he can return healthy from back surgery.
As we've seen the last couple years, the Celtics are capable of beating any team in the league on a given night. They always seem to be just one or two players short. With a healthy Perkins in Game 7 of 2010, maybe they win the Finals. With a healthy Green and Bradley last year, they probably beat the Heat and maybe defeat the Thunder. It's foolish to ignore these realities and think that the team needs to take twenty steps back to go one step forward. Just take the step forward!
My solution: trade Rondo and fodder (Bass, Wilcox, Collins, Barbosa, Melo, future picks) for a legitimately talented rebounding/shot-blocking big, and try to do it by this Thursday's deadline. The rumored Dwight Howard deal that the Lakers denied would turn the Celtics into instant title contenders. That's a risk worth taking. Worst case scenario, Howard leaves via free agency and the Celtics would have significant money to spend. I don't think that's such a terrible fallback plan. Doing nothing is the bigger problem. You have to take risks. You have to think big. The Celtics really can win the championship this year if they turn Rondo into something useful. Don't procrastinate. Do it now. Plenty of teams would love to take their chances on a talent like Rondo.
A few possible scenarios:
1. Rondo + Bass + Melo + two first round draft picks to the Lakers for Howard.
The Lakers would make this deal because they desperately need a pass-first point guard to work with Kobe Bryant, Howard clearly won't be returning to LA anyway (I don't care what he says in public, it's obvious that he doesn't get along with the other Lakers), and this deal would allow the Lakers to recoup some much-needed draft picks that they've surrendered in recent trades. Due to the fact that Rondo is out for the rest of the season, there's no immediate redundancy issue at the PG position with Nash. The Lakers could move him in the off-season, maybe to the Raptors who wanted him last year.
From the Celtics' perspective, this may seem like a huge price to pay for what might only be a couple months of an injury-hampered Howard, but how else would they ever realistically be able to obtain someone of his magnitude? Even hurt, Dwight Howard is a definite upgrade and game-changer. He would immediately vault the Celtics into championship contenion, this year. Pair him up with Garnett and he'd be rejuvenated.
There's not a doubt in my mind that Howard would play well for the Celtics. What better chance would he have to prove Kobe Bryant and the Lakers wrong about him? What better way to rehabilitate his image heading into free agency than to win a championship? That's not going to happen for him in LA, and so at least on a subconscious level, he's not going to be as motivated to try as hard unless he gets traded this week. I also like the Celtics' chances of holding onto him if he wins a championship this year, or even just comes close to winning one. Most guys seem to like playing for Doc Rivers and alongside Garnett and Pierce. If Howard leaves, allocate the money elsewhere and/or pick something up in a sign-and-trade. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
2. Rondo + Bass + Melo + Barbosa + draft picks to the Suns for Gortat, Dragic, Dudley, and Scola.
The Suns would make this deal because it helps them bottom out this year and secure a high draft pick, along with the Celtic picks, and a relatively young All-Star point guard. It also clears up a lot of cap space. Dragic and Dudley both have three years left on their contracts. Scola has two more years. Gortat wants out and Phoenix doesn't seem to like him very much for whatever reason.
The Celtics would improve because they'd end up with the deepest roster in the league. The starting unit would consist of Gortat, Garnett, Pierce, Bradley, and Lee. Off the bench would be Scola, Green, Dudley, Dragic, and Terry. Wilcox and Collins round out the active roster to provide fouls. That would be a very dynamic, well-rounded team, and then on next year's squad, Sullinger gets inegrated back into the mix.
3. Rondo + Bass + Melo + Barbosa to Utah for Jefferson and Williams.
The Jazz get an All-Star point guard in Rondo and PF insurance in Bass for impending free agents Jefferson and Millsap. The Celtics fill their two needs of a rebounding big (Al Jefferson) and a scorer who could run the point (Mo Williams) without having to commit themselves long-term.