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Paul Pierce the forgotten man in Celtics trade talks

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff  June 18, 2013 01:52 PM

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The Celtics and Clippers cut off trade talks Tuesday, ending for now the on-again-off-again saga swirling around Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett.

This is a bad thing for Boston in the long run, but it's a good thing considering the direction in which the talks were going. In early iterations, Los Angeles would have sent guard Eric Bledsoe, center DeAndre Jordan, and draft picks to the Celtics for Garnett and Rivers. The Clippers balked on Bledsoe, then reportedly refused to part with two picks. When the Celtics countered with a salary dump of Jason Terry or Courtney Lee, Los Angeles said no to that, too.

The size of Rivers's proposed Clippers contract was also an issue, according to Yahoo! Sports.

The Clippers botched this one, and are now in danger of losing Chris Paul to free agency. Call me crazy, but if you're getting the best player in the deal and the most desirable coach on the market, you probably don't have the right to haggle over a late first-round pick or a mildly bad contract.

Danny Ainge was right to walk away from a deal that increasingly favored Los Angeles. Sometimes it's better to get nothing than "something."

It has been a blurry few days, but what's clear is that Ainge, Celtics ownership, and fans spent an awful lot of time pondering the futures of Garnett and Rivers.

But what of Paul Pierce? What of the Celtics captain, he of 15 years with the franchise, of stutter-steps, of Banner No. 17, of the 18-game losing streak, and franchise loyalty? How do you feel if you're Paul Pierce right about now, knowing that the focus of your team and your fan base is elsewhere?

The Celtics have until June 30 to buy out Pierce for $5 million or pick up his option, and Ainge has likely already made his decision. Pierce may know he's gone. It sure seemed that something was up when the Celtics captain addressed the media in the locker room following his team's elimination by the Knicks. Pierce took his time answering several questions about his future and even refused to answer one, responding with a "next question."

ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg wrote today that Garnett has become something of a forgotten man as rumors have swirled around Rivers. He's right. Sure, the fans will miss the coach if he decides to leave, but Garnett's departure would be franchise-altering. The Celtics would be losing a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Pierce is even more of an afterthought. We could be 12 days away from the end of the career of one of the five or six greatest players in Celtics history, and no one is talking about it. Pierce is the second-leading scorer in franchise history. He is first in 3-pointers, fourth in assists, and seventh in rebounds. A generation of kids from Ipswich to Wareham to Pittsfield has never needed to replace the jersey of the first Celtics star they ever cheered for.

It's hard to blame Ainge for trying to move on, and the talks may very well pick up again. Take Jordan and Bledsoe out of this. Ainge viewed them, as well as the draft picks and any expiring contracts he may have received, as pieces. Pieces that down the road give the Celtics flexibility to make a trade or sign a big free agent. And maybe one of those picks is the next Paul George or Stephen Curry or Nikola Vucevic, and then you really have something. Parting with Garnett or Pierce is a necessary means to that end. It's just hard to see Pierce in particular go out like this.

A little more than six weeks ago, the Celtics were getting pummeled by the Knicks in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series at TD Garden when the home team mounted a second-half comeback. The Knicks would eventually extend the lead, and Rivers gave each of his stars a chance to be serenaded by the home crowd as he came off the court.

Pierce was first, but an arena announcement and a procedural issue drowned out his exit. The applause was tepid, and Pierce was left to stand awkwardly on the sideline in possibly his last moment as a Celtic.

A minute or so later, Garnett left the court to a roaring ovation and responded with his usual gesturing to the crowd. We're likely nearing the end of the Celtics careers of both players, but one of them isn't getting his due.

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