No matter when you think the expiration date is for this group of Celtics, the team’s recent five-game losing streak has undoubtedly pushed it up. So it’s not surprising that teams would come calling to Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to ask Ainge if he’s willing to start blowing it up.
Several contending teams have inquired about the availability of Celtics captain Paul Pierce, according to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Any potential Pierce deal would seem to indicate that Ainge is moving on from trying win a championship with this group and is starting the process of planning for the future.
Ainge, of course, tried to start the process of looking to the future when he traded Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green last season. Green’s heart ailment eliminates him from the equation this season and was a damaging blow to the team, and Perkins could certainly help the Celtics now. But there’s no question Ainge was trying to get younger and faster even before it was apparent that these Celtics desperately need to get younger and faster. If the Celtics could trade Pierce for a piece or two to help them do that, you have to think Ainge would at least entertain the offers.
Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen come off the books this summer, while Pierce has two years and $32 million left on his contract. No matter what you think Ainge will do, it’s clear the team has plans to use the money they save on Garnett/Allen to sign a high-profile free agent. Moving Pierce for an expiring contract and a draft pick might allow them to sign more than one player to a big deal this offseason.
Just what Ainge will do is a better question for Wojnarowski and insiders like the Globe’s Gary Washburn, but one thing that’s clear is that Ainge has options. Trading Rajon Rondo was one way in which the Celtics could drastically alter their immediate future. Trading Pierce is another. An answer as to whether either is realistic or will help the team will come in time, and that time may be sooner than a lot of us had thought heading into this season.
Of course, it’s also not clear how much the Celtics’ 4-8 start has to do with the lockout and a lack of training camp as opposed to the team’s age. Pierce has been dreadful up until the second half of last night’s Thunder game, when he finally seems to have found his offense. His scoring may be more critical to the team’s success than the scoring of any other Celtic, and there’s a chance he turns it around.
For all the worry, the Celtics are 1 1/2 games out of 8th in the East and four games out of 6th, where they can likely avoid Miami/Chicago in Round 1. Not that people shouldn’t be concerned about what they see, but if making the playoffs is a goal, there’s still plenty of time for that. The Celtics may be able to rebuild with Pierce, make the playoffs, and still look toward the future in the offseason. Right now, it’s all in play.
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