So soon after Valentine’s Day, it seems unfair that the NBA trade deadline has such a firm grip on our emotions. This year is particularly gut-wrenching for Celtics fans. Instead of checking your tweets for the rumor that might bring a key piece back to Boston for a championship run, you’re likely shielding your eyes from the potential of a trade that could send Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce out of town and trigger the rebuilding process.
For the first time since Garnett arrived here in 2007, the Celtics are one deal away from drastically altering the basketball landscape in town. That may be a good thing or a bad thing, but it won’t be a fast thing. If the Celtics pull off a trade before Thursday’s deadline, we’re unlikely to fully understand its implications — or even name a winner or a loser — for some time.
As much as we’re captured by the annual hysteria of deadline week, the hype rarely pans out. Before last year’s deadline the Celtics were rumored to be dealing Ray Allen but never pulled the trigger. Instead, the biggest moves the team made were signing Sean Williams and Ryan Hollins. Only once in the Garnett era have the Celtics been active at the deadline, sending Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green in 2011. The year before that Boston acquired Robinson and sent J.R. Giddens, Eddie House, and Bill Walker to the Knicks. In 2009 they sent Patrick O’Bryant to the Toronto Raptors, and in 2008, the year they won the title, they eschewed a big deal and signed P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell to help down the stretch.
The most interesting player out there is probably Josh Smith, who could help the Celtics both now and in the future (if he re-signs in Boston). Lots of teams would love to have Smith, which makes a deal increasingly unlikely. Lots of teams would also love to have Garnett, who can veto any potential move. Samuel Dalembert, J.J. Redick, Timofey Mozgov, and Robin Lopez could all help the Celtics, but none of those players puts them over the top.
What if the Celtics don’t make a major deal? What if they roll the dice and see what happens with this recently-inspired unit? From my perspective, whether or not the Celtics are able to pull off a deal Thursday, major changes are coming sooner rather than later. The team is closer to a major shakeup than a title. Putting it off may make fans feel better for the time being, but it isn’t going to get the Celtics closer to where they want to be in the long term. It’s easy to forget that only six years ago the Celtics were 24-58. Doc Rivers was the coach of that team, which featured promising young talent like Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Al Jefferson, and Tony Allen. Rebuilding is never easy.
There isn’t a whole column here, but I’m interested in your thoughts this week. Do you want the Celtics to make a major move Thursday? Will you accept a couple years of bad basketball if it improves the team in the long run? Do you think the Celtics can avoid being bad entirely if they play their cards right? Leave a comment and vote in our survey below.