By Dennis Berry
The window has closed for the Boston Celtics. From the sounds of Danny Ainge, Vice President of Basketball Operations, he knows the end is near.
Last week the Boston Globe quoted Ainge saying he would consider trading the "Big 3." For the right price, mainly young talent, a team could acquire Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, or Paul Pierce. The reason is that he does not want to the Celtics to go through another decade like the one that followed after losing Robert Parrish, Kevin McHale, and Larry Bird.
After losing the original Big 3, Boston went through some rough times. After McHale, Parrish, Bird left Boston struggled to even make the playoffs. From 1995 to 2007, the Celtics made the playoffs only five times. The closest they got to winning an NBA title was in 2002 when they made to the Eastern Conference Finals, but lost to the New Jeresy Nets.
The Celtics were coming off a 24-58 season when the Allen and Garnett were brought in. After bringing the duo in to pair with Pierce, the Celtics went 66-16 and won the 2008 NBA Championship over the LA Lakers. The new "Big 3" did what they were supposed to do, bring another title to Boston.
The Celtics were favorites to win the title the following year, but an injury to Garnett hurt the chances. They would lose to eventual Eastern Conference Champions the Orlando Magic. The following season the Celtics only finished with the fourth best record in the East, but still made it to the NBA Finals. They meet the Lakers again and this time the series went seven games. The Celtics led for most of the game, but would lose to the Lakers.
Last year Boston went 56-26 and won the Atlantic division, finishing with the third best record overall in the East. They would lost in the second round to the Miami Heat and the new "Big 3" Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade 4-1. The Celtics looked old as the Heat had their way with Boston.
So far this season the Celtics have looked old once again. After beating the Washington Wizards Sunday afternoon, Boston is now 6-9. They started season on a three game losing streak, then won four in a row, then lost six of seven before the win over Washington.
Fans should not look too much into the win. Their wins have come against some of the worst teams in the NBA. They have beat Washington (2-14) three times, Detroit Pistons (4-13), New Jeresy Nets 5-12), and Toronto Raptors (4-13) for their wins. The Celtics wins have come against teams that are a combined 15-52 this year in the NBA.
This is not the year Boston wanted. They wanted to make one more run at a NBA Championship. With the Lockout shortening the season to just 66 games, it appeared that would work in favor of the Celtics. They did not need to worry about getting a good seed; they just needed to make the playoffs.
The problem is that making the playoffs as a 6, 7, or 8 seed is not going to work out for Boston. That would put them in a first round match up with some of the best teams in the East. Right now they could face Philadelphia (the surprise team in the East so far), Chicago, or Miami in a first round series.
The Celtics best chance to advance would be against Philadelphia. They would have an experience advantage over the 76ers knowing how to win in the Playoffs. They would not have that over the Bulls or Heat.
So if Boston cannot win a NBA Title, should the "Big 3" be broken up? If Danny Ainge is true to his word that he does not want the Celtics to go downhill after this version of the "Big 3" is done, then the answer is yes.
The NBA Trade Deadline is March 15. If the Celtics are not in a position to make the NBA Playoffs as a sixth seed or higher, then the Garnett, Allen, and Pierce should be traded to a playoff contender.
As the trade deadline nears, teams will emerge that could use the services of one of the Boston's key players.
A team will need to add a shooter for a playoff run. You cannot do much better then Ray Allen. In the playoffs Allen has averaged 19 points a game, while shooting 45% from the field and 42% from the three point line. Plus he hits 90% of the free throws. Allen could huge for a team needing a shooter.
Or perhaps you are a team that needs a low post presence. You need to add points and rebounds, plus someone who can play defense one on one in the post. You should ask about Kevin Garnett. He has averaged 19.6 points and 11.2 rebounds for his career in the playoffs. Garnett is still a great competitor and plays great defense. Plus he can still be a scorer in clutch situations.
Then there is Paul Pierce. A lifelong Celtic, he might be the hardest to get. If he is willing to leave Boston, he would be a great addition to a team needing a scorer. Pierce has averaged 21.4 points for his career in 110 playoff games. Pierce would not only provide scoring, but also leadership to a young playoff team.
All three would be valuable additions to any team come playoff time.
After a close loss to Miami in the conference finals, what's next for Boston. What is the future of the Celtics?