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It was just a matter of time before the lock for the “No Shit, Sherlock” story of the week came to fruition today in the form of an ESPN headline that read: “Report: Danny Ainge willing to break Boston’s Big Three.”
After last year’s embarrassing exit at the hands of the Heat, a series that looked like a drag race between a ’84 Crown Victoria and a 2012 Ferrari, it was clear roster changes had to be made. The Celtics simply couldn’t compete athletically with younger teams.
Many thought it would happen before the season started, but thanks to the prolonged lockout, the only thing Danny Ainge could do in the three weeks of free agency was float Rajon Rondo’s name in a few deals- something that feels like an annual tradition at this point.
Trading Rondo, Boston’s most desirable asset, makes next to no sense unless Ainge’s plan is to bottom out and rebuild entirely through the draft. Considering how long team’s can stay stuck in the NBA’s cellar, a place that isn’t exactly out of Paul Pierce’s rearview mirror, it doesn’t really make sense to get rid of your young talent when there are other options.
When you read Ainge’s comments today (not the first time he’s mentioned the parallel by the way) about how he feels management held on to the Bird/McHale era for too long, it does appear as though a trade is imminent.
Ainge (From the ESPN piece): “He had a chance to trade Larry (to Indiana) for Chuck Person and Herb Williams and (Steve) Stipanovich and he had a chance to trade Kevin (to Dallas) for Detlef Schrempf and Sam Perkins. I was like, ‘Are you kidding?’ I mean, I feel that way now. If I were presented with those kind of deals for our aging veterans, it’s a done deal to continue the success.”
So with that in mind, we decided to throw Ainge a bone and do a Celtics-based “Sources Should Say” series, starting with Paul Pierce. Check back in the next few days for pieces on Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and even Kevin Garnett.
Obviously, we can’t help him in the same way Kevin McHale did last time around, but hey, it’s still something.
We all know Daryl Morey has been strategically building assets for years, and we’re now at the point where there are too many young players that are ready to develop on the court, but are suffering due to lack of playing time. With Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris and Jordan Hill all anxiously jostling for position, the time is right to move veteran Luis Scola while he still has value.
Meanwhile, since the beginning of last season Kyle Lowry has gone from a top-30 point guard in the league to a top-10, possibly even top-5 (Sounds like a stretch? Check out his PER - second only to Chris Paul among point guards through 12 games, while playing 36 minutes per contest), making Johnny Flynn all the more disposable. Bringing in a veteran leader who (even at 34) can create his own shot could help push Houston firmly into this year’s playoff picture.
Courtney Lee could step into Boston’s rotation as a younger Tony Allen, their new lock down perimeter defender to pair with Rondo long term. While losing Pierce would rob the team of one of the great closers in the NBA today, it’s hard to argue they would really be lacking with players like Allen (and hell, even Courtney Lee) who have taken and hit plenty of game winning shots in the playoffs. Scola would help relieve some of the scoring burden from Garnett on the block, plus he would help improve the team’s rebounding, a department that has seen a particularly sharp drop-off this year.
Last season, as the Grizzlies ripped off win after win in the playoffs without Rudy Gay, the former face of the franchise, some openly wondered whether they might be better off without him. While an “addition by subtraction” argument seems downright ludicrous, swapping Gay for Pierce would actually make sense for the Griz.
The team is off to a stumbling start this year (after re-signing both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to $70 and $58 million dollar deals, respectively last summer) and could use a shake up. Pierce brings veteran leadership, years of recent playoff experience, and believe it or not, a winning attitude.
For Boston, the deal is a no-brainer. The former “big three” aren’t getting it done this year, or next year, or ever again. It’s sad, we’ll all shed a tear for them, but it’s apparent enough that I think we all know. Instead of flipping Pierce for an expiring contract and more flexibility entering the 2012 free agent market, Ainge could do himself one better by picking up a talented small forward to team with Rondo for the next half-decade.
Tell me this trade doesn’t make a ton of sense for both teams. Do it, I dare you.
Boston gets back a legitimate baller in Gallinari, someone who could play crunch time minutes on a championship team, provided it was the right fit. At 23, he could take over Pierce’s spot for the foreseeable future and unlike Jeff Green, Gallo has the ideal temperament — a bit cocky and a bit of a mean streak – to thrive on a team with championship expectations. He’d be able to contribute right away and with Faried’s rebounding (A lot of people liked him in the draft- one of the leading rebounders in college) and Miller coming off the bench, the Celtics would have enough for one more run this year.
More importantly, only Faried’s contract goes past this season. Miller expires ($7.8 mil) this year and if things don’t work out with Gallinari, Boston doesn’t have to extend a qualifying offer. If that were to happen, the Celtics get out of the last two years of Pierce’s contract ($31 mil left, not counting this season), and would suddenly find their payroll at under $20 mil this summer. They’d be in prime position to re-sign either Allen and/or Garnett AND make a run at some free agents.
So why does Denver do it? Well, they’re the classic example of a team that has too many supporting stars but not enough lead men. Pierce would definitively give this deep Nuggets squad a proven closer and veteran leader. Flanked with Lawson, Nene and Afflalo, it would not be inconceivable for Pierce to lead the team deep into the playoffs.
Come on, you really thought we wouldn’t include a deal between the bitter rivals? Don’t you even know us by now?
Why it actually makes sense:
Fact 1: Kobe Bryant will eventually wear down.
Fact 2: Even if he doesn’t wear down, teams will double team him in the playoffs.
Fact 3: Name the Lakers’ second best perimeter player. No, Shannon Brown was traded last summer. Pay attention.
Fact 4: Paul Pierce would go back home, motivated and closer to a championship in the wide-open west. With Bryant and Pierce, the Lakers would have two of the best closers in the league.
Fact 5: Pau Gasol hasn’t been the same since the trade rumors came about. With Bynum (yes, considerable health gamble), they’re all but set in the middle.
Fact 6: Gasol would get more touches in Boston.
Fact 7: By teaming Gasol and KG, Boston would get back what it lost in the Perkins deal- rebounding and interior scoring.
Fact 8: Pierce would be just as big of an upgrade over Metta World Peace as Gasol would be over Jermaine O’Neal.
Fact 9: It would re-energize both franchises and fan bases and add two interesting new variables to the postseason.
Why it probably won’t happen- Again, it’s the Celtics and Lakers we’re talking about.