NBA Saturday: Is This The End for Boston?
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Is This Is The End For Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Boston?
Despite the fact that Boston put forth a valiant effort, both in the second half of Game 6 and the series in general, it has been pretty evident this season that the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett era in Boston was drawing to a close. After being eliminated by the New York Knicks in the first round of this year’s playoffs, the vibe surrounding this team is a tired one. There is still a chance that something at least approaching this same core could return next season, but Garnett admitted that it’s probably a decision he and Pierce are going to have to make together.
“One of the big reasons I came here was because of Paul,” Garnett said. “I want to make sure that I’m always able to help a team and be in positions where I’m giving something. I demand a lot from myself, both physically and from a skill level, but I’d be lying to y’all if I said Paul didn’t play into that factor.”
Despite that typical Garnett nugget of honesty, he says it’s entirely too soon to decide whether he’ll retire or play out the last fully-guaranteed year on his contract next season.
“I haven’t really thought about it to be honest with you,” Garnett said after Friday night’s loss. “[Celtics coach] Doc [Rivers] came to me, pulled Paul and I to the side, and all three of us agreed to speak later. We’re too emotional. Obviously, it was a big game, a tough loss, especially at home, but more importantly the future is a different day for the conversation.”
Pierce himself agreed that 30 minutes after a tough loss wasn’t the time to seriously discuss the future of the roster.
“There are a lot of things going through your head right now,” Pierce admitted. “It’s really hard to really tell you about what my thought process is moving forward with myself and about the season when you’re dealing with an emotional loss like tonight.
“Who knows with the future? I’ve been here 15 years, and I’ve seen a lot of changes each and every year, so I’m sure there are going to be a lot of changes here, and we’ll see what happens.”
Those changes might not be as easy to implement as Pierce thinks, however. If Garnett and Pierce both come back on their current deals (only $5 million of Pierce’s is guaranteed), they’ll be committed to around $74 million in salaries, with 14 players under contract. The bottom line, though, is that they’ll only be able to make major changes if they make a trade, and Rajon Rondo is the only player they’ve got that could bring back anything of real substance.
Even if Garnett retires, the Celtics really aren’t left with a lot of options. They could amnesty Pierce, but in the event that both of those things happen, the Cetlics still wouldn’t really have enough cap space to add a marquee free agent. With no other moves, the Celtics would be forced to bring back essentially the same team next year, minus Pierce and Garnett, plus one guy from the lower end of free agency’s top tier.
That doesn’t exactly spell the beginning of a rebuilding period for the Celtics, which is why it would seem as though another year with this indisputably aged core may be better than anything else Danny Ainge could finagle in the offseason.
If Garnett does retire, though, they might not have any other choice. This is either the end of this current Celtics’ run or it’s not, but even if all the principal players come back it’s time for everyone to admit that the championship window appears to have officially closed.
It was a good run for Boston, but Friday’s loss to New York put the period at the end of a pretty impressive sentence for the Celtics.
Changes Coming for the Clippers, Too?
While the end of the Celtics would be a natural conclusion to something that has just run its course, the L.A. Clippers will spend this summer deciding whether to keep their current coach, the polarizing Vinny Del Negro, and praying that free agent point guard Chris Paul decides to re-up with the team.
Neither one of those situations has been decided, but the coach and the superstar will decide whether or not the Clippers take the next step as a franchise. While they won a franchise-best 56 games this season, they ended up in the same place as the woeful Lakers by the time the season was over.
Del Negro, who made strides as a head coach over the last couple of seasons but who still gets severely out-coached many nights, will be the first decision. His contract expires at the end of June, and with a bevy of solid replacement options out there, this offseason could be the perfect time to finally cut ties with Vinny. There’s no question that L.A. would be one of the most desirable jobs in the league, so they could have their pick of candidates, but according to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne, Clippers sources swear no decision has been made.
That’s likely because Paul has enjoyed having quite a bit of control as far as game-planning is concerned. It’s hard not to notice that at the ends of Clippers games, the playbook pretty much consists of “Let Chris Paul Make Stuff Happen,” so even if Paul desired more discipline, would he be happy giving up that sort of freedom?
It probably depends on the coach, but make no mistake about the fact that Paul’s decision about whether or not to sign a five-year, $108 million extension this summer will probably be pretty closely linked to what happens with the coaching staff. Obviously, he’s got plenty of talent around him, and because of the extra year he’d get from L.A., the money is a lot better to stay put, as well.
But coaches matter to players, and what L.A. does with Del Negro is a likely indication of what Paul wanted to see happen for his next five years with the Clippers. Nobody really expects Paul to leave, but he has that option. Assuming he’ll have some control over who ends up coaching the team next year, it’s easy to see him opting to stay.
Del Negro, however, might not be as lucky.
LeBron James Joins Historic Company
Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain are four of the greatest players in the history of the NBA, as evidenced by the fact that before this year, they were the only players in the history of the game to win four or more MVP awards.
Now, thanks to LeBron James having reportedly earned his fourth MVP in five years, he’s joining the club.
James had a phenomenal year, averaging career-highs in field goal percentage (.565) and three-point percentage (.406), while also putting up 26.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 7.3 apg, 1.7 spg and 1.0 bpg and finishing second in Defensive Player of the Year award voting. It was one of the best individual seasons in league history, and there’s a good chance he’ll be the first unanimous MVP selection ever.
We’ll find that part out for sure when the final tally is announced this weekend, but considering that James is only just now finishing his 10th season in the NBA and clearly at the apex of his career, it is fair to ask whether James could end up the most decorated MVP to ever grace an NBA court.
Were it not for Derrick Rose’s somewhat controversial 2011 MVP award, James could have won an unprecedented five straight awards. To date, only Chamberlain, Russell and Larry Bird have ever won three straight, and Abdul-Jabbar holds the overall record with six MVP trophies. Hypothetically, if James were to win MVP two more years in a row, which isn’t impossible, he would break the record for consecutive years and would tie the record for most trophies overall.
Of course, were this an award given for merit alone, plenty of players—Rose included—probably wouldn’t have gotten the accolade. Voters get bored if a guy wins too many years in a row, and they start getting the desire to “spread the love.” Nothing against Charles Barkley or Karl Malone, but Michael Jordan easily could’ve been the MVP in all six of his championship seasons instead of just four of them.
Will LeBron fall victim to the same ennui that has hit voters in the past? Or will his dominance of this league supersede the need to diversify the winners, making him the Most Valuable Player in NBA history?
It’s a question worth asking, but while we all ruminate on the answer, it’s enough that he’s won his fourth MVP award and joined such elite company.