Time for Celtics to trade KG, Pierce?
by Sean Highkin, USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have been teammates in Boston for six seasons. In their first year together with Ray Allen, they won the NBA championship. The following year, they lost to the Orlando Magic in the second round. In 2010, they made it back to the Finals and lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games. The next two seasons, they were eliminated by LeBron James and the Miami Heat—once in the second round and once in the Conference Finals.
On Friday, they lost 87-80 to the New York Knicks, securing their earliest playoff exit of the Big Three era. Now, Garnett and Pierce may have played their final game together.
Pierce, 35, has one year left on a contract that will pay him $15.3 million, but he can be bought out for $5 million before June 30.
Garnett, 36, has two years left on the three-year, $36 million contract he signed last summer. However, if Pierce is bought out to save money, Garnett may opt to retire rather than play the final years of his career on a rebuilding team. After 18 seasons in the NBA, it’s unknown whether he wants to keep taking the kind of beating that his body is subjected to night in and night out.
Danny Ainge will have some decisions to make about the future of the Celtics, but not a lot of flexibility. The team has a lot of expensive role players. Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Jason Terry and Courtney Lee will combine to make $25.9 million next season. Rajon Rondo is recovering from a torn ACL that has sidelined him since January. Promising rookie big man Jared Sullinger underwent season-ending back surgery. The only bona-fide prospect they have is Avery Bradley, who has proven a solid defender, but he might get more expensive very soon.
Rondo’s injury effectively put an end to the Celtics’ chances to contend this season, and their chances next season don’t look good even if Rondo makes a full recovery and Pierce and Garnett are back in the fold.
By all measures, the Celtics’ Big Three era was a success. But … [For more on Playoff Putbacks: Time for Celtics to trade KG, Pierce?, click here.]