Injuries have forced the Boston Celtics to decide if they should try to make another run with an older core or if it is time to kick off the rebuilding process.
When Rajon Rondo went down with a season-ending knee injury a couple of weeks ago, Boston’s head coach Doc Rivers was adamant about playing out the season with his veterans.
“We aren’t going anywhere,” Rivers boldly told Yahoo! Sports at the time. “I don’t get that thinking. You couldn’t get what you wanted (in deals). I still like our team. We’re going to figure it out.”
The injury bug struck again shortly thereafter when rookie big man Jared Sullinger’s back gave out.
While he was only averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game, his time on the floor was important as it allowed Boston to preserve Kevin Garnett. It also allowed the team to play Jeff Green mostly at small forward while only using him at power forward in stretches when the Celtics elected to go small.
Now Boston lacks depth — or even a legit starting option — at point guard while their frontcourt is suddenly thin with the rotations being shot.
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge refuses to push the panic button and hit reset while committing to rebuilding.
“In our situation, you can’t just philosophically say, ‘We’re going to do this,’ ” Ainge told Yahoo! Sports. “You have to tell me what it is. You have to tell me what opportunities we have.”
“Here’s the thing: If I wanted to say, ‘Hey, let’s play for the future,’ that’s hard to do. And if I play only for the ‘here and now,’ that’s hard to do.”
Granted, there aren’t too many takers for aging vets like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce who have bloated contracts, but those are two veterans players who have won NBA Championships.
Garnett is just the kind of vocal leader a young team like the Los Angeles Clippers could use and it’s hard to see a team gearing up for a title run being able to pass on either player if they are put on the market. Hence the rumours that Kevin Garnett may be dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers for Eric Bledsoe and either Caron Butler or DeAndre Jordan.
Both Boston and Los Angeles have fervently denied this rumour has any substance, but it stands to reasons that Boston might have leaked this to see what they could get for Garnett — similar to what Memphis did last month when they leaked that Rudy Gay might be heading to Phoenix for Jared Dudley and some spare parts. There’s little doubt that rumour is what spurred Raptors boss Bryan Colangelo from picking up the phone and getting active in trade discussions with Memphis.
Something Boston has to consider is that by putting either player on the market it could result in a couple teams getting in a bidding war just to block someone from obtaining Garnett or Pierce. You’d have to hope that players like Pierce and Garnett — who have both played in the NBA for more than a decade — would have the maturity and ability to block out any trade talk.
Regardless of who leaked those trade talks, when there’s blood in the water the sharks are sure to circle. Or, in this case, the internet and Twitter are bound to explode with trade rumours that hold the potential to distract even a veteran team like Boston.
The intriguing thing about Rondo’s injury is Boston is currently on a five-game winning streak and the Celtics offence appears to have improved since Rondo has been out of action. Somehow a bunch of combo guards and shooting guards have wrestled control of a once-stagnant Celtics attack and the team appears to be showing signs of life again. Shocking since Rondo is widely-considered to be one of the best point guards in the world and a player who is thought of as the maestro’s of Boston’s offence.
Still, despite Boston’s moderate winning streak, it’s tough to see the merit in riding out the season with a roster that forces Rivers to play combo or shooting guards as point guards. It’s clearly a situation that would have been more realistic if Boston had a backup point guard like Jarrett Jack, Jose Calderon or Steve Blake on their roster.
Just don’t tell that to their head coach or general manager.
“You can write our obituary,” Rivers recently dared a reporter. “(But) I won’t.”