With the Boston Celtics looking horrific through the first 12 games of the season, other contenders have reportedly been calling Danny Ainge about the possibility of trading Paul Pierce. (Yahoo! Sports)
As Kevin Garnett and Allen become free agents this summer, money will peel away from the salary cap. Between then and now, the bigger question promises to be: Does ownership and general manager Danny Ainge go for the complete rebuild and trade Pierce before the March 15 deadline? Several contending teams have inquired about Pierce's availability. As one Eastern Conference official said, there are "lots of calls asking if [Boston] will blow it up."
For Celtics ownership and Ainge, this moment of truth could be coming sooner than later. The Celtics have lost five straight games, dropping to 4-8. They're still trying to see how much blame for this sluggish start belongs to the lockout, the schedule or advancing age. Ainge has always insisted he'll never make the mistake with his Big Three that Red Auerbach made with his own in the late 1980s by staying too long with them.
Garnett and Allen come off the Celtics' cap this summer, but Pierce is the most perplexing member of the Big Three. He has two years and $32 million left on his contract through the 2013-14 season, and moving him for a shorter deal could make the Celtics a huge player in free agency the next two years. As Boston officials contend, this is the reason they didn't re-sign Perkins and Tony Allen to long-term contracts. They've been preparing for the time their core became too old, for the team's need to start over.
In theory, trading Pierce for a shorter contract makes sense because then the Celtics will have even more money to spend in the offseason. The problem is that nobody wants to come to Boston as a free agent. Everyone wants to go to Miami, Los Angeles or New York. Boston isn't the massive market that New York is and it's freaking cold here in February. Besides, the trend for players now is to go to places where there are already a couple of other superstars. That isn't happening in Boston either. Rajon Rondo is a great talent, but the Celtics aren't even convinced that he's the kind of player that they can build a championship club around. Why would big-named free agent think that?
And I don't want to see Paul Pierce in another team's uniform. I don't know if I could really take that. But as we've learned in the past, Danny Ainge isn't afraid to pull the trigger on a deal that he thinks is best for the team. We'll have to wait and see how this plays out.