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Ball Don't Lie

The Boston Celtics? Gone till November

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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The appropriate reaction, following Boston's Game 6 loss (Getty Images)

With every season that ends, for the playoff teams at least, we felt it right to take a look ahead. TNT already has the rights to "Gone Fishin'," and because we're sure that someone, somewhere, still likes that Wyclef song, we're going with "Gone Till November." And, yes, we know the season starts in October. Today? The Boston Celtics.

Boston’s immediate future is as obvious as its longtime future is cloudy. The team will have no clue about how to initiate plans for 2013-14 and beyond until Kevin Garnett commits to coming back for another season. If Garnett retires, he’ll peel money off of their books and set into motion plans to either deal or cut Celtic legend Paul Pierce. If this sounds cold and calculating, understand that both KG, Pierce and the Celtics are quite aware of how cold and calculating you have to be in order to survive in this league, and team personnel boss Danny Ainge in particular understands that sharp, decisive moves have to be put into play immediately following the breakup of a legendary team.

The cloudier, summer-long future doesn’t provide as many easy answers. Because Garnett (obviously drained and at the height of his “I’m too old for this ****”-peak following Boston’s opening round loss to the New York Knicks) didn’t immediately announce his retirement following the last game of Boston’s season, it seems assured that he’ll want to return for his 19th season. Garnett, who turns 37 later this month, is set to make over $12.4 million next year, money he would leave on the table should he decide to hang it up.

Money isn’t the issue with Garnett, though. Coming back for that 19th season in no way assures that Garnett will be able to walk off the court in spring or summer of 2014 in a fashion that tops the draining and borderline disconsolate ending that Adrian Wojnarowski discussed so expertly here, but Garnett has proven to be the stubborn type. This is the man that wouldn’t push for a trade even as the Minnesota Timberwolves wasted away the end of his prime years, and wouldn’t allow the Celtics to consider trading him to a potential contender even after Rajon Rondo’s knee injury just about sealed Boston’s fate. He didn’t pull away from the team last week, and he won’t be doing as much this summer.

Which means the Celtics are likely to bring the whole crew back. Which means, once again, the team will have to work around the edges to try and field a roster that supports its aging core.

The team’s moves from last summer disappointed Celtics fans in the end, but they were more than understandable in the moment. Ray Allen’s departure – something I cannot blame the twice-traded star for following through on – forced the C’s into forging a three-headed monster to rule his abandoned spot in the backcourt. Jason Terry was supposed to bring the shooting, Avery Bradley the defense, and Courtney Lee was supposed to provide moderate approximations of both. Terry disappointed, though, and Lee sadly fell way off in his fifth season. And while Bradley returned to act as one of the NBA’s most devastating defenders, his work on the offensive side of the ball probably reminded Celtics fans of a young Tony Allen at his most hilarious.

All will be back, with Terry and Lee combining to make (yikes) $10.4 and nearly $11 million next season and in 2014-15. Neither will be able to be pawned off on another team, unless someone badly screws up or Billy King sees something he likes.

If Garnett returns, it’s hard to see Danny Ainge utilizing the buyout option that would save him almost $7.5 million on the final year of Paul Pierce’s contract. Pierce is a valuable trade commodity both as a player, or potential cap-saving or tax-defying maneuver – teams can deal for Paul during the draft and immediately waive him without concern for the same legendary status that the Celtics would have to work through on their way towards cutting the guy. That status would be in the forefront of Ainge’s brain as it types away a transaction sheet to send to the NBA’s main office for approval. Of course he’s going to listen, but after being in the perfect spot during the NBA’s 2007 offseason (taking advantage of rebuilding teams in Minnesota and Seattle), Danny is now stuck in an impossible spot.

We don’t want to get into preview mode, so worries about Rondo’s recovering knee (apparently he has only a moderate tear of his ACL, which could bring him back by autumn) and Jeff Green’s sometimes stagnant game are for another day. What’s most important now is discussing just how bad of a bad guy Danny Ainge wants to be, as he considers either dealing or cutting Paul Pierce, or asking Garnett if he’ll approve a trade.

And, with both KG and Pierce getting on in years, will other general managers be stepping to the plate to help Danny Ainge play the bad guy? Teams can talk themselves into anything over the summer, and both Garnett and Pierce still have quite a bit to offer, but at $12.4 million (Garnett) and potentially $15.3 million (Pierce), that’s quite a bit of scratch.

Boston wasn’t an easy out, in 2012-13. And they won’t provide many answers during the 2013 offseason. This is what happens, when you sign up to field a bunch of stubborn old men. Stubborn old men we hope stay in the Boston green until next season.

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