On NBC Sports Talk Tuesday night, Adrian Wojnarowski said Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge have decided internally that the Boston Celtics are not contenders. No big shock there, since they have both presumably been watching the same games we have. But Woj added that Paul Pierce — not Rajon Rondo or anybody else — is the most likely Celtic to be traded prior to the March 15 deadline.
“Pierce is the most likely because he has years left on his deal. Remember, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are free agents at the end of this year. They can just let them lapse off the cap and then take the cap space and go forward with it,” said Wojnarowski.
Woj’s contention makes sense. If Ainge does not care much for loyalty (which seems to be the case), shipping away Pierce for expiring contracts could open up enough cap space for the Celtics to add any two max players this offseason, and probably have a little loot left over afterward. But the problem is that there are two marquee free agents this summer (Dwight Howard and Deron Williams) and a pile of dung beneath them. Reloading in free agency would be almost impossible unless Ainge could convince Howard and/or Williams to sign in Boston, and that becomes an even more difficult task when the cupboard is bare, which it would be if Pierce were gone. And if you’re one for details, Williams plays the same position as Rondo.
The Celtics could (and probably would, knowing Ainge) try to ship Pierce for young, legitimate talent, but there aren’t too many teams lining up to exchange young, legitimate talent for a 34-year old who’s owed $31 million over the next two seasons. A package for Pierce would thus seem likely to include expiring contracts and draft picks — and in my opinion, it would really suck to give away the staple of the franchise in return for some cap space and a slot in the NBA Draft. But that’s my loyalty and fandom speaking. In reality, the Celtics have some supremely tough decisions to make in the next couple weeks.