According to Bill Simmons, the Boston Celtics nearly traded Paul Pierce to the New Jersey Nets at the trade deadline for a package similar to the one the Nets ultimately shipped to the Portland Trail Blazers for Gerald Wallace. Clearly, whatever trades did not happen at the trade deadline don’t matter much in reality. But in an alternate universe somewhere, the Celtics have Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and New Jersey’s top-three protected 2012 draft choice, yet do not have Paul Pierce.
For the future, such a trade would have made at least a little bit of sense. The Celtics would have entered the 2012 offseason with three first-round draft picks in the richest draft in years, oodles of cap space/flexibility, and the surprisingly encouraging back court of Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo. They would have lost Pierce and the final two seasons on his contract, yes, but Pierce is due to take a step back one of these seasons (isn’t he?) and the Celtics could have begun rebuilding or reloading ASAP with all those draft picks/cap space.
But for this year, Pierce is indispensable, partially due to his absurd recent consistency, partially because Boston’s primary replacement for him, Mickael Pietrus, is out indefinitely with a concussion and his other potential replacements include Sasha Pavlovic and Marquis Daniels. Trading away Pierce at the trade deadline easily could have sent the Celtics spiraling out of the playoffs. Don’t think so? Just imagine Pavlovic starting against Lebron James (twice), Joe Johnson, Andre Iguodala, Paul George and Luol Deng as the Celtics finish their brutal stretch run. Here’s a barf bag, which you’ll surely need after that image.
We know Danny Ainge worked the phones looking to snag young players and/or draft picks in exchange for Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
“But to say he just sat back and didn’t do anything is (expletive),” a league source recently told the Boston Herald. “He was talking to all of us the last three years, but the Hall of Fame guys were hard to move. Impossible in some cases. First of all, he’s got to take big money back, and no one wanted to give up a good player to have Ray Allen for maybe a year or two. And if Danny takes back a bad contract, he’d get killed up there.
“Look, I’ve had my dealings with him, and he could be pain in the butt. But if I was him, I wouldn’t have taken what we were trying to give. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is nothing, even when it’s the right thing. We’re programmed to act, but sometimes that can be the dumbest thing you can do.”
Taking everything into consideration, Ainge did a great job surrounding the Big Three with talent this season while preserving Boston’s flexibility beyond this season. He struck it rich with Greg Stiemsma, stole Brandon Bass for Glen Davis, scooped Pietrus off waivers, drafted Bradley and built a Boston bench deep enough to persevere after three season-ending injuries/heart defects.
Ainge had to look into trading everyone. Pierce to the Nets would have made sense, at least on some levels, but here we are, on April 4th, and the Celtics might just have one exciting run left, and Pierce still hasn’t played a single NBA game outside of the Celtics organization, and I’m content with Ainge’s failure to make a move, even if that third draft choice would have looked nice come this summer.