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Celtics will be back for one more run, but they shouldn’t

May 11, 2011, 10:47 PM EDT

Boston Celtics v New York Knicks - Game Four Getty Images

The time has now passed. The window has closed.

Make no mistake, the Celtics are still a good team. Bring them back next year and they will win 50-plus games and put up a fight in the playoffs. But they are not a great team. Nor will they be again with this group. Boston fought valiantly in Game 5 in Miami; they showed the resolve of a champion. Kevin Garnett was a lion.

Except, the future showed itself in the final minutes, when Miami pulled away. Miami was better, more athletic, more aggressive. The Celtics are not championship-caliber any longer. And this group will not be again.

Don’t get caught up in the “if Rajon Rondo were healthy,” “if Shaq were healthy/if we hadn’t traded Perkins,” “if this one shot had fallen” line of thinking. It’s a fool’s gold future to think that tweaks are all that is needed to get another banner with this group.

Next season, Ray Allen will be 36 years old, Kevin Garnett 35, Paul Pierce 34. If you can keep them healthy until the playoffs, you still know that you’re best players are going to be less athletic, less mobile, easier to defend and not able to defend as well.

The Heat will get better — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are just starting to figure out how to play off each other in these playoffs, how to work as a unit. And their supporting cast will only get better (they are starting Mike Bibby, and have you seen him?).

Pretty much the same story in Chicago. The Bulls will get better and maybe find another good scoring option besides league MVP Derrick Rose.

It’s time, Boston. The window has closed.

The Celtics’ Big Three are all under contract for next season (technically, Allen has a $10 million option, but he will pick it up). Coach Doc Rivers is talking about coming back rather than spending a year hanging out at Mike Krzyzewski’s practices to watch his son play for Duke.

He should walk now. For Boston, it’s time to think about moving one or more of the Big Three to bring in quality, younger parts to start rebuilding around Rondo. Younger shooters, younger big men. You have to welcome Rivers back if he wants to do it, but you need to think about who is next and who can take this team into the future (that could be Rivers, but does he want to is another question).

The best teams rebuild too early rather than too late. The hated Lakers did it moving Shaq to get Lamar Odom and parts that eventually became Pau Gasol. (Which was kind of a steal at the time, but that Marc Gasol guy turns out was good.) Better too soon than too late.

The Celtics would be wise to follow that path, despite what their hearts tell them. General manager Danny Ainge has shown a willingness to make that choice (even if the Kendrick Perkins trade was ill-advised — the right idea but bad execution).

It’s not clear right now what the path is to another title (it’s clouded by a new collective bargaining agreement in the offing), but it is not clinging to the past. It’s time to start walking down the road to the future. The time for the Big Three is done, it’s time to break them up. Time for the Celtics to move on to their next iteration. To build for another title with another core.

It’s sad to do. But it’s time.

  1. philtration - May 11, 2011 at 10:59 PM

    Next season, Ray Allen will be 36, Kevin Garnett 35, Paul Pierce 34.
    What more can you say after that?
    What is even harder for them is they are not going to get a whole lot in return if they try to trade any one of these players due to their age and the size of their contracts.

    You are right about the Celtics situation Kurt.
    Good write.

  2. hnirobert3 - May 11, 2011 at 11:10 PM

    Who is feeling worse tonight:

    Carlos Arroyo (for being released in order for the Heat to sign Bibby)
    Troy Murphy (for signing with the Celts, LOL, LMAO, SMH)
    Shaq (for burning bridges in Miami)
    Jermaine O’Neal (for signing with the Celts for MLE when the Heat offer the vet’s exception)

    I go with Murphy, although Shaq’s ass must be burning up.

  3. sandmanjackson77 - May 11, 2011 at 11:44 PM

    For real that wasnt even right to write that crap. When the lakers lost to boston in 2008 people said what if bynum played. When boston lost in 2010 when kendrick got hurt in the finals people said what if he played. now u wanna disrespect boston by calling old. when rondo got hurt that changed everything plus danny ainge wit his stupid moves. first is was him getting rid of leon powe and then kendrick perkin. they have another run in them but it all depends on danny ainge getting people in there to help the cause. dont even get me started on those refs and david stern either.

  4. passerby23 - May 12, 2011 at 12:03 AM

    I disagree with this. I don’t think it’s out of line to say if Rondo were healthy, the outlook is different. Even with an unhealthy Rondo, he blew a layup in Game 4 which likely would’ve won them the game. They had control of Game 5 until the final 3 minutes. It would be one thing if they looked really tired and old and were getting blown by at every turn, but they are still a stout defensive team.

    Yes, they need to get some younger players in. Yes, there needs to be some more athleticism but I really don’t think they are that far off.

  5. goforthanddie - May 12, 2011 at 3:24 AM

    Yeah, they’re done. You really think they can get decent return on the geezers?

  6. davidly - May 12, 2011 at 5:54 AM

    It depends on what you value. There are two types of home fans in this case (okay, there are more than two types, but for the purpose of this discussion…):
    – Those who just want the team to win as many games as possible, including in the playoffs.
    – Those who would like to see these, their favorite veteran players — personalities, people they have gotten to know over the years, with whom they have a relationship — play until they hang it up.

    If it is money the franchise is concerned about, then keeping this team in tact is not going to hurt their financial viability. The seats are not going to be empty.

    But, of course, one can treat the players as if they are trading cards, allowing them to become what Shaq has become, bouncing from team to team and bringing nothing of substance in the long term.

    By the way, how was trading Perkins the right idea, but the wrong execution? And: Can either Ok City or Boston be said to have benefited from it?

  7. 1historian - May 12, 2011 at 6:26 AM

    The Celts are over the hill. They fought to the end but a better, younger more athletic team beat them.

    Danny Ainge built this team and he can do it again.

  8. flash316 - May 12, 2011 at 6:31 AM

    RiP Boston…

  9. ocgunslinger - May 12, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    The Celtics are a historic team for a reason……just like the Lakers. Experienced management builds teams that win. As always teams age and need to be “retooled”…. a fact of life. These two franchises have a history of winning for a reason. They both will be back no doubt.

  10. LPad - May 12, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    “The best teams rebuild too early rather than too late. The hated Lakers did it moving Shaq to get Lamar Odom and parts that eventually became Pau Gasol.”

    The Lakers moved Shaq because he and Kobe refused to play together anymore. They didn’t make the trade because Kobe and Shaq couldn’t win anymore, but because they hated each other.

  11. LPad - May 12, 2011 at 10:32 AM

    I’m not a Celtic fan, but I would be pretty mad if they decide to blow the entire thing up. They had a pretty bad stretch going that looked like it would never end before the KG and Allen deals fell from the sky. Unless they can get a superstar to build around, they should simply continue to acquire young, talented players to add to the team via the draft and free agency. They’ll have cap room when these guys start to retire.

    In my opinion, that would be better than getting rid of the Big Three, stockpiling picks, and risking another decade of lottery basketball. If they blow it up they could end up with four good years of basketball sandwiched by two decades of losing basketball.

  12. jamesbmckay - May 12, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    Sorry but I totally disagree. This team lost 4 games by a combined total of 22 pts. They could very well have won all of the games that they lost. How can you dismiss the injury to Rondo??? How about giving the same injury to Wade and have him ineffective the last 2 games and then they lose the series. So you write off the Heat? Come-on. Yes the core 3 of the Cs is old(er) but where they need help is on the bench and being healthy. Any team is going to lose if their core players are injured. To win a title it takes ZERO injuries of significance. That said, having Green in camp and playing more games will greatly help his confidence. Davis is gone unless he humbles himself greatly. He wants to start? After getting only 1 rebound in 24 minutes of Game 4? He played like crap. I would start West with Rondo and bring Ray off the bench as the Sixth man. I would find a rebounder that can get 8-10+ nightly off the bench. And I would find a wing scorer/defender to help with Green. This team is not done yet and hopefully they will address their needs and come back for another run. Considering Miami’s bench scored 12 pts last night and only 7 in Game 4 this Heat team may make the Finals but they’ll be swept by Dallas. Boston lost to injuries and just poor play at critical moments. Go Cs…

    • passerby23 - May 12, 2011 at 12:04 PM

      I couldn’t agree more. Rondo is the engine that makes the Celtics go. How can any rational person argue his injury didn’t cause significant disruption for their offense in games 4 and 5?

      As I mentioned, the signs of age aren’t really that evident. It’s true you can’t count on KG all the time to get you a big bucket in the post when you need it, but he’s still a high level player. Just a couple of games ago everybody lamented how much he outplayed Chris Bosh. When they lose, he’s washed up? Ray Allen is still an elite shooter and quality defender.

      Boston wasn’t dismantled and outclassed the way the Lakers were, they had opportunities in every game and could very well be leading the series 3-2 right now. And you know Helin and these other writers would be saying they’ve got another run in them and we would see them jumping ship.

  13. davidly - May 12, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    The best teams rebuild too early rather than too late.
    Yeah, like Chicago in ’98. They started rebuilding before they even won the last championship and it only took ‘em 14 years to get back to 62 wins.

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