NEW YORK -- Today won’t be a particularly easy day for Celtics fans. The Nets are set to introduce Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce as part of a press conference for recent acquisitions on Thursday (noon) at the Barclays Center.
For the first time, we’ll see Garnett and Pierce hold up their new Nets jerseys and talk about the opportunity to compete for a title in Brooklyn. Celtics fans will get nostalgic and think back to when Garnett was introduced alongside Pierce and Ray Allen back in the summer of 2007.
It won't be easy, but it may be the first real step in the closure process, particularly with this being the first time that both Garnett and Pierce can address their departure.
During Boston's press conference on Monday to introduce some of the players acquired from the Nets, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge explained that this was a necessary evil as Boston attempts to accelerate the transition process.
“Paul and Jason Terry and Kevin Garnett all mean a lot to me,” said Ainge. “They’re great people and they’ve done a lot for our city. The fact that they get to go together and play on a team where I think it will be an ideal fit for them, because they don’t have to carry a heavy load because they have three other All-Stars on their team, and they have a great deal of depth, it’s pretty ideal for them.
“Collectively, individually, there were no better [trade] offers for us over any time over the last few years. So it was an opportunity of, rather than having KG play one more year and us not be the standard we had hoped to be, and Paul with one year left on his contract, it definitely was the right move for us in trying to fast forward the rebuilding process.”
When did it hit Ainge that it was time to make the move?
“I think it hit me when we got the offer that we got.,” said Ainge, who had admitted that there was no other team willing or able to take on the financial burden of both Pierce and Garnett. “That’s when it hit me. I don’t think there’s ever a point where you say, ‘Oh, now is the time when we have to do a deal.’ That’s not how it works. It was just the fact that we got a really good offer and we felt like it was time.”
Ainge said that, as hard as it was to say goodbye, he had to assess what was best for Boston in the long-term interest of the franchise and returning to contender status.
“Rather than have them have a farewell tour and kind of go by the wayside, to be able to accumulate the young players that we got and the draft picks, I think as hard as it is for some fans, as hard as it is for someone like me to do, who cares a great deal about them, it was the right thing to do for the Celtics organization,” said Ainge. “It just softens the blow with the fact that they get to go together and play on great team.”
The hard part for some to swallow? If the Nets hadn’t come along with this offer, Boston was committed to giving the Pierce-Garnett combo at least one more run.
“If there were no good offers, which there hadn’t been over the last couple years, it would’ve been very easy [to stick with the core],” said Ainge. “We would’ve stayed with them and tried to do the best we could in filling in the roster. KG was under contract for two more years and Paul for another year. We would’ve kept everybody together.”
But they didn’t. It’s time to move on. And that starts today.