THIS TEAM DESERVES A CHANCE
If I were in Danny Ainge's shoes, there is no way I would blow this team up before Thursday's trade deadline.
The Celtics kick off the second half having won 8 of their past 9 despite losing three key players to season-ending injuries during that stretch. It's a credit to the depth Ainge was able to bring in last summer that Boston can sustain the injuries it has and still remain competitive. Even with the personnel losses they've endured, the Celtics still have a wealth of capable bodies, and if they continue to play the way they have over the past nine games, it's not crazy to think they could position themselves as high as third or fourth in the Eastern Conference before the season is over.
Kevin Garnett wants another shot at a title with this team and seems to genuinely believe that a championship isn't out of the question. Garnett hasn't been blowing smoke with his comments about wanting to retire a Celtic. His vow to not waive his no-trade clause under any circumstances should send a message to Ainge that he's better off trying to fill in the roster with free-agent talent, not through a franchise-altering trade.
The Celtics are toeing the line between contender and pretender right now (they're one more tweaked hamstring away from the latter), but if there's a collective belief within the locker room that a championship is possible (and there appears to be), Ainge should embrace the chance of making another run and roll the dice with the roster as it stands (plus a few free-agent signings) rather than dismantle it and try to force Garnett into waiving his no-trade clause.
The future shouldn't be at the top of Ainge's priority list right now. With Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, Brandon Bass and even Fab Melo already in the fold, the future has a strong enough base for Ainge to keep his focus on the present.
CELTICS MUST THINK LONG-TERM
If Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge believes his injury-depleted team is simply not capable of winning a title, he absolutely must consider any trade that aids future championship quests, even if it involves trying to move Kevin Garnett.
Make no mistake, Boston would prefer not to have to consider this option, but injury woes have put Ainge is in a tough spot. The Celtics won eight of nine before the All-Star break, his team showing previously unseen resiliency. But is this reflective of the depth-oozing squad that entered training camp and simply underachieved during the first half of the season? Or a squad overachieving in the face of adversity and aided by a friendly home-heavy schedule? Ainge himself has admitted that teams are often able to mask the loss of key parts for short periods but can't sustain that level of play.
It's title or bust for Boston and if Ainge can aid that goal in the future by swallowing hard this season, he absolutely must consider it. If another team is willing to mortgage its own future, Boston has to listen.
Garnett holds extraordinary power given his recent insistence that he will not waive his no-trade clause, but Boston could force his hand by trading other key pieces around him and sending the team into a bit of a reset (at least while waiting for Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger to rehab).
If Garnett saw that the Celtics had waived the white flag on this season -- and with no guarantee that Rondo will be ready for the start of next year -- he might be more willing to waive his no-trade clause for an immediate tittle quest (perhaps near his Malibu home in Los Angeles with the Clippers?). In the twilight of his career, these opportunities are fleeting.
Most importantly, though, Ainge has to be truly overwhelmed by an offer. Even at his advanced age, Garnett is Boston's central nervous system and its defensive backbone. Getting young talent might replace his offensive production and add bodies that will be around long after Garnett rides off into the sunset. But Ainge would have to be overwhelmed by any offer to even consider replacing what KG brings to this team.