The Boston Celtics finished a disappointing seventh place in the Eastern Conference this season with a less than desirable 41-40 record. The team just barely made it over .500 and were abruptly booted out of the first round in the playoffs by the New York Knicks. For the Celtics, this may be one of the most important off-seasons in franchise history, with a lot of uncertainties, a lot of questions, and only a summer to answer them.
With futures uncertain, Paul Pierce seems to be the first name that comes to mind. Rumors have been swirling on whether Boston would part ways with the Celtics legend, yet nothing is set in stone. Pierce is guaranteed to make $15 million next season unless the Celtics buy out his contract for $5 million or trade him. Though it seems far fetched that the Celtics would trade or release Pierce, this decision could affect Head Coach Doc Rivers’ fate.
Doc has been with the Celtics for almost a decade now and has been through the ups and downs with the franchise, but it seems that Doc is finding it more difficult to catapult his aging team back into the NBA Finals. More recently, the Eastern Conference has been bombarded by a “youth movement”, as we have seen in organizations like the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks. Unfortunately, the Celtics have shown that they just can’t keep up with the fast offense of these younger teams. In the NBA, it’s often survival of the fastest, and there just seems to be no way that this current Celtics team can keep up — especially with the Miami Heat.
The Miami Heat have solidified themselves as the top dogs in the East, and have been one of many things standing in the way of the Celtics winning championship number 18. In 2010 and 2011 Boston had lost to the Heat in consecutive years, before once again losing in the first round of this years playoffs. The Celtics and Doc Rivers just can’t seem to get past Miami, and this recurring problem has been one of the main reasons why many suggest that the Celtics go on a fire sale and “blow up” the team.
This may also be the reason why Doc is debating leaving the Celtics. According to sources, Rivers isn’t sure if he wants to be part of a rebuild. In Doc’s defense, he was part of a rebuilding project during his first three seasons as coach and he may not want to re-live those grueling years. Years that included low-lights such as only one playoff appearance in four years as coach and an 18 game losing streak (a franchise-record of consecutive games lost, during the 2006-07 season).
According to sources, Doc will not make a decision until the Celtics start making moves. This is where General Manager Danny Ainge comes into play. Ainge was responsible for starting the “Big Three Era” which was built to win, but unfortunately only produced one championship. Though the C’s have been able to maintain their focus on banner No. 18, the inevitable was bound to happen; they had to move on from this once dominant era. An Era that was centered around Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. In Rajon Rondo Boston still has their franchise point guard to build around and Ainge seems to be a little trigger shy on any potential transactions.
The decision now lies in Danny Ainge’s hands and, quite frankly, it needs to be a quick one. With sources claiming that the Celtics and the Los Angeles Clippers are interested in a blockbuster trade that is centered around Doc, the clock is ticking, and every decision needs to be hand crafted accordingly. With an elite free agent class available this summer, the Celtics may want to turn the page on the franchise and start anew, building around a young core of Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger.