The Boston Celtics said goodbye to an aging "Big Three" member last year (oddly replacing him with another aging shooter), and this year, with a draft day agreement with the Brooklyn Nets, have said goodbye to the other two. Word is out that the Nets and Celtics have agreed to a huge deal, with Paul Pierce and Keving Garnett headed to Brooklyn, along with said aging shooter (Jason Terry) and 5 players and 3 first round draft picks headed to Beantown.
First off, lets stipulate that Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen weren't getting any younger. KG is 37, and by the end of next season will be 38 and have finished 19 years of 80 game (or more) seasons. Pierce finished 15 years with the Celts this year at age 35, and will be 36 in October. Allen, whose 3 point jumper saved the Heat in Game 6 of the NBA finals, will turn 38 in a few weaks. From that standpoint alone, bagging three first round picks for three players on the downside of dwindling careers is brilliant.
Second, lets further recognize that short of abducting the Thunder's Kevin Durant or the Miami Heat owner deciding to go Charley O.Finley and suddenly selling his top talent (Lebron James) to Boston, these Celtics would not be hoisting a trophy next June.
Finally, lets also recognize that having top draft picks is the only way to get that top talent, the kinds of players who can build and maintain a consistent winner. Finishing at 46-36 and losing in the second round won't give you a high enough draft pick to get the potentially stunning talent needed to do that. Danny Ainge now has 2 first round picks next year (Boston, Brooklyn), 2 in 2015 (Boston, LA Clippers) and 2 in 2016 (Boston, Brooklyn). It doesn't seem that the Clippers and Nets picks will be that high, but theirs should and hey, you never know.
I'm sad to see KG, Ray and Paul go. The basketball they played during their time on the parquet was a beautiful thing. The '07-08 through '09-10 seasons were outstanding, and even '10-11 was great. When they traded for Ray Allen before the '07 draft I got chills. My team just picked up my favorite player. When they picked up Kevin Garnett later that offseason those chills return. My team just picked up my second favorite player. Doc Rivers, already departed to LA to coach the Clippers, made it mesh beautifully. I'll miss KG's intensity. I'll look for him pounding his forehead against the basket padding and tying his drawstring on his shorts before the opening tip, and it won't be there. I'll miss Pierce's cool under pressure, always willing and able to take the big shot in the big moment. And I already missed Allen's reliable and opponent-depressing daggers from the 3 point stripe.
Danny Ainge picked up two 7 footers last night, one of whom can step out from the basket. He re-acquired a couple of guys he should never have let go - Kris Joseph, the better of the two ballers he took from Syracuse last year and Marshon Brooks, a mercurial and talented scorer out of Providence. Brooks was traded in a puzzling draft day deal for Jajuan Johnson of Purdue. Johnson never panned out, and is mired in the NBADL. And he still has Rondo, Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, Terrence Williams. He needs another good point guard for next year, but there's something there to work with.
So it's so long, Big Three. And thanks for the memories, and the champion-caliber play. And thanks for the championship.