You had to know that, sooner or later, I would bore you to tears with a post about sports. I apologize in advance to those of you utterly uninterested in such things. I am physically unable to resist the temptation to spout a few thousand words when someone actually asks my opinion, especially when it's a relative. One of my nephews (name withheld to protect him from ridicule concerning his basketball-nerd uncle) wrote to me with the following questions:
From: Suldog's Nephew
I'm a bit confused, emotionally, about this season for the Celtics. What are
your thoughts? Do you feel bad for them?
Anyway, I was as proud as could be with the comeback they made in the final game [for those who didn't see it, the Celtics were down by 26 points with 8 minutes left in the game, but they sliced and diced the Knicks over the next four minutes to cut the lead to four, the most amazing comeback I might ever have seen.] I was almost sitting there with a stiffy watching it happen.
(I said almost, OK?)
And I would have liked nothing better than to have had Pierce drain a couple of threes to put them away, once the team got it down from 26 to 4, but it just wasn't to be. He looked his age last night; for most of this series, actually. My Celtics fan soul wants nothing so much as to see him come back for another year or two. He deserves to retire as a Celtic. But I don't know if it's going to happen after that series he played. The club has an option for one year, but it's for a load of cash. I think they may unload that money off the books, grab a couple of high draft picks, and start the rebuilding while Rondo heals up.
As for Garnett, I believe he has two years left on his contract. And he was awesome for much of the series. He played like freakin' Bill Russell in games 4 & 5. He averaged 15 rebounds and 15 points for the six games. Pierce has said he'd like to retire when Garnett does, and they both want to retire as Celtics. If I'm Pierce...
(Which I'm not. Duh. I don't resemble, in any way, a 6' 6" black millionaire.)
... I'd go to Danny Ainge and say, "Look, Danny, if you're willing to guarantee Kevin and me won't be traded, and we can both retire together at the end of the 2015 playoffs, I'm willing to play TWO years for the money you'd have to give me for ONE year if you exercised your option. Give me the league minimum for year two, basically, and allow us both the awesome dignity to walk off the floor together at the end of our careers."
Pierce has to have more money than he can use for the rest of his life, so why not? With a move like that, he'd own this city forever. Right now, his legacy is excellent player, sure hall-of-fame selection, one championship, became a team leader and less of a dick with every year he's been here. Folks will remember him fondly. Take a "hometown discount" to unselfishly retire with your best bud on the team? He'll get a statue someplace.
(I'm terribly bothered by what I've heard on sports talk radio, both from fans and commentators. The argument seems to be whittled down to whether keeping Pierce for a year outweighs the value we could receive for trading him. Not a single person has espoused the moral side of things. I don't care about improving the team so much as I care about loyalty. I'm willing to sit through a year where perhaps the team is not a mortal lock to make the playoffs, IF that's what has to be done to ensure Paul Pierce plays his entire career with Boston. Nobody cares more about being a Celtic, about his legacy within the history of the team, than Paul Pierce does. If fans can't embrace that, possibly setting aside the desire for a championship, then what's the point of being a fan? Is the only thing that matters the shirt that somebody wears, and exchanging bodies within that shirt is always acceptable if the player now wearing the shirt is younger and faster? Pierce stuck around during some awfully lean years when he could have easily gone elsewhere. I think the team, and the fans, owe him for that. Anyway, it's not as though Pierce is inevitably sliding downhill at a breakneck pace. He is a former Finals MVP, still one of the top 25 players in the game, quite possibly the best natural scorer the team has ever had, and I think he has one more run in him, especially if Garnett is still around to push him. Even coming off the bench would be fine. If anyone would embrace that downplay of individual stats for a shot at another title, he's the one at this point.)
Aside from wanting to see that display of loyalty (which is 100-1 against happening) what do I want to see? I want one full season of Rajon Rondo running backcourt with Avery Bradley before I die (or before Rondo blows out his other knee.) So far, they've had parts of seasons as the starting backcourt (a very small part, this season) but when they finally have a full year together, other NBA teams are going to have to put ankle bracelets on them to keep track of them. Those guys running the fast break in tandem will be basketball nirvana. Tommy Heinsohn would be odds-on to splooge all over his microphone.
Other players? Jeff Green had his breakthrough. One year after major heart surgery, he came back in a way that finally makes me somewhat happy about the Kendrick Perkins trade.
(Something that received surprisingly little ink this season: The Celtics were, so far as I know, the first professional sports team to have TWO players on the roster who had both undergone open heart surgery. How amazing was that? When I was a kid, heart surgery of any kind was almost unheard of. To have said out loud that somebody could have had his chest spread open, his heart cut up and patched, then actually play a strenuous sport such as basketball, at a professional level, would have been a ridiculous enough concept to have you committed. Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green are amazing stories.)
The core of Green, Rondo, Bradley, Pierce, Garnett, Brandon Bass, and (here's hoping, back from injury) Jared Sullinger, is one with which I'd be very comfortable. If Jason Terry has another year left in him, I'll take him off the bench. Courtney Lee is a swell defensive player and can stick a shot when needed. I don't think we saw enough of Shavlik Randolph to know if he's as good as he looked on occasion. He was considered a blue-chipper at one time, so I think he's worth keeping to see if he can still be what many folks thought he would. Wilcox has great heart (no pun intended.) The other pieces - Terrence Williams, D. J. White, Fab Melo - I can't say I'm overly-thrilled about (although Williams had a nice game in the Knicks series.) As for Crawford, I already said what I needed to say about him.
Is there anything the C's can do to upgrade, aside from a trade involving Pierce, Garnett, or both? Yeah, they could be absolute idiots and trade Rondo. If that happens, I'll personally go to Danny Ainge's house and burn him down (not his house; HIM.) Maybe a trade of their draft choice packaged with Bass to move up into the top 5? I don't know if there'd be a taker for that. I suppose if we're really looking to upgrade immediately, we're going to have to give up something to get something, but I truly don't have much here that I want to give up, whether for sentimental reasons or because I just believe the guys we'd give up are too valuable to give up.
Bottom line? I'm willing to see this same team come back for another year IF everyone can stay healthy. It's a playoff team, for sure, but I think about twenty variables would have to break right for them to win a championship. I'm OK with that if that's what it takes to let Pierce and Garnett retire here, as well as have Rondo, Bradley, Green, and Sullinger to build around.
So, be confused no longer, nephew! I have imparted my basketball wisdom unto you. Go forth, have a drink, and groove on the Bruins until next b-ball season arrives.
Soon, with more better stuff shots.