By Nick Steblenko
After the Miami Heat won their first Eastern Conference championship against the Boston Celtics, LeBron James stated that his move to the Heat in the offseason mirrored a similar assembly of teammates, whom they had just defeated.
James was referring to the summer in which Celtics GM Danny Ainge brought Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to join longtime Celtic Paul Pierce in a reformation of the fabled Big Three of Celtics lore. With each of the three superstars struggling in their own careers due to lack of talent surrounding them, the move seemed to make sense. Bring three superstars together and you will have the makings of a championship contender.
What happened after that was the rebirth of a rivalry between the Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, both considered championship contenders nearly every season. The story lines were fantastic and the drama never ending.
The Celtics emerged from their NBA Championship win looking like a long term power house. They had born a star in Rajon Rondo, who was only just beginning in his development into one of the best true point guards in the NBA. They started the season 27-2 and looked unstoppable until Kevin Garnett went down to injury in the second half of the season. So would begin the lengthy deterioration of the “Boston Three Party”.
The question every season suddenly became about their age. Were the Celtics simply too old to compete against a rising young crop of stars, led by LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Doc Rivers reduced his stars’ playing time to preserve them for the playoffs, a moved that proved to work in 2010 when Boston returned to the NBA Finals to face the eventual champion Lakers.
While they proved doubters wrong in 2010, the questions kept popping up as the media became relentless to prove that they could not defy their age.
With the recent injury of Rajon Rondo, and after seeing Ray Allen depart for the rival Heat at the end of last season, the questions have now turned solely to the remaining star power: Garnett and Pierce. Speculations have been thrown around due to the upcoming trade deadline about both players and it does not seem unreasonable to believe that both men would like another crack at a championship. However, the discussion becomes emotional when you realize what each man has brought to the franchise.
Pierce is the easy explanation. He is the second most prolific scorer in Boston’s long history and he has stuck with them through thick and thin. It would be difficult to see Paul Pierce show up at the Garden in another team’s colors after all of the years he has given to their franchise. There is something nostalgic about a player these days who chooses to remain loyal to his jersey no matter what the outcome may be. Sports fans all over the world can appreciate a self made man, especially when they are as gifted as The Truth.
Most people don’t see Danny Ainge moving Pierce unless there is a mutual agreement, much like the one between Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, that their time together has simply come to an end. That it would be best for both parties to move on and seek their own paths. Maybe they truly have done all that they can for one another and now it is time to say goodbye.
However, the more likely scenario for any movement would be Kevin Garnett. The trouble for Ainge in this situation is that Garnett has a no trade clause in his contract. Garnett made it very clear to the media that he “bleeds green”, giving many the idea that he will shoot down any team that comes-a-calling.
Yet, the fact is that Garnett is truly becoming too old to play at such a high level. The risk of injury and the deterioration of his athleticism is inevitable. No one has learned how to challenge the Hands of Time, and unless KG knows something we don’t, he will grow too old to play in the NBA. So, the possibility of winning another NBA Championship is getting smaller with each passing day. If he were to consider a “final ride” of his own, he may just be open to moving to another team at this point. The Celtics are not a sexy pick without Rondo and with the Miami Heat standing at the top of the Eastern Conference looking down, Garnett may need a new strategy.
The air in Boston is different. Loyalty and nostalgia go hand in hand. The Bruins, Celtics and Red Sox are all known for their longtime relationship with their respective fan bases. The fans love the players on a different level, almost so much that they feel they know them. When a beloved star leaves home, it can be devastating. Even when Kendrick Perkins left in the middle of the 2011 season the city was crushed. They felt they had lost a friend.
It may be the case with Garnett that Boston will hear some outcry from its fans, but it may be for the best. The tale of KG and the Big Three had a great run, but now it may be time to close the final chapter. There is always the last option of simply bowing out at the end of the season which, although it would leave Boston with little to show for his departure, would be noble in its own right.
The truth is, after all, that Kevin Garnett knows something we do not.