Sunday was a day for misery and introspection; on Monday, things need to get done. Rajon Rondo is gone for a year, which puts the Boston Celtics in quite a tricky predicament. He's the only one of the Celtics' three stars under the age of
65 35, and Boston has seemed to be slowly sinking into the quicksand over the past three years. That said, the Celtics are still capable of, you know, beating the Miami Heat, as they did without Rondo on Sunday in a double-OT thriller.
Let's wargame this thing. Here's a look at the three paths forward for the Celtics, with special attention to the pros and cons of each.
OPTION 1: THE YANKEE CANDLE
In The Yankee Candle, the Celtics would press ahead with a run at the title despite losing Rondo and without calling in major troop additions by way of trade. They'd do what the Celtics have always seemed to do since the Kevin Garnett era began: they bring in elderly veterans and oddball cast-offs to fill out the rotation, and rely on Paul Pierce, Garnett and the hot roleplayer du jour to do the heavy lifting. This is the team that gave P.J. Brown, Rasheed Wallace, Von Wafer, Delonte West and Mikki Moore new life.
Under this scenario, the Celtics would play the hell out of the Avery Bradley-Courtney Lee backcourt and pray that defense and just enough Paul Pierce could lead Boston back to the playoffs ... where anything can happen. If the Celtics could land the No. 6 seed, a date with the Pacers, Knicks, Nets or Hawks would likely result. The Celtics can at the very least compete with those squads.
PROS: You don't mortgage the future by trading Bradley, Jared Sullinger or draft picks. You let Pierce retire a Celtic. You prevent Garnett from going on a expletive-laden rampage. (Seriously, you want to be the one to tell KG he's been traded to the Nets, Hawks or Rockets?)
CONS: You delay the inevitable and watch the trade value of Pierce and Garnett shrink some more with a championship run an utter pipe dream.
OPTION 2: THE M-80
In The M-80, the Celtics trade some of the more valuable non-Pierce, non-Garnett, non-Rondo assets for immediate help during Rajon's absence. That basically means trading either or both of Bradley and Sullinger. The stopgap could be a point guard (Kyle Lowry) or a playmaking two-guard (Tyreke Evans). But the important thing is that it would cost the Celtics' one of their more important young pieces, if not both.
PROS: You preserve the team for up to two more runs at the championship -- this season and next, as Rondo should return around New Year's. Plus, Pierce can retire in green and you avoid KG maiming anyone (probably).
CONS: If the Celtics fizzle out despite the trade, you've just burned a strong, young asset and let the trade value of Pierce and Garnett for little good reason.
OPTION 3: THE TIRE FIRE
In The Tire Fire, the Celtics pawn off Pierce and Garnett for younger players, embrace the lottery and start trying to convince never-say-die Bostonians that the team is not "rebuilding." It is "retooling." Garnett should be worth a couple of draft picks, a pick and a young prospect or a younger sub-star player (like Josh Smith). Pierce would have a slightly lower value, I'd think, but perhaps a wider market: even for teams with good small forwards, he'd be a deadly sixth man. A suitable Pierce trade might be The Truth for Eric Bledsoe and contract filler (Bledsoe-Bradley backcourt, anyone?); Garnett could draw something like Chandler Parsons and a pick.
PROS: You pick up some assets while you can. You start the march toward the next era of the Celtics before it's too late.
CONS: Pierce doesn't finish his career as a Celtic. Danny Ainge takes heat for not pulling the plug sooner. Garnett likely breaks some windows and/or legs. There's no guarantee the assets will amount to anything. Pierce and/or Garnett go on to enjoy deep playoff runs, sending Boston sports radio into apoplexy (even by Boston sports radio apoplexy standards).
SUPER SECRET INCONCEIVABLE OPTION 4: MUTUALLY ASSURED DESTRUCTION
Boston trades an injured Rajon Rondo for a piece that can help this season and next.
PROS: Such a trade would be so cold it would actually reverse global warming.
CONS: Once Rondo returns from injury, he would drop 50-30-20 on Boston every time he plays them. (Wait, maybe that's a pro ...)