The Boston Celtics' new Big Three era didn't get off to the start the team had hoped for this season, as they struggled to get to .500 before point guard Rajon Rondo went down with a torn ACL. Now, the question is whether general manager Danny Ainge will let the team ride out its current hot streak or if he'll look to move Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett before Thursday's trade deadline.
The Celtics' Outlook
Currently, the Celtics are 28-24, good for seventh in the Eastern Conference. They've also won eight of their last 10 games. That's the good news. The bad news is they now set out on a Western Conference road trip that has them playing five games in seven nights. They'll see two playoff teams on the trip, the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz, while facing two others fighting for a playoff spot, the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers.
They also have injury problems that continue to build. In the last month, the team has lost Jared Sullinger, Rondo and Leandro Barbosa to season-ending injuries. It's tough to see them falling out of playoff position, since they're 5.5 games ahead of the ninth-place Philadelphia 76ers, who have their own injury problems.
The question for Ainge, head coach Doc Rivers and the rest of the Celtics' front office is whether now is the time to act on rumored deals, like Kevin Garnett to the Los Angeles Clippers, or make one last push in an Eastern Conference that is a complete toss-up outside of the Miami Heat.
"I Bleed Green"
Given their current injury situation, it seems possible the Celtics will make a swap, but the larger question is whether Pierce or Garnett will be on the move. Recently, talks have centered around Garnett, including a deal with the Clippers that would involve guard Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan or Caron Butler.
Last week Garnett told reporters, including Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald, that he wanted to remain a Celtic for the rest of his career. Saturday, Yahoo! Sports Marc Spears wrote that Garnett said he wouldn't waive his no-trade clause before Thursday's deadline, even for a move to Los Angeles, close to his Malibu home. Spears also wrote that a source close to the situation said the Clippers think Garnett would change his mind if the trade came to fruition.
A Pierce rumor hasn't popped up since before the Rudy Gay trade to Toronto went through, but that doesn't mean the Celtics wouldn't look to move him if Garnett was traded. Another rumor that has surfaced is that Boston would love to bring in Josh Smith. Pairing Smith next to Garnett would be ideal, but it seem unlikely Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry would take back Green and Bass' long term salary.
Despite the rumors, it's difficult to see Garnett or Pierce moving. Garnett is ultimately the decision-maker on whether he leaves, and trading Pierce seems like it would be a tough sell to the Celtic faithful. A more likely scenario is Boston bringing in one more piece, probably in the frontcourt, then can help them make another playoff run despite Rondo's absence.