May 3, 2013 marked the end of the Boston Celtics’ season after being eliminated in the first round of the NBA playoffs by the New York Knicks in six games, but it also signified the beginning of a long postseason that would be full of questions.
One of the most pressing issues is that the futures of the Celtics’ core players, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, as well as that of head coach Doc Rivers, are up in the air. Before the June 30 deadline is reached, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has to decide whether or not he wants to waive or buy out Pierce for the $5 million amnesty price, guarantee him $15 million for the next season, or trade him to another team.
If Pierce were to leave the Celtics, then the 37-year-old Garnett would most likely follow suit by going into retirement.
“One of the big reasons I came here was because of Paul,” Garnett said. “I demand a lot out of myself, both physically and from a skill level. I’ll be lying if I said Paul didn’t play into that.”
Without the two future Hall-of-Famers, the Celtics would have to enter a new era of their franchise that would focus on rebuilding with young talent, and would probably be without consistent playoff contention or even any postseason action.
This brings up Rivers’ remaining three years with Boston and the $21 million that he would be getting paid over that time. Coaching a team without the Big Two, or with an aging Big Two, may be a situation that Rivers does not want to get himself into. He has other options: going back to broadcasting, where he was successful in the late 90’s, accepting a team president position like the one that the Orlando Magic offered him the previous season, or filling the coaching vacancy of another team.
However, Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck recently commented that he looks forward to having both Pierce and Garnett suiting up to play next season.
“I want to retire Paul’s number, but I don’t want to do it any time soon because I want him to keep playing for us, to be honest. I want KG back. I want Doc back. I’d love to have Rondo back. I just want to get them more help, that’s my going-in assumption,” Grousbeck said.
In addition, Ainge did not allow the Brooklyn Nets to discuss their empty head coach spot with Rivers, bolstering the fact that the team expects him to stay in Boston.
“Doc has told me he’s coming back,” Ainge said. “I talk to him almost every day about our team and what we are going to do moving forward.”
The optimism of the Celtics’ front office shows that they are considering the possibility of making one more run for a title, yet it may very easily manifest itself into a lost season that ultimately sees all of the fears of this one come to pass.