BOSTON — A large photo of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo hung in the lobby of the Celtics’ office on Causeway Street last night, greeting everyone that arrived for the NBA Draft.
Any minute now, that picture may be headed to a storage locker, the relic of a bygone era.
While Celtics president Danny Ainge did not confirm any decisions last night, all indications seemed to show that June 27, 2013 meant a heck of a lot more to C’s history than the day Boston acquired Kelly Olynyk.
Yesterday was the day the Celtics said goodbye to future NBA Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
According to multiple reports, Boston agreed to a deal with Brooklyn that would send Pierce and KG to the Nets for first round picks in 2014, ‘16 and ‘18, former all-star Gerald Wallace and tough guy Kris Humphries.
In a separate deal, the C’s will send sixth man Jason Terry to the Nets for Reggie Evans and Keith Bogans. Former Celtic Kris Joseph is also a part of the deal.
In other words, the Celtics officially blew up their roster last night, and entered rebuilding mode.
Speaking during the draft, Ainge said that he could not yet confirm or deny if any trade had been made. But he did speak about the possibility of rebuilding.
“Timing is everything,” said Ainge. “Even if I wanted to, I was never really tempted to rebuild and more forward before. It’s always easy to say what your plan is and what you want to do. You need to have a team there to fulfill your plan.”
The Celtics have apparently found the team to make that plan a reality in the Nets.
But this is not simply a trade of veteran players with massive contracts. It is a farewell to two of the greatest players in the history of the NBA’s most storied franchise.
No one will ever wear No. 34 for the Celtics again, clearly bound for the rafters, and it is very unlikely No. 5 will ever return to the jersey rotation.
Pierce leaves as the Celtics’ No. 2 all-time scorer with 24,021 points, and has been the face of the franchise since Drew Bledsoe was the star quarterback for the Patriots.
“The Truth” was the man that gave a generation of Celtics fans hope, the player that gave the post-Larry Bird era dreams that one day the team may be relevant one day again.
While Pierce started the fight, it was trade for fiery, overly intense Garnett that solidified the C’s a contender. He earned Defensive Player of the Year honors, and averaged 15.7 points and 8.7 rebounds a game in six seasons in Boston.
The result, with a little help from Ray Allen, was the 2008 NBA title that reestablished the C’s as a premier NBA franchise.
Now, with Pierce and KG off to Brooklyn, Allen saving the Miami Heat’s backside in the 2013 Finals and head coach Doc Rivers already in Los Angeles to coach the Clippers, the “Big Three” era is officially closed.
The Celtics’ hopes now rest on the shoulders of the lone player left from that championship roster, All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo.
Ainge expressed comfort in promoting Rondo to the No. 1 spot alongside wing player Jeff Green, who looked like a star at times last season, and defensive ace Avery Bradley.
“Yes, we are very comfortable,” he said of Rondo. “I think we are in a very good position with our young players.”
Aingle also noted he has no plans to repeat the painful rebuilding process that took place after the Bird/Kevin McHale era, which consisted of 22 years without a title and nearly 19 straight seasons at the bottom of the NBA standings.
“I think that we are in a much better position than we were 10 years ago when I took the job,” he said, “when we had to do it in pieces and move at a very slow pace. Our goal is to do it less painful and at a faster pace. We feel like we have some good players.”
While that may be true, the trade of the heart and soul of the Celtics is certainly a decision that will resonate for quite a while.
WHO THE CELTICS GIVE UP:
Player Position Comment
Paul Pierce small forward Celtics’ captain averaged 18.6 ppg last season
Kevin Garnett power forward/center averaged 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds but is 37
Jason Terry guard Former Mavericks star never clicked in lone season in Boston
WHO THE CELTICS RECEIVE
Player Position Comment
Gerald Wallace forward Former All-Star saw stats dropped to just 7.7 ppg last season
Reggie Evans power forward One of the NBA’s top rebounders. Very aggressive style
Kris Humphries power forward Former low post presence fell out of favor last season
Keith Bogans guard/forward Useful role player joining his eighth NBA franchise
Kris Joseph guard Celtics second round draft pick appeared in 10 games last season
Three first-round draft picks