Burke: Celtics’ chances of winning 18th title decreased at trade deadline

It looks like Paul Pierce will retire in a Celtics uniform. But is that a good thing for the franchise?
It looks like Paul Pierce will retire in a Celtics uniform. But is that a good thing for the franchise?

 

Danny Ainge knows more than just about anyone alive on planet Earth today as to what the Boston Celtics are all about. He knows that getting to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago, mainly because the best point guard in the world (Derrick Rose) got hurt, meant relatively nothing. He knows the exact reason why Red Auerbach used to poke fun at the Bruins for draping the Garden rafters with “Adams Division” championship banners. He knows that his organization, the 17-time World Champion Celtics, have always been about World Championships and nothing else.

It’s why Thursday’s NBA trade deadline was so interesting for not being interesting. The money was on Ainge doing what he had long hinted at doing – trading superstar veterans in exchange for assets to help the team win Banner 18 within the next five-to-seven years.

Yeah, the Celtics did make a move, and it does seem to have been a good one. Probably the best transaction of the day in the NBA, actually.

Ainge gave up an injured Leandro Barbosa and the ancient Jason Collins, both of whom weren’t going to factor into the C’s short or longterm plans anyway, for young shooting guard Jordan Crawford. Crawford can score in bunches and should help the Celts immediately. His presence will certainly help the C’s max out this spring. But the overriding issue here is that when this Celtics team actually does max out, their ceiling goes only as high as the conference finals. If, by miracle, LeBron James blew out his ACL and the Celtics were to beat the Heat in May, they would still have to beat one of the handful of loaded teams out West, all of which are infinitely more talented than the guys in Green. In other words, the chances of the Celtics winning the World Championship with 36-year-old Kevin Garnett and 35-year-old Paul Pierce as their two best players is something close to zero.

The route that many had predicted had the Celtics acquiring young pieces to place around Rajon Rondo. Doing that would have cost the C’s Garnett and/or Pierce, but a foundation for 2015, 2016 and 2017 would have finally been in place. Crawford is young, but he is far from a player that could be Rondo’s No. 2 for the next decade.

On the bright side, this spring will be fun again. There will be playoff games at the Garden and “the jungle” will be hopping. There are sure to be a few epic games in which the C’s will brawl with either the Knicks, Nets or Pacers for the right to face the Heat and we’ll all be highly entertained when Pierce looks 25-years-old again one night and goes for 35. But looming over every single one of those fun spring nights will be the fact that achieving Banner 18, again the ONLY thing that matters for this franchise, is next to impossible this year or the year after or the year after.

By not trading Pierce or Garnett Thursday, the Celtics’ chances of winning another title in the next five-to-seven years actually decreased. Subject to change, of course, but Ainge seems to have made the ultimate goal more unattainable. He is making things harder on himself – that is if the main goal is to still win World titles.

 

Follow Metro Boston sports editor and columnist Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS


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