In the post-game press conference, Doc talked about how he told the team how proud he was of them, as a group, having gone through all of the adversity, with all of the injuries, and how they never quit.
Doc on Garnett: “He limped into the playoffs and then played…he was unbelievable. As tough a guy, as tough a competitor, as I’ve ever been around, rebounding, and just doing everything for this team. I really didn’t want him to go out that way on our court. I mean, obviously we lost to a better team, but for him, I just didn’t want him to go out that way. But he is a winner. Best that I’ve seen.”
When asked if he meant, “Go out,” as Garnett retiring, Doc backtracked and said he meant this season. Garnett has to make that statement for himself. But everyone is asking the obvious question in their minds, is KG done? Is Paul done if KG is done?
Doc was asked what was said between him and Garnett as KG walked off the court. Doc replied, “Just personal. He told me he loved me. I told him I love him. Kevin always checks on me, to see if I’m okay. You know, that’s typical Kevin. He just played 41 minutes, and he’s leaving the court, and he’s checking on me, to see how I’m doing. That’s typical Kevin. That’s Kevin Garnett in a nutshell.”
The Future: KG, Pierce
I don’t think Garnett knows for sure how he feels about retiring today. Garnett has been such a fiery competitor who loves playoff basketball and loves being on the court, I’m sure he’s telling himself he has one more go round in him, and with Rondo healthy, they could make another run. On the other hand, Garnett can’t play 82 games, even at 25 minutes each. It might be a 50-50 call for KG. Ideally, they could work out some sort of deal where he plays half of the season, coming on in mid-January at a seriously reduced price.
Pierce has a player option for $15.3 million for the 2013-14 season. Realistically, Pierce probably has two good years left, but he’d be best suited to playing 30 minutes per game, and can’t carry the offensive load anymore, as shown in the playoffs. Rondo’s absence underscores his Rondo’s importance once again. Pierce might still have the legs to carry a team for 6-8 minutes in the 4th quarter, if Rondo is carrying the offense for the majority of the first 2-3 quarters. His contract wouldn’t pay him like a 25-30 min/game player, so if Garnett retires, the Celtics would likely buy out Pierce’s contract for $5 million.
It’s completely ridiculous in my opinion, but I’m still reading so-called experts discuss the question of whether or not Rondo is right player to build around. If Garnett and Pierce retire, the team does not need to “blow it up.” In fact, they would have enough money to go out and get a solid rebounder/defender to replace Garnett if the two stalwarts leaves. Rondo is still one of the top young point guards in the NBA, and there’s a very good chance he’s learned from his time off the court how to be a better leader once he’s back on the court. To say that Rondo should immediately be packaged for even younger pieces to build around is absurd. Wasn’t it obvious how badly these Celtics (Green, Bradley, Terry) needed a point guard? Well….we have one.
Here’s how I see the Celtics, given the possible retirements of KG and Pierce:
Rondo / FA / Lee
Bradley / Terry / Terrence Williams
Green / Bass
Sullinger / Bass / Randolph
C FA / 1st Round pick (#16) / Melo
Given the health of Rondo and Sullinger, this team needs one somewhat-established defensive-minded big man who can protect the rim. Greg Oden and Andrew Bynum, two very talented and likely available big-men might be targets, given the right price. The Celtics will likely by targeting a center in the draft, with Louisville-via-Senegal’s Gorgui Dieng a nice defense-first option.
In terms of back-up point guards (wow, could the Celtics have used old friend Nate Robinson in this series!), the free-agent list includes: C.J. Watson, Toney Douglas (offense), Eric Maynor, Patrick Beverley (please, oh please if Houston doesn’t sign him for 3 years!), Shaun Livingston (versatile), and Aaron Brooks (offense).
It’s likely the Celtics look to shop either Courtney Lee (3 more years, $15 million left) or Terry (2 more years, $10 million left)
Looking Back / What We’ve Learned
Though the off-season will be filled with uncertainty, let’s take a minute to appreciate another great season from these Boston Celtics. It didn’t end in a championship, and we didn’t get another long playoff run, but we got to see a very limited team fight until the very end. After the first three games of this series, that is no small feat. Though it may be the end of one era, it would become the beginning of a new one, with some serious upside in the coming years.
Rivers gave Mike Woodson some well-deserved respect. Pablo Prigioni, getting Jason Kidd’s minutes, and Iman Shumpert, locking down Jeff Green and Paul Pierce at various moments, had just left their stamp on this series, and helped the Knicks take complete control of Game 6 from the opening tip. Prigioni hit four first-half three-pointers (all wide open looks) and Shumpert’s defense had Pierce looking awful.
Goodbye, 2012-13 Boston Celtics. See you in June for the draft.