Garnett, Pierce on way out on night of NBA draft
Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce, left, and Kevin Garnett sit on the bench during the fourth quarter of their 90-76 loss to the New York Knicks in Game 3 of a first round NBA basketball playoff series in Boston Friday, April 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
BOSTON – The names that Boston Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge didn’t mention said all anyone needed to know about how he views the team’s future.
After trading up three spots to get Gonzaga 7-footer Kelly Olynyk in the NBA draft last night, Ainge described him as a complementary player who will fit in well with Rajon Rondo, Avery Johnson and Jeff Green.
No mention of the team’s biggest stars, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
“Can’t talk about it,” Ainge said when the omission was pointed out to him. But asked if there were any untradeable players on the roster, he said, “If Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were traded, I guess everybody’s tradable.”
According to a person with knowledge of the talks, the Celtics and Nets were nearing completion of a deal that would send Garnett and Pierce to Brooklyn along with Jason Terry in exchange for a package that included three first-round draft picks and three players. The Celtics would get Gerald Wallace, Tornike Shengelia and the expiring contract of Kris Humphries, according to the person, who confirmed the talks to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the details were to remain private.
The deal, which cannot be finalized until next month, would complete the breakup of the core that brought Boston its NBA-record 17th championship in 2008. The process began earlier this week when the Celtics traded Coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for a first-round draft pick in 2015.
Boston and Los Angeles had discussed a deal for Garnett, who has a no-trade clause but was expected to waive it to remain with Rivers. But NBA Commissioner David Stern said coaches could not be dealt for active players – as opposed to draft choices – and nixed any future deals between the Celtics and Clippers.
Instead, the Celtics talked to Brooklyn. The inclusion of Pierce, who is due $15 million next season, and the possibility of swapping a rebuilding team for a contender was expected to encourage Garnett to go along.
After winning five straight Atlantic Division titles, the Celtics tumbled down the Eastern Conference standings this season, dropping all the way to the No. 7 seed before being eliminated by the New York Knicks in the first round. Ainge has said he wanted to avoid the precipitous fall and long rebuilding process in the 1990s that followed the aging of the original Big Three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish – his teammates on the teams that won it all in 1984 and ’86.
The Celtics were no closer to a title – and in the midst of the longest championship drought in franchise history – when Ainge arrived in 2003. He rode them into the draft lottery, and when the ping pong balls failed to deliver a star, he traded for Garnett and Ray Allen to join Pierce in a New Big Three that won the NBA title in its first year and returned to the Finals two years later.
But the team regressed after losing in the 2010 Finals in seven games, and in the first-round loss to the Knicks this spring, Pierce and Garnett looked worn down. That convinced Rivers that his future was elsewhere, and Garnett and Pierce aren’t far behind.
Instead, the Celtics begin their rebuilding around Rondo, the one player Ainge said he was not looking to trade. They also have Bradley joining him in the backcourt and Green to fill Pierce’s role, and now Olynyk to join Jared Sullinger at power forward after Garnett’s gone.
“I think we’re in a much better place than we were when I got here 10 years ago,” Ainge said. “Our objective is to do it less painfully and to do it with more speed.”
Ainge sent the No. 16 pick and two future second-rounders to the Dallas Mavericks to get Olynyk, who was fifth in voting for the Wooden Award. Olynyk averaged 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 63 percent from the field while leading Gonzaga to a 32-3 season.
Ainge said Olynyk was athletic, playing quarterback for his high school football team.
“I don’t know too many players who played quarterback in high school as a 7-footer,” Ainge said.