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Boston Celtics

Tim O’Sullivan: Celtics’ Ainge smart to ignore his sentimental side

  • FILE - Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett, right, chats with teammate Paul Pierce on the bench during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Boston, in this March 13, 2013 file photo. The Brooklyn Nets will acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics in a deal that was still developing as the NBA draft ended, according to a person with knowledge of the details. The trade can't be completed until July 10, after next season's salary cap is set, so pieces were still being discussed early Friday June 28, 2013.  (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

    FILE - Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett, right, chats with teammate Paul Pierce on the bench during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Boston, in this March 13, 2013 file photo. The Brooklyn Nets will acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics in a deal that was still developing as the NBA draft ended, according to a person with knowledge of the details. The trade can't be completed until July 10, after next season's salary cap is set, so pieces were still being discussed early Friday June 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

  • FILE - From left are 2012 file photos showing NBA basketball players Kris Humphries, Kevin Garnett, Kris Joseph, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Gerald Wallace. The Brooklyn Nets will acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics in a deal that was still developing as the NBA draft ended, according to a person with knowledge of the details. Yahoo Sports, which first reported the talks, said the Nets would also get veteran Jason Terry from Boston and send Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, the expiring deal of Kris Humphries and three future first-round picks to Boston. The trade can't be completed until July 10, after next season's salary cap is set, so pieces were still being discussed early Friday, June 28, 2013. (AP Photo/File)

    FILE - From left are 2012 file photos showing NBA basketball players Kris Humphries, Kevin Garnett, Kris Joseph, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Gerald Wallace. The Brooklyn Nets will acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics in a deal that was still developing as the NBA draft ended, according to a person with knowledge of the details. Yahoo Sports, which first reported the talks, said the Nets would also get veteran Jason Terry from Boston and send Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, the expiring deal of Kris Humphries and three future first-round picks to Boston. The trade can't be completed until July 10, after next season's salary cap is set, so pieces were still being discussed early Friday, June 28, 2013. (AP Photo/File)

  • FILE - In this May 20, 2010 file photo, Lance Armstrong bleeds from a cut under his left eye after crashing during the fifth stage of the Tour of California cycling race in the outskirts of Visalia, Calif. The dirty past of the Tour de France came back on Friday, June 28, 2013, to haunt the 100th edition of cycling's showcase race, with Lance Armstrong telling a newspaper he couldn't have won without doping. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

    FILE - In this May 20, 2010 file photo, Lance Armstrong bleeds from a cut under his left eye after crashing during the fifth stage of the Tour of California cycling race in the outskirts of Visalia, Calif. The dirty past of the Tour de France came back on Friday, June 28, 2013, to haunt the 100th edition of cycling's showcase race, with Lance Armstrong telling a newspaper he couldn't have won without doping. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

  • FILE - Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett, right, chats with teammate Paul Pierce on the bench during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Boston, in this March 13, 2013 file photo. The Brooklyn Nets will acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics in a deal that was still developing as the NBA draft ended, according to a person with knowledge of the details. The trade can't be completed until July 10, after next season's salary cap is set, so pieces were still being discussed early Friday June 28, 2013.  (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

    FILE - Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett, right, chats with teammate Paul Pierce on the bench during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Boston, in this March 13, 2013 file photo. The Brooklyn Nets will acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics in a deal that was still developing as the NBA draft ended, according to a person with knowledge of the details. The trade can't be completed until July 10, after next season's salary cap is set, so pieces were still being discussed early Friday June 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

  • FILE - Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett, right, chats with teammate Paul Pierce on the bench during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Boston, in this March 13, 2013 file photo. The Brooklyn Nets will acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics in a deal that was still developing as the NBA draft ended, according to a person with knowledge of the details. The trade can't be completed until July 10, after next season's salary cap is set, so pieces were still being discussed early Friday June 28, 2013.  (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
  • FILE - From left are 2012 file photos showing NBA basketball players Kris Humphries, Kevin Garnett, Kris Joseph, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Gerald Wallace. The Brooklyn Nets will acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics in a deal that was still developing as the NBA draft ended, according to a person with knowledge of the details. Yahoo Sports, which first reported the talks, said the Nets would also get veteran Jason Terry from Boston and send Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, the expiring deal of Kris Humphries and three future first-round picks to Boston. The trade can't be completed until July 10, after next season's salary cap is set, so pieces were still being discussed early Friday, June 28, 2013. (AP Photo/File)
  • FILE - In this May 20, 2010 file photo, Lance Armstrong bleeds from a cut under his left eye after crashing during the fifth stage of the Tour of California cycling race in the outskirts of Visalia, Calif. The dirty past of the Tour de France came back on Friday, June 28, 2013, to haunt the 100th edition of cycling's showcase race, with Lance Armstrong telling a newspaper he couldn't have won without doping. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
  • FILE - Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett, right, chats with teammate Paul Pierce on the bench during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Boston, in this March 13, 2013 file photo. The Brooklyn Nets will acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics in a deal that was still developing as the NBA draft ended, according to a person with knowledge of the details. The trade can't be completed until July 10, after next season's salary cap is set, so pieces were still being discussed early Friday June 28, 2013.  (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

It needed to be done. The Celtics team that raised Banner 17 has now been demolished, but the debris isn’t just memories and regrets, it’s building blocks for the future.

Danny Ainge vowed he wouldn’t let the Big Three 2.0 era dissolve the way Big Three 1.0 did, and now he’s made good on that promise. It might be painful for Celtics fans to see Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett traded to Brooklyn, but that pain will be short-lived compared to the pain of watching the Celtics in the 1990s when they went from aging to irrelevant to laughingstock because Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish weren’t traded.

The unraveling of the 2008 championship team was already under way. It began when Ray Allen took less money to move to Miami last

offseason, and after the ugly first-round loss to the Knicks this May, it was painfully clear those Celtics weren’t going to be hoisting Banner 18. Not with another year of wear on Garnett and Pierce, and not with LeBron James’s Miami Heat blocking the path.

Boston was not winning an NBA title any time soon, which is why Doc Rivers decided the Los Angeles Clippers were more appealing than the Celtics. And once Rivers left, the rest of the demolition needed to follow.

The blockbuster trade-to-be that will send Garnett, Pierce and Jason Terry to Brooklyn for three first-round draft picks and assorted veterans won’t help Boston to a title next year, either. It will, however, allow Ainge to build another contender at an accelerated pace. That could be as soon as 2015 if he can trade his newly acquired assets for Big Three 3.0 pieces, or maybe three or four years from now if he decides to let a young team mature into a contender. But if Ainge had stuck with Garnett and Pierce like Red Auerbach stuck with Bird and McHale, another decade of misery was very likely to follow.

Chances are Garnett and Pierce will help the Nets to a strong 2013-14 season, and chances are good that Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans, or whoever the Celtics get back from Brooklyn, won’t be leading a long playoff run in Boston. But, again, the point of this trade is not next year, it’s the next 10 years. And if it’s viewed in that long-term light, the deal is a good one.

Getting one first-round pick for Garnett and another for Pierce seemed to be the high-end ceiling for the Celtics, but instead they got three first rounders. Boston now has two first-round draft picks each of the next three years, and nine first rounders over the next five years. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, first rounders are more valuable than ever. Not only do they represent a chance to land potential stars, they provide salary cap flexibility thanks to the rookie pay scale.

The Celtics did have to take on the three years and $30 million left on the contract of Gerald Wallace, who is coming off a dreadful season (7.7 points, 4.6 rebounds per game) and probably won’t get much better in Boston. But the Celtics (presumably) managed to unload Terry’s contract – two years with nearly $11 million left – so that will offset some of the Wallace hit. And Humphries only has one year and $12 million remaining on his deal, so that will free up more cap space after next season.

There’s no doubt Ainge still has decisions to make and work to do. He said he will build the new team around Rajon Rondo, which seems like a good idea considering Rondo is an elite talent at a key position. If the Celtics can somehow land a star (preferably two) in the next few years to put next to Rondo, Jeff Green and Avery Bradley, talk of another title might once again be feasible. But it would surprise no one if Ainge traded Rondo to acquire even more building-block assets.

There’s also the small matter of hiring a coach, a decision that will make an impact on how the young talent develops and what kind of free agents Boston can hope to attract. Then there’s Wednesday night’s first-round pick, 7-foot Kelly Olynyk. He’s a skilled offensive big man, but he will likely have trouble playing NBA-level defense, which means he duplicates the strengths and weaknesses of Jared Sullinger, so Ainge also has to decide what to do with those two.

If you look longingly at the legacy Pierce created with the Celtics – second all-time in points scored behind only John Havlicek, sixth in assists, seventh in rebounds and third in minutes played – and the culture change and championship Garnett delivered, this deal seems hard to swallow.

But all that was in the past. Time had caught up with Pierce and Garnett, and it was time to let them go. And now they’ve given one more gift to Boston – a better chance to rebuild – and helped Ainge avoid a fate he feared – recreating the Celtics of 1990s.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3371 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

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