End of an era in Boston?: Garnett considering retirement, Pierce planning for relocation
After the Celtics put those two players around franchise forward Paul Pierce, the team became a force in the Eastern Conference. Boston's big three won five straight Atlantic Division titles, and made two Finals appearances (winning one) during their first three years together.
After five seasons, however, the Celtics' core began to unravel, as Allen opted against re-signing with Boston and headed down south to play with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami. However, Pierce and Garnett still were able to lead their team through a solid season despite the devastating injury to point guard Rajon Rondo, who led the NBA in assists during the 38 games he played. Though they did give the Knicks a good fight in the first round of the playoffs, the Celtics organization is not used to seeing their team finish third in the division and get knocked out early on in the playoffs.
This question has been asked of the Boston Celtics for a few years now: "Is it time to blow up the core and get younger?"
When it comes to 36-year-old Garnett (who will be 37 on Sunday), the Celtics may not have to make a decision. After a season in which he was hindered by injuries, saw his lowest minutes per game since he was a rookie, and was frequently mentioned in trade rumors, Garnett is reportedly giving serious thought to retirement.
During his six years in Boston, Garnett has averaged 15.7 points (52% shooting) with 8.3 rebounds. Much of what he brings to the table, however, can not be quantified. The 2007-08 Defensive Player of the Year was an unquestioned leader and brought the best out of his teammates. He'll be in the Hall of Fame, and may have his jersey hanging in the TD Garden one day.
Garnett's decision on retirement is said to hinge very much on what happens with teammate Paul Pierce. With a club option for $15.3 million, the Celtics may not deem Pierce as being worth the money. Pierce is coming off a season in which he posted his third-lowest points per game in his 15 year career, as well as his third-lowest field goal percentage.
A source has told the Boston Globe that Pierce "is already beginning to prepare for relocation from Boston." Though the thought of Pierce playing for anyone other than the Celtics - who he has been with since being drafted 10th overall in 1998 - seems inconceivable, it is becoming a very realistic possibility. If Pierce does end up leaving Boston, his last game as a Celtic will have been a 4-for-18 shooting performance in an elimination game against the rival New York Knicks - not a very fitting exit for one of the franchise's greatest players.
If Garnett and Pierce aren't in Boston next season, the Celtics will likely move forward with stellar point guard Rajon Rondo and 26-year-old small forward Jeff Green - who received a $36.24 million contract last summer - as their core for the time being. The Celtics have two 2012 first-round picks in Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo, though Sullinger has some serious injury concerns and Melo spent most of his rookie year in the D-League.
The Celtics will have some big shoes to fill and rebuilding to do if the legendary Pierce/Garnett era does come to an end.