Danny Ainge faces the same question at we start to approach the trace deadline that he did last summer — does the Celtics core have one more run in them?
This summer the answer seemed to be yes, when Ainge signed Kevin Garnett to a new deal and got all the band back together save Ray Allen. Then the band got off to a slow and unimpressive 19-17 start and while the defense has started to come back around since the return of Avery Bradley the big picture question still looms. Can this team beat the Heat in the playoffs? The Knicks? The Pacers?
Team executives involved in exploratory trade talks report that the Knicks (Amar’e Stoudemire), Lakers (Pau Gasol), Raptors (Andrea Bargnani) and Celtics (Paul Pierce) are open to discussing their high-profile names. In every case but one, the early indications are that none could be moved without a bad contract going back in return… The lone exception, executives say, may be Pierce, whose ruthless scoring prowess and championship experience come with another attractive feature: only $4 million of his $15.3 million salary is guaranteed next season.
This is what Ainge does, he listens to a log of blockbusters, then ends up sticking with what he has. He did it with Rondo, he’s doing it with Pierce.
I can’t imagine the Celtics trading Pierce, the captain, the second leading scorer in franchise history. He is the Celtics talisman on this team. Now, if it was a trade for Rudy Gay the Celtics might have to consider it… for a minute.
Then realize they have won five in a row, they are starting to look like a playoff threat, and that the uproar over trading Pierce would not be worth any benefit from the move (even if it were for Gay). I just can ‘t see it.
But, it’s out there. And stranger things have happened.
Joel Embiid on Monday will have an MRI on his injured left knee and is now listed as out indefinitely.
Embiid has been experiencing swelling and soreness in the left knee injury that has caused him to miss 16 out of the last 17 games. Bryan Colangelo announced back on Feb. 11 that Embiid has a minor meniscal tear. In his most recent press conference last Friday, Colangelo had targeted this Friday’s home game against the Knicks as a possibility for Embiid’s return. Now, that isn’t the case.
Embiid had been the biggest ray of hope for Philadelphia, but the 76ers shouldn’t chase watchability down the stretch. Sit Embiid until he’s fully healthy and secure the best draft position possible.
Maybe Embiid’s body just can’t handle the rigors of NBA basketball, but Philadelphia has no choice but to hope for the best with him and Simmons. And hope the nail the their first-round pick this year and get the Lakers’ first-rounder.
This could still be a dangerously good team in coming years. The Process created that potential.
But the threat of injury always looms around the corner, maybe especially so for Embiid.
Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah likely to miss rest of season after knee surgery
Prepare for the talk next fall about Noah feeling refreshed and ready to help the Knicks.
But this surgery won’t reverse the underlying problem: Noah is a 31-year-old big man with heavy mileage. He can manage his knees, but it’s probably too late for him to regain enough athleticism to reliably contribute.
Just three years and $55 million+ remaining on his contract, which already looked like the NBA’s worst deal and is now even more unfavorable.
Buddy Hield: Vivek Ranadive told me at Kings-Pelicans games, ‘We’re still going to get you’