WALTHAM, Mass. – In a summer that has brought a whirlwind of emotions to Celtics players, coaches, and fans alike, there is one overwhelming thought that sits in the back of everyone’s mind when beginning to think about the future of Boston’s historic franchise is uncertainty.
The Celtics held a news conference Monday to formally introduce Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and Keith Bogans as the newest members of the Celtics organization. But for how long will they be Celtics? Will they still be in Boston by the time training camp rolls around? The same question applies to Gerald Wallace, the fourth player who was shipped to Boston in the blockbuster trade that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets, but was unavailable to attend Monday’s event.
It is no secret that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is on a mission to revamp the Celtics roster while simultaneously stocking up on draft picks — a rebuilding process with long-term benefits and potential short-term consequences. The question is, when does Ainge say enough is enough and become content with the pieces he has?
There is no definite answer, as Ainge has kept telling everyone all summer, but it seems as if even he is not sure. The first question during Monday’s press conference was addressed to Ainge, asking whether he expected the new additions to be on the roster upon summer’s end.
“Sure,” Ainge said. “We have some work to do. We have a few too many guaranteed contracts. But yes, I do. We have to make some adjustments. We’re very busy trying to put the best team on the court. There could be some changes in the summer, yes.”
In other words, Ainge doesn’t know.
Everyone assumed that the Celtics’ rebuilding project would consist of Pierce and Garnett either retiring or playing elsewhere, followed by Ainge bringing in players and picks to build around Rajon Rondo, the lone star remaining from the 2008 championship team. Even that seems up in the air now, though, as Rondo’s name has appeared in trade rumors throughout the past few weeks.
Still, dealing Rondo should be the lowest priority for Ainge. Far more concerning for the Celtics are the outrageous contracts they inherited from the Nets. Wallace and Humphries are in line to make over $22 million combined this year. While Humphries’ contract expires after the 2013-14 season, Wallace is set to make an additional $20 million over the following two seasons. What’s the over/under on hours of sleep Ainge is losing per night knowing that he will have to pay more than $30 million to an underproducing 30-year-old who is in the midst of NBA menopause?
Humphries’ expiring contract makes for great trade bait to include in a potential Rondo deal, but Ainge must find a general manager out there willing to take on Wallace’s contract in order to bring one of the game’s best point guards to his city. While Ainge may not be actively seeking out a deal to ship off his star point guard, he is answering the phone. If there’s an opportunity to exchange Humphries’ or Wallace’s contract plus Rondo for some young talent and draft picks, you had better believe Ainge will take it.
At this point, nothing should come as a surprise to Celtics fans. Ainge has a well-documented history of saying one thing and doing another, but through all the uncertainty he always has had the Celtics’ best interest in mind. While that best interest may not result in championship banner No. 18 being raised in TD Garden next June, it does promise hope for the future.