When Danny Ainge first assembled the modern Celtics in 2007, he did it with multiple championships in mind. And while he did win one, toppling the Lakers in the NBA Finals in 2008, it?s hard to imagine him or anyone else in the Celtics? organization being satisfied. There?s still work to be done. But wait a minute: What is the Celtics? goal?winning now, or making plans for down the road?
Look at it this way: When Ainge first put this team together, how long of a shelf life was he envisioning? Did he think his newly compiled nucleus of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen was good enough to contend for a title for one year? Three? Five?
At the time, he still had Pierce on the hook for $76 million over four more years, with an opt-out clause lingering for year four. Allen was in for three years and $53 million, and Garnett reworked his deal upon arriving in Boston, ensuring five years and a whopping $105 million left.
Contractually, all signs pointed to a three-year window for the Celtics. Allen was gone in the summer of 2010, and Pierce could jump ship then too; the C?s gave themselves an opening to tear things apart and start over if the first three seasons of the Big Three didn?t go according to plan.
Well? A title in year one. A solid playoff run in year two, cut short by injuries. Another deep run in year three, culminating in a Finals Game 7. From the looks of it, Ainge could have done a lot worse.
The Celtics? GM made sure he?d have a chance to dismantle this team if it wasn?t working. Rebuilding was always an option. But now that the Big Three are still chugging along into their mid-thirties and still going strong, it?s no longer in the cards.
Allen is now signed through 2012. Garnett remains on the books until the summer of ?12 as well, and there hasn?t been a peep about trading him. Pierce, with a rich new deal, is a Celtic until 2014.
Those guys are sticking around for a reason. They?re not here to be mediocre.
The Celtics want to keep fighting for championships, and they?re going to give it everything they?ve got while they still can. Now?s their time.
The Celtics aren?t completely helpless for the distant future, either. Far from it. Rajon Rondo remains their franchise player, and he remains signed through 2015. The young talent around him includes Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis, Nate Robinson and a pair of new draftees, Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody. Those six guys could run the show for a playoff team?but it?s not their time. Not just yet.
As the C?s went about their improbable postseason run this spring, there was an unspoken sentiment that this might be their last shot. With all the aging stars and all the doubts about their ability and their effort level, it was hard to imagine them having anything left beyond this summer.
But that playoff run made us all believe again. It made optimists out of players, coaches and fans alike. And it convinced Danny Ainge to stick with this team a little longer.
Ainge is ready to ride this thing out. We should all strap in and enjoy the ride, too.
NESN.com will answer one Celtics question every day in July.
Friday, July 30: Will the Celtics go hard or wait for the playoffs?