On Brink Of Elimination, Celtics Face Questions About Their Future

BOSTON — Down 0-3 to the New York Knicks in their first round series, the Boston Celtics can do nothing but focus on Sunday’s Game 4 (1 p.m. ET, ABC). One game at a time and all that.

“You can’t win four without winning one,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Saturday.

“They haven’t won anything yet,” a somewhat defiant Jeff Green added. “They’ve just won three games. The objective is to win four. So, we still have a chance to do that.”

But, while Rivers and company have to figure out a way to score points in Game 4, we are free to wonder what becomes of the Celtics after this series. No team in NBA history has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit, and with how awful their offense has been, the Celtics aren’t going to be the first.

They may win a game, because they do have the ability to beat the Knicks on any given afternoon and they should be plenty motivated on Sunday to avoid getting swept. But the Celtics will eventually be knocked out in the first round for the first time since they acquired Kevin Garnett in 2007.

Questions surrounding the Celtics’ future begin with Garnett. The 36-year-old has two years remaining on his contract (though 2014-15 is only partially guaranteed), but has been surrounded by retirement talk for a while now. Paul Pierce has just one partially-guaranteed year left on his deal, and has been surrounded by trade talk for a while now. Both veterans still have something left in the tank, but clearly can’t carry a team like they could in the past.

As this series has clearly shown, the Celtics’ aging stars don’t have the supporting cast needed to beat the best teams in the league. And we really don’t know when they’ll have Rajon Rondo, who tore his ACL in late January, back at 100 percent. If Garnett and Pierce come back back for another year, the Celtics will be competitive, but probably not much better than they were this season. Given Rondo’s status and how much they’ve regressed in the last two years, it’s fair to assume they’ll be worse.

So, Celtics president Danny Ainge faces another crossroads this summer. He has to decide where the Celtics go from here, and the decision won’t be easy. Ainge has long made it clear that he holds no loyalty toward his players and that he’ll do what’s best for the Celtics. That could mean that it’s time to sever ties with Garnett and Pierce, because the longer Ainge keeps his two stars on the roster, the longer it will take to rebuild.

Finding another team (or teams) to trade for Garnett and or Pierce is another question. And Garnett has indicated that he doesn’t want to play for any other team. But in terms of their long-term future, the Celtics need to take a step back before they move forward. And now may be the time for Ainge to pull the trigger.

Celtics record and efficiency, last six seasons

Season W L Win% OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank Playoffs
2007-08 66 16 .805 107.6 10 96.2 1 +11.5 1 Won Finals
2008-09 62 20 .756 108.1 6 99.4 2 +8.7 2 Lost in conf. semis
2009-10 50 32 .610 105.4 13 101.1 5 +4.3 8 Lost in Finals
2010-11 56 26 .683 104.0 18 97.8 2 +6.2 6 Lost in conf. semis
2011-12 39 27 .591 98.9 24 95.5 2 +3.4 7 Lost in conf. finals
2012-13 41 40 .506 101.1 20 100.4 6 +0.7 14 Down 0-3 in first round

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions


John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.


  1. @ Kaleb-i definitely agree with you-lol-i was just saying the same thing the other day to somebody close to me. Hey let’s face it, history is made to be exactly that-make history. Records get broken & history gets made all the time & i def believe that the Celtics can stay in stride & do this!

  2. JT says:

    you could say anything you want about the celtics. but i beleive in celtics pride. been believing it ever since. through high’s and low’s i will bleed green. and no, i think ainge would rather wait for both star’s retirement…just saying

  3. Karratoa says:

    Celtics are a great team, but I don’t think the problem is that they’re too old, I think that their bench needs to step up. They can’t be relying on Pierce, Garnett, and Terry to be doing so much. They need their younger guys to learn from the veterans. Another thing, the Celtics need to grab a big man like Josh Smith or Paul MIlsap this off-season, and try to get a guard like Kevin Martin or Nate Robinson. They also need to prepare for a couple years of rebuilding.

  4. james says:

    celtics need rondo rondo rondo rondo is the best pg but still they will win

  5. Kamote says:

    Boston has a good young core in Rondo, Bradley, Green and Sullinger. There’s no need for them to break-up this team. I’d rather see KG and Pierce retire in green, though I’m hoping for Doc to reduce their minutes next year, relying more on their new core (and hopefully things will be better when Rondo and Jared comes back). The value of KG (fire, competitiveness) and Pierce (swag) mentoring the new core would benefit the team more than just trading them away. These 2 guys aren’t into looking for last chance for the ring going to other teams, they just want to stay in the garden and go down swinging. They can remain a competitive (if healthy) playoff team until KG and Pierce retire, then they can have that financial flexibility. Then by that time they can add a center with potential (eg. Drummond, Monroe, Pek, Vucevic) to complete a very good 5-man core (PG-Rondo, SG-Bradley, SF-Green, PF-Sullinger, C-Drummond as example).

    I just hope Ainge can do something to make trades for players that can add offense (or at least shooting) to their team. He has to look for role players that can play multiple positions so Doc can create the mismatches that he needs.

  6. Kaleb says:

    Remember when the RedSox were down3-0 in the ALCS to the Yankees and won the series. Well it looks like boston will get to humiliate another NY team

  7. Denzo says:

    You cant ignore missing your superstar playmaker, and a creative scorer in Barbossa.. Against the knicks.. Rondo would have killed it, and Barbosa would neutralise JR.

    People just dont get it. Teams are set up in a way for a reason.

  8. Eric says:

    Rondo would have made a huge difference in this series. Don’t forget he they took the Heat to seven games with Rondo.

  9. TooHotTooHandle says:

    celtic era is 2008…..now is over…is really over…

  10. heat1 says:

    the Celtics are done

  11. bubba says:

    Jason Terry didn’t meet my expectations at all…
    Ray Allen’s shoes are too big for him to fill.

  12. David says:

    The point is not only about where could they go, but must important how can be transfer to Boston in replacement. Right now is not easy so I don`t see there is the year to do the changes.
    It could be nice to see Pau Gasol with KG. That can be a great complement. And then someone young from far, like…

    Gasol is possible, and with Rondo, Paul, Gasol and KG we could have two more good years before the reformations.

  13. sanjay says:

    celtics are not scoring at all. I have no idea what happened to green scoring! terry not shooting well. They some how must try to get one back here rather than just quitting. There is a small opening to cash inn! If they find a way to shut down melo( which all other team will try from now on!) they can get back one or two. Hard to see celtics to win from here but they can make it a series by winning one or two!

  14. Red says:


  15. Get RID of Ainge !!! says:

    the first person that should start with is Danny. He is the one bringing this team down…. WE MISS RAY ALLEN !!!!!! it is funny how much we realise what he brought to the team until hes gone, because Jason Terry aint doing S**T.

  16. sholmes87 says:

    Remember the 2004 ALCS? NY up 3 games to none. They then pulled off the most spectacular CHOKE in sports history and Boston won 4 games to 3. No reason to think it can’t happen again. Keep the faith!! =)

  17. nia says:

    the truth is that rondo f it all up when he decided to be the” floor egol”
    and not get a long with ray ,,
    allens move to mia was clever,still shinin why not play with the best
    celtricks need heart …..they lost it

  18. True Celtics Fan says:

    do not doubt my celtics or doc or truth or kg
    boston will not give up thats what celtics spirit is
    any celtics fan who thinks boston will lose and needs to rebuild lost their celtic pride
    my point is in Sun., May 5 at madison squre garden in game 7 celtics will be the ones who has the last laugh
    (and celtics are the only team who can beat miami and lebron)

  19. Bolivar says:

    The first to be out of celtics is Danny Ainge. When they do that the C’s going to be better.

  20. Joj. Jay says:

    That person who gave garnett 3 yrs contract was wearing blinders, garnett cant even get off a dunk , he is clearly hobbling , best thing is to amesty him , eat the 19 millions , get younger nothing wrong with rebuilding

  21. Adrian says:

    “the Celtics aren’t going to be the first.” The last time they said that the beat the Heat 3 times and forced a Game 7. And frankly, the Heat are better than the Knicks.

  22. tanibanana says:

    Had Rondo been healthy.
    They could have ended 5th.. and be the one facing the Nets for the upset.
    They don’t need to trade KG.. if Rondo can play next season..
    Just reload the line-up perhaps in 2 & 5 position.

  23. bu says:

    What Fred said is spot on!!!

    Ainge ALREADY started the rebuilding process last yr, while keeping 2 key pieces of the big 3 where KG is the defensive anchor & can be mentor for guys like Green & Sulli, while PP is still one of the most versatile player actively playing. Both can still keep Rondo under the wing.

    Lee & Bradley are the “pit bulls” like Doc said. Just that they both still lack the off confidence which needs to be built up. Remember Bradley came bk from a shoulder injury & he’s still v v young.

    Now they hv Crawford, who’s a versatile guard as shown. Will Sulli back next year, they hv a reasonably strong team. Trading PP &/or KG will not bring back good enough young talent so the best thing is to let them continue to be the mentors to the youngsters & eventually become role players & then retire in Boston.

    The biggest question mark is Terry, where it seems that he still can’t find his spots & rythm under Doc’s system. He’s also aging. Celtics need a bulls eye catch & shoot 2 guard & a solid PG to back up Rondo. Crawford might be a better PT PG than Terry & he has good offensive skills & young, though a bit immature. So I’d trade Bradley & Terry for 2 sharp shooters who plays above average D.

    Coaches like Doc, Thib should be prime candidates for coach of the year, trying to overcome injuries, new faces & getting results.

  24. cebu_phil says:

    retirement would be a key for KG if he doesn’t want to play for another team…add a post-up player too….

  25. Skolimowski says:

    Why do you keep writing these articles? This is not the problem, Pierce was the main scorer and Garnett was the main rebounder during regular season, they can still produce, even though they play less minutes. This team is not old, they only have three 30 year olds and Terry is the only one who needs to retire. Your lack of knowledge is appalling, or maybe you’re just being sensationalist. Stop it.

    The problems are three: injuries, lack of size and lack of experience. The first we can only hope will be less significant next season. The second needs to be solved with trading a few of the guards for a 7 footer. The third is a question of patience, because Rondo, Bradley, Green and Sullinger are players with a bright future ahead together.

  26. Swiss boy says:

    I miss Larry, Robert & Kevin…

  27. whataJOE says:

    after pierce and garnett
    rondo and green = future

  28. Michael B. says:

    it is tough to say but they need reconstruction, they had a good 3-4 year plan once they had rondo in hands, but is time to say that the amount of veterans and father time are getting very close to them, the door is by this little too close to shut down, so once pierce and garnett go or retire whatever, start reconstruction surrounding rondo and green as soon as possible if they want to keep competing, same for lakers, with kobes injury being doubtful i think is a really good time to retire he has done so many to the lakers franchise, i keep repeating this, this is an era where the miami rule the decade and the low profile franchises step over perhaps the teams with the best point guards in the league so far. it will take time to see another generation like lebron-carmelo etc, too appear again, is just matter of time to see what the future brings us

  29. larry for 3 says:

    its just heartbreaking to see my celtics loose ,also sad to see garnett and pierce not being able to compete as much

  30. ThunderRocketsFan says:

    Rondo is talented but I don’t think he would have made much difference in this series. I’m no Knicks fan but I can tell Knicks are working hard & want to make it through this first round.

  31. Richkid Yellaboy says:

    they should drop Bradley and Bring Allen Iverson Back

  32. Mauricio says:

    I heard Lakers want garnet, pierce and jason kid for next season…. Perfect !

  33. TSK says:

    i miss rondo…

  34. El Ueapo says:

    KG is going to LAClippers with Cp3. I know this

  35. manne says:

    I think that the Celtics performance in the playoffs has allot to do with resting garnet and pierce allot on the month of march.
    Jeff green has to adopt being a 3rd option while KG and pierce look like they just came beck from a long vacation.
    I think that next year they will be better as long as they still have the fire to win.

  36. Paul Wayne says:

    Carmelo will put an end to this sad series. Smith will not be missed.

  37. Celtics Forever says:

    I don’t think a defensive minded coach suits for a rebuilding team so i must say Doc Rivers should part ways with the Celtics When KG and PP will retire

  38. Fred says:

    Why do these writers do this to my Celtics every 6 months, it’s annoying and really quite worn out.. The Celtics are in a good position for the future, things aren’t as bad as they look. They have some good young talent in Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford, Terence Williams, Courtney Lee, Jared Sullinger and the project big man Fab Melo who should of been thrown into the fire this season. Oh and lets not forget the superstar point guard Rondo who will return healthy and make Paul and KG look younger and play better then they are right now. And Just to amuse these writers let’s say Paul and KG retire the C’s will still be fine because Danny Ainge and Doc are two of the best at what they do, and the relatively young group of players that will be left behind will find a way to be successful and grow with eachother as a team. The Celtics are just one consistent shooter and an aggressive impactful 7 footer away from being an elite team again.

  39. King says:

    The Celtics should try and acquire some players from free agency like a Josh Smith, Big Al or Paul Millsap and then restructure pierce’s contract for his final season then make a run for one last time.

  40. Eli Tavares says:

    This season determines nothing about how the celtics will preform next year. They are not only without Rondo and Sullinger, but they acquired a number of new players and have had no time to get used to each others gameplay. But with the off season coming and the key pieces healthy next year they will go much deeper into the playoffs.

  41. Celts 13 says:

    The Celtics’ problems are much deeper than Garnett and Pierce’s age.

  42. terufumi says:

    no jeff green any more, he is not key player. jeff and other 2 player trade
    Celt make a new big 3.
    I hope AL jefferson coming back

  43. Stephen says:

    Kevin Garnett has a no-trade clause in his contract. I don’t know why all you writers keep choosing to ignore that when you write these puff pieces…

  44. all3n iv3rson says:

    LOL @ Jeff green’s comments, be quiet jeff, you guys lost this and you know it. Just focus on next season and enjoy your time off.

  45. Eh says:

    The 2014 draft looks promising, Just hold on to both till mid season next year for nostalgia, then trade them to whoever looks like they will be finishing at the bottom bracket. Then draft Andrew Wiggins, Aaron Gordon, and/or Julius Randal, they would all develop nicely under Doc and playing with Rando. Rebuild time.

  46. Dong says:

    Watch your words dude “but the celtics will eventualy be knocked out huh?” Lets see…

  47. taonggrasa says:

    garnet go to knicks…you can have two title before you retire and also carter go to knicks men for your first title

  48. Matt says:

    I’m not shy to say it… The Celtics will win the Super Bowl in 2014. You heard it here first.