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Monday, 17 June 2013 15:48

Garnett, Rivers and Pierce: All For One, One For All

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"Doc came to me, pulled Paul and I to the side and all three of us agreed to speak later" Garnett said. "Too emotional. Obviously it was a big game, a tough loss, especially at home." But as far as his future with the Celtics? "It's a different day for that conversation," Garnett said.   

In addition to all the history, the love and the work ethic, Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett share two things in common.  One: they do not want to undergo a (or in Pierce and Rivers' case, another) major rebuild with the Celtics.  Two: they want Paul Pierce to be treated like the champion he is and either stay with the Celtics until he is ready to retire, or go wherever he wants to be. He has more than earned that right. They are loyal to the team, but if the organization opts against Pierce, they will be loyal to one another.  They have decided on an "all for one and one for all" policy.

During his final post game press conference of the season, Rivers spoke of both Garnett and Pierce with profound respect. Though he couldn't speak of his committment to being here next season, his devotion to those men was unshakeable. Of Pierce, he said:

He's one of the Greatest Celtics to ever play. You know him he's done so much for this franchise Paul has - and you know - listen: we live in a day and time where guys are changing teams like socks. And Paul has chosen to stay here, throughout his career - when clearly he had all rights to leave. He chose to stay here. I have so much respect for him for that.


Should this deal go down, and it begins to look like it will - I don't see how people can call Rivers or Garnett un-loyal. Their contemplation of departure comes of profound loyalty - to Pierce, and what they feel the Celtics organization owes him. If Danny Ainge is planning a rebuild, trading Garnett Pierce and Rivers is the best way to do that - amassing our fortune to acquire the best possible pieces (either to keep or to trade) for a new team of contenders.  It's a generous (and in that respect, deeply, self-sacrificially loyal) move of Doc to offer himself as a bargaining chip, considering his desirability within the league. If they are seriously considering making this 'blockbuster' trade, it's because Ainge has been seriously considering trading away Pierce. To my mind, then, if the deal goes through, it will prove one thing - that Ainge is a poor representative of the principles of the organization.  Last summer, during the press conference announcing Ray Allen's signing with the Heat, Allen dropped a very significant comment:


When I knew I was leaning toward Miami, I actually sent a text out to Kevin, just to let him know," Allen said. "I just remember this process in [2008] when [James] Posey left us. He left and we just really wanted him back and he went to New Orleans. We didn't get a chance to get Danny [Ainge] to try to give him a little something extra, whatever it was. I didn't want that to be the case with me in this situation, so I texted Kevin, I said, 'Hey, I'm leaning this way. I just want you to know.' He said, 'Well, Danny will step up to the plate and do whatever you need him to do.' I was like, 'We'll see.' That was some of the smaller discussion we had.

 Now, anyone who knows Garnett knows that he would not say "Danny will ... do whatever you need him to do" unless he had at least the equivalent of an ironclad contract signed by Ainge to that effect.  He's not one to go giving major votes of confidence for nothing. This seems to indicate that part of the agreement Garnett and Ainge reached when he chose to return to the Celtics included the expectation that Ainge would do whatever it took to retain Allen.  Clearly, if Ainge did keep up his part of the bargain (and considering the generous salary and a no-trade clause offered, I think he did) it nonetheless failed. As a result, I'm not surprised that Garnett and Rivers have upped the stakes to try to retain Pierce, or failing that, to opt to leave. Ainge and Kevin Garnett are polar opposites, personality wise.  In a furious article following the Perk trade, I once stated that Ainge possesses all the emotional intelligence of a lobotomized brick - which even now seems to me a generous understatement.  He is either completely blind or totally indifferent to emotional / inter-personal dynamics and the value of narrative that unites and transforms players into heroes and champions.  He appears to believe that success should result from the right combination of bodies - a kind of human geometry.  Whereas that emotional dynamic and the value of narrative - the "chemistry" - is the very essence of Garnett.  Rivers, meanwhile, has seemed to walk the line between the two extremes.  He has been able to accept emotionally wrenching, team-dynamic and narrative collapsing moves (such as the Perk trade) as being necessary evils for the ultimate good of the team.  However this season he did publicly bemoan the trading of Jason Collins, who was a pillar of the emotional fabric of the locker room (however one may criticize his work on the floor.)  Whereas previous years Rivers has gushed about the strength of his and Ainge's relationship, in his final post game press conference this season Rivers offered the tepid "Danny knows me pretty well."  All of which indicates to me that the relationship is not as strong as it was, and that, after years of drastic personnel changes at various points in a season, he is tending more to the Garnett side of the "Chemistry vs Geometry" debate. I personally believe that the best chance we have at winning banner 18 in the 2013/2014 season is by keeping the core that we have (though supplementing this summer with several reliable new pieces,) in the knowledge that this season will be the last that they will all have together.  All the problems the team has had with consistency, the sense of urgency they've oddly been lacking the past few seasons will be gone.  They would have one single, solitary purpose - to win.  For Pierce, for each other, and for the future of the franchise.  This season, we would have an absolutely epic narrative to win for - part of which is to honor all the years that Pierce stayed, selflessly giving the city all of his excellence, everything that he is and has, to bring the Celtics back to its roots of hard-fought Greatness. I pray that the organization will choose to showcase it's own unique values - of loyalty, history, and the true meaning of TEAM.  And the fact of the matter is, wherever Paul Pierce is playing in the 2013/2014 season, that is where you will find the heart and the soul of Celtics basketball.  Garnett and Rivers know that, and they will follow wherever it goes.  These men are true Celtics. Period.