As Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge ponders the direction of his franchise with Thursday's NBA trade deadline looming, center Kevin Garnett submitted one emphatic -- and somewhat decisive -- vote from Saturday's All-Star festivities in Houston.
Garnett said there is no scenario or team for which he would waive his no-trade clause. And, with that, Garnett's message appears clear: He still believes this team is capable of achieving its lofty goals despite the adversity encountered with the loss of three key rotation players over the past three weeks.
Ainge said recently that the most likely late-February scenario for his team involved minor roster tweaks, and Garnett's declaration only strengthens the odds that Boston will ultimately travel that less glitzy path.
But that won't stop the rumor mill from churning, or Ainge from considering all of the options for his team.
If you went to bed early on Friday night (and the celebrity game probably served as your melatonin), you woke up to a hail storm of Celtics trade rumors. Garnett to the Clippers; Rajon Rondo to the Lakers; Brandon Bass and Jeff Green to the Hawks; Paul Pierce packing his bags for parts unknown to complete an extreme makeover.
Welcome to deadline week.
Rumors will only continue to swirl and swell leading up to Thursday's 3 p.m. deadline, and sometimes it's impossible to tell fact from fiction. Everyone's got an agenda this time of year and most legitimate swaps often stay under wraps until the teams near completion of the deal. Much of what trickles out is old news and, let's face it, plenty has changed for Boston in recent weeks.
On the surface, the loss of its best all-around player (Rondo), its best rebounder (Jared Sullinger) and an off-the-bench wild card (Leandro Barbosa) made it an easy decision for Boston brass to look to the future. But the Celtics' veterans were too proud to let this year's ship sink. Garnett, Pierce and Jason Terry put a depleted team on their shoulders while underperforming role players like Jeff Green and Courtney Lee elevated their play and Boston won eight of nine to arrive at the All-Star break at a season-best four games over .500.
If Ainge had been contemplating a more extreme overhaul, his team likely gave him pause with its recent play. If Boston had stumbled into the All-Star break playing the sort of roller-coaster ball it showed for much of the first half of the season, maybe Garnett would be itching for a chance to relocate to the West Coast for some sunshine and a better chance at a title.
But the ever-loyal Garnett has repeatedly pledged a desire to be "buried in green," saying he'll do everything in his power to make that happen. When reporters pointed out Saturday that his no-trade clause pretty much gives him full control over his future, Garnett playfully asked why, then, they were still harping on the issue.
So go ahead, Danny, put that iPhone on mute for the rest of the weekend. Enjoy the downtime. Oh sure, you've got to monitor that free-agent market -- from here to the China League -- for potential low-cost options. But if Garnett is sticking around -- and presumably that would encourage the team to keep Pierce around as well -- there's likely no monster overhaul looming.
Ainge stressed that Boston's injury-thinned depth had left the team leery of trading a young asset, if only because it would be hard to get comparable value, and Boston doesn't want to trade a talented young player for anything less than full value.
Can the Celtics sustain their recent level of play? That's debatable. Even Ainge pointed out how Boston went 10-1 over an 11-game stretch in 2009 as Brian Scalabrine spent much of that time starting in place of Garnett and Kendrick Perkins.
The degree of difficulty is also set to rise as Boston opens the second half with a five-game road trip out west. You get the feeling that, if Thursday were simply the tax deadline, Ainge would file an extension to get a better look at this squad before picking his path.
Then again, Garnett might have already picked Boston's direction. He's ready to roll with the guys in the Celtics' locker room and -- if the past nine games are any indication -- the guys are ready to roll with him.