So, what now?
That's the question on everyone's mind after the Boston Celtics bowed out to the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Heading into the postseason, it was a foregone conclusion that this might be the last hurrah for the Big Three (or Big Four, if you prefer). And what a last hurrah it would be. Giving the Heat everything they could handle in seven games.
If it is indeed the end of an era for the old guard in Boston, it was by natural causes. The contracts have run their course, which will free up gobs of cash for the Celtics to make some free-agent deals. Kevin Garnett is 36 years old and his $21 million will come off the books as a free agent this summer. Ray Allen will be 37 years old in July and his $10 million will also evaporate when he hits the market. The expiring contracts of Jermaine O'Neal, Chris Wilcox and Keyon Dooling will also relieve another $11.5 million.
Sum it up and the Celtics have $42 million worth of expiring deals that will fly off the books. You know when executives talk about the value of cap flexibility? The Celtics will be more flexible than a body contortionist this summer. But will they spend it all this summer or maintain some flexibility for the future?
That's a question that only general manager Danny Ainge can answer, but the suspicion here is that they will reload rather than rebuild from scratch. An altruistic basketball maestro like Rajon Rondo is wasted if he's not surrounded with loads of talent. Paul Pierce, who's entering his final fully guaranteed season in 2012-13, isn't a long-term option, even if he's still an elite player at his position.
The Celtics need more able bodies and they will have options.
Here's one man's opinion of Boston's wish list:
1. Re-sign Garnett to a one-year deal
This makes a ton of sense from both sides. The Celtics are paper-thin (not in the literal sense, of course) with Brandon Bass, Greg Steimsma and JaJuan Johnson as the only bigs set to return next season. They don't have any tradable assets outside of Avery Bradley and Rondo, so the most logical avenue for improvement is via free agency.