Persistent trade rumors and an injury to one of the team's best players haven't stopped Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics from winning eight of their past 10 games to jump back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Those are among the reasons that GM Danny Ainge should not blow up the team just yet, especially with regard to Pierce, who has been such a gutsy veteran and cornerstone for this historic franchise for much of his 14-plus-year NBA career.
The latest report comes from Yahoo! insider Adrian Wojnarowski, who states that although it would take Pierce's teammate Kevin Garnett to move in order for Pierce to as well, that it's still a possibility:
If the Celtics trade Garnett before the deadline, they would move Pierce, too, sources said. For the Celtics, the chance to get Bledsoe and Jordan could be a prelude to trying to package Pierce in a possible deal to the Atlanta Hawks for Josh Smith, sources said.
Wojnarowski alludes to a possible deal involving Garnett and the Los Angeles Clippers' Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan. But it has been known for some time that the Celtics want Smith, and it looks as though it will cost them Pierce to make that happen.
But they shouldn't pull the trigger on that deal.
It is becoming increasingly rare in the modern era that a player is able to spend an entire career with one franchise—in any major sport. Pierce has the chance to do that, and based on how the team is playing recently, he should be granted the opportunity to do so.
Because what exactly is Boston going to gain by bringing in Smith for Pierce? Smith is talented but has never played up to his potential; heck, he's never even made an All-Star team.
There would be a lot of pressure coming into Boston and being a prominent contributor on a team that is supposed to be contending for titles each year. That can't be discounted.
What also can't be discounted is how well Pierce, head coach Doc Rivers and the team have adjusted since star point guard Rajon Rondo went down with a season-ending ACL injury. The Celtics did just lose their most recent game, 97-90 to Denver, but prior to that, they had lost just one of their previous nine.
Although Pierce has struggled to shoot the ball recently, he is becoming more of a distributor in the absence of Rondo. He is averaging 7.1 assists per game in February, proving he can adjust his game to whatever situation the Celtics are in.
That type of leadership and willingness to do whatever it takes to win is a valuable commodity, and it's something Pierce has showcased during his entire illustrious tenure as a Celtic.
Based on Garnett's comments that this past weekend was likely his last All-Star game, it may very well be his final NBA season. With Boston continuing to improve chemistry sans Rondo—and Pierce also entering the twilight of his career—a move at Thursday's trade deadline involving either player makes little sense.
For Pierce especially, being traded would be unfortunate. He stuck with the Celtics through several tumultuous seasons without much of a supporting cast to speak of, and hung around long enough for Garnett and Ray Allen to arrive, forming the "Big Three" to win that elusive first ring.
As volatile and competitive as the East has been all year long at the top, it would be unwise to dismiss Boston's chances with its current squad. But Pierce has to be there to see it through, because he is the one who can take the heat, play through the adversity and thrive in the moments of truth.