Steve Luhm: Boston's Ainge robbed Brooklyn in Garnett-Pierce trade
I wonder how Danny Ainge sleeps at night.
Ainge is the president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics, who, last summer, engineered one of the greatest robberies in NBA history.
In a blockbuster trade, Ainge sent former All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce along with Jason Terry and throw-in D.J. White to Brooklyn for only slightly less than the gross national product of Russia.
Boston received five players in the deal, topped by competent Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries.
More importantly, the Celtics received Brooklyn's first-round draft picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018. They also have the right to flop first-round picks with the Nets in 2017.
At the time, someone had convinced Brooklyn owner Mikhail Prokhorov that the addition of Garnett and Pierce was a good thing.
"Today, the basketball gods smiled on the Nets," Prokhorov said. "With the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, we have achieved great balance on our roster between veteran stars and young talents. This team will be dazzling to watch."
I've got news for Prokhorov.
I saw the Nets during their 105-99 win over the short-handed Jazz on Wednesday night at EnergySolutions and they are as dazzling as most reality TV shows.
Garnett and Pierce, superstars in their prime who were capable of carrying an entire team, are so far over the hill they can no longer see the crest.
Garnett and Pierce have played more than 90,000 regular-season minutes in their careers and, against Utah, they looked worn out.
Garnett scored six points in 17 minutes watching the final eight. Pierce scored seven points in 27 minutes and didn't play at all in the fourth quarter, perhaps because of an injury.
"I have arthritis and turf toe, but it'll be all right," he explained later.
The Nets were still good enough to beat the Jazz, who played without rim-protector Derrick Favors and watched Garnett's replacement in the rotation, Andray Blatche, score a season-high 25 points.
Brooklyn's problem going forward, however, is not whether it can rally past a lottery-bound team like Utah. It's whether an aging team that's costing Prokhorov $180 million in salaries and luxury tax this season can sneak into the Eastern Conference playoffs without major contributions by Garnett and Pierce.
The Nets are without Brook Lopez, who was emerging as one of the league's best centers before re-injuring his foot and undergoing season-ending surgery in January.
With Lopez, Brooklyn could probably prosper without much help from Garnett or Pierce.
Without Lopez, the heavy lifting and eventual fate of the Nets this season will fall to Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.
Can they do it?
Johnson was outstanding against the Jazz, and Williams played well. In his ninth NBA season, however, he's not the same player as he was during his best years in Utah.
Williams has also been plagued by injuries since being traded by the Jazz in 2011, so his health remains a factor in Brooklyn's ability to qualify for the playoffs and do significant damage if it gets there.
Meanwhile, in Boston, Ainge keeps counting his first-round draft picks.
Grading the trading
The three most significant deals made just before Thursday's NBA trade deadline:
1. Steve Blake to Golden State
The Warriors secured Blake from the L.A. Lakers for the bargain basement price of Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks. It was a steal for Golden State, which gets a tough, competitive veteran who will help reduce the burden on All-Star Stephen Curry. This trade might not put the Warriors into the Western Conference finals, but it makes them much more dangerous.
2. Spencer Hawes to Cleveland
The Cavaliers positioned themselves to make a playoff run in the woeful Eastern Conference by acquiring Hawes from Philadelphia for next to nothing: Earl Clark, Henry Sims and two future second-round draft picks. Hawes' outside shooting will take opposing big men away from the basket and create space for All-Star Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Luol Deng.
3. Evan Turner to Indiana
The Pacers continue to prepare for an inevitable battle with Miami in the conference finals by acquiring Turner (and Lavoy Allen) from Philadelphia for gimpy-kneed Danny Granger and his expiring $14 million contract. Turner is an inefficient scorer who needs a lot of shots to get his points. Along with Paul George and Lance Stephenson, however, he gives Indiana an explosive shooting guard-small forward rotation.
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