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Amidst rumors at last season’s trade deadline, the Celtics were also on an epic west coast road trip, but they had just won two games in a row. Many viewed the Celtics strong play after last season’s All-Star break as an emphatic statement that Paul Pierce and crew wanted to keep the band together for one more run.
Fast forward 11 months and the rumors are the same, but the Celtics performance is different. Pierce scored 26 points, but the Celtics had no way to slow down Dwight Howard in a 113-99 loss to the Lakers Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Howard finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds in what was one of his most aggressive performances of the season. Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant combined for 30 points and 14 assists, and were two of seven Lakers to score in double figures.
Courtney Lee finished with 20 points for the Celtics while Jeff Green added 15 points and seven rebounds. The Celtics trailed by nine at the end of each of the first two quarters of play, and let the Lakers build an 18 point lead early in the third period. Defense was the downfall of the Celtics on Wednesday as they allowed the Lakers to shoot over 50 percent from the field and lost the battle of the boards, 49-34.
If by 3pm today this team looks completely different, Danny Ainge won’t come right out and say that Wednesday’s loss to the Lakers swayed his decision one way or another, but behind closed doors or even on a subconscious level, it could have an effect. Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, Green, and even the injured Rajon Rondo have all been rumored in deals in the last few days.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak made it clear on Wednesday that the Lakers are not going to trade Howard this year under any circumstances. Meanwhile, there has been no such proclamation from Ainge about any of the Celtics core players.
Whether it’s the Clippers, Hawks, Nets, Bucks or others interested, the Celtics could trade anyone on the roster if they found a deal that helped the team for the present and/or future. It remains to be seen whether or not what’s available for ‘the future’ is worth seeing numbers 5 and 34 finish out their careers in a jersey color other than green.