It's hard to let go. So often in sports, it's very easy to fall into a false sense of security when things are going well. Take the Boston Celtics, for example. When they were tearing through the Eastern Conference back in 2007 and the next three years after that, it's easy to think that things were never going to change.
Oh, how I wish it were so. Sadly, changes are coming. Very, very soon.
One way or another, the Big Three era in Celtics basketball will end. Whether it grinds to a halt at or before the March 15 trade deadline remains to be seen. If it doesn't end then, though, it will almost certainly end after the season.
Sad? You should be. It was one of the most unique times in team history.
While it would be sad to see any of them go-- Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen did bring this city a championship -- it will be particularly tough to see Pierce leave. He's the captain, the leader. Everybody in the locker room knows it. You know it, I know it. He's been here the longest, and he deserves the right to finish his career where he's made his name.
But that's not how it works, unfortunately. Basketball is, after all, a business. Danny Ainge is in charge of making those tough decisions, and in the end, he has to make the decisions that are best for the team over those that honor the longtime veterans. Don't blame Danny for doing what's best, even if does hurt.
Even knowing that, it's hard to swallow, isn't it? There are so few sports lifers left in the league, not to mention in all of sports. Really, how many star athletes do you know that have played in one city for their entire careers? Pierce is one of the last of a dying breed, along with guys like Kobe Bryant of the Lakers and Derek Jeter of the Yankees.
We all know that Paul wants to finish his career in Boston. He has said it on numerous occasions and his actions don't indicate anything differently. He bleeds Celtic green, like many of us do. It would be so hard for any of us fans to deny him that dream. But that's why we aren't in charge of that decision.
It's not like Pierce isn't still productive. Quite the contrary. He's still the Celtics' leading scorer this season and has shown plenty of flashes of his former greatness. But therein lies the problem. What good does a still productive veteran star do for a team that probably won't compete this year and is less than one season away from a complete overhaul? At least, that's how Ainge may see it.
So let's embrace the reality, Boston. Pierce may be walking out the door soon for the final time as a member of the Celtics. If you're going to the games, or even just watching them at home, pay extra attention to the captain. It may be one of the final times you'll see him in green. Sad for sure, but that's the way it is.