By now, you’ve probably heard Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski’s report  that “several contending teams” have contacted the Celtics  to gauge Paul Pierce ‘s availability on the trade market.
- As Kevin Garnett  and Ray Allen  become free agents this summer, money will peel away from the salary cap. Between then and now, the bigger question promises to be: Does ownership and general manager Danny Ainge go for the complete rebuild and trade Pierce before the March 15 deadline? Several contending teams have inquired about Pierce’s availability. As one Eastern Conference official said, there are ‘lots of calls asking if [Boston] will blow it up.’
Based upon 42 comments Tuesday on WEEI.com about this item , fans fall into two camps: 1) Those who can’t handle The Truth being traded; and 2) Those who’d send the captain’s ship sailing for the right package in return.
Ainge falls into the latter camp, if only because he’s said time and again over the past year that nobody is off limits in his attempt to keep the Celtics relevant in this post-Big Three era. His sole goal is to avoid watching Pierce, Garnett and Allen grow old and gray in green as Larry Bird , Kevin McHale  and Robert Parish  did in the 1990s.
Heck, Ainge explored trades involving Pierce prior to Garnett and Allen’s arrival, when the captain was in the midst of his prime, so why would he be afraid to pull the trigger on the right deal involving a now 34-year-old Pierce with a $32 million price tag over the next two seasons? Just because teams are calling doesn’t mean Ainge has to listen, but here are four deals that might keep him on the phone.
First, let’s lay some ground rules.
1. Obviously, a rebuilding franchise would have no interest in Pierce, and Wojnarowski’s sources specifically cited contending teams, so that eliminates at least half the league.
2. A number of contenders are solidified for the future at small forward, so we can cross off the Heat (LeBron James ), Bulls (Luol Deng), Knicks (Carmelo Anthony), Pacers (Danny Granger ), 76ers (Andre Iguadola and Thaddeus Young), Thunder (Kevin Durant ) and Blazers (Gerald Wallace ).
3. Three other contenders already have starting veteran small forwards signed through 2013-14 who the Celtics wouldn’t want in return and who render a deal for Pierce highly unlikely: The Mavericks’ Shawn Marion , the Clippers’ Caron Butler and the Spurs’ Richard Jefferson .
4. Not even Ainge is cutthroat enough to send Pierce to the Lakers, and even with the $9 million trade exception from the Lamar Odom trade, the Lakers don’t have any attractive pieces they’d be willing to part with to pair Pierce with Kobe Bryant .
5. The Magic aren’t trading Dwight Howard  for Pierce, and they don’t have the players or expiring contracts to pair Pierce with Howard, so we can rule Orlando out.
7. The Celtics would be looking for more than only expiring contracts in return or else they’d just amnesty Pierce after the season. With all that being said, let’s look at what four teams could offer for The Truth.
ATLANTA HAWKS 
Josh Smith ($12.4 million this season; $13.2 million next season)
Tracy McGrady  ($1.4 million this season)
It’s no secret the Hawks have shopped Smith, who has expressed interest in the Celtics as a potential trade destination . While Atlanta would receive PIerce’s much-needed veteran presence, the C’s would pair the uber-athletic Smith with high school teammate Rajon Rondo . McGrady (or Vladimir Radmanovic) would serve as another body capable of playing small forward until his contract expires at the end of the year. Both teams have trade exceptions to make a deal work (Hawks: $1 million from Jordan Crawford; and Celtics: $1 million from Semih Erden/Luke Harangody).
HOUSTON ROCKETS 
The Rockets were set to part with Martin, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic to acquire a 31-year-old Pau Gasol  in the rejected Chris Paul  trade. Why wouldn’t they part with Martin to form a starting lineup of Samuel Dalembert, Luis Scola, Pierce, Courtney Lee  and Kyle Lowry  in a wide open Western Conference? Meanwhile, the Celtics would get a 20-point scorer capable of replacing Allen in the longterm and another big body in Hill that could come off the books if they decided not to pick up his option at season’s end.
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES 
Rudy Gay  ($15.0 million this season; $53.5 million through 2015)
In this scenario, the Grizzlies would be the team saving money, as Gay is due $19.3 million in 2014-15. With Gay injured last season, Memphis came within one game of the Western Conference finals, as Shane Battier  played 28 minutes a night and provided leadership for an inexperienced team. Once Zach Randolph  gets healthy, the Grizzlies would be fielding a starting lineup of Marc Gasol, Randolph, Pierce, Tony Allen /O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley . That’s a serious contender. Meanwhile, the Celtics get younger at small forward, reuniting the Rondo-Gay forehead alley-oop  combination from this past summer.
DENVER NUGGETS 
Danilo Gallinari ($4.2 million this season; $5.6 million qualifying offer next season)
Andre Miller  ($7.8 million this season)
The Nuggets have a ton of valuable trade chips and almost $12 million in trade exceptions from the Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton  deals, so they’re a player in any trade scenario. The Celtics would acquire a 23-year-old kid putting up comparable numbers to Pierce for a third of the price, and Miller’s contract comes off the books in 2012-13. But why would the Nuggets make this trade? Two reasons, both stretches: 1) They’re looking for a strong veteran presence for a starting group whose average age is 26, and 2) They don’t expect to be able to keep Gallo in restricted free agency this coming offseason.
Would Ainge actually pull the trigger on any of these four scenarios? Now that would take some serious balls. If you thought the Kendrick Perkins  trade killed Ubuntu, parting with Pierce would be like urinating on its grave.
(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach  on Twitter.)