With the trade deadline long gone and the Celtics  positioning themselves for another playoff run, just when you thought it was safe to table the discussion of trading veterans Paul Pierce  and Kevin Garnett , Yahoo! Sports NBA writer Marc J. Spears reminds everyone that their departure is a very real possibility  in the near future.
These two names were certainly hot before the trade deadline. A lot of people were wondering if Garnett might go to the Clippers or Paul might get moved. If something’s going to happen with either one of them or both of them, the summer is a better time for that, because you’re not in a rush. There’s no real big deadline. You can think about it. Even draft night is a possibility.
Keep in mind, Pierce has one more year left on his deal. Pierce is still a valuable player, still a dynamic player. Keep an eye on a team like the Clippers. Not so much even for Garnett, but for Pierce, because if the Clippers stumble in the first or second round, I think that small forward position is something that they could use. They need maybe that No. 3 scorer or even that No. 2 scorer to kind of get them over the hump and be in the elite. He’s from L.A., so I don’t think Danny Ainge is going to send him to Minnesota. He’s going to send him somewhere that he would be happy with, and I’m sure Paul probably thinks he he could get an extension with a team like the Clippers.
But the problem with trading Garnett is — no matter where it is, even if it was Miami — he could potentially retire. He’s not a guy who wants a change, and he’s a guy who’s big on commitment. It would have to be a place where you’d have to have some stars that could convince him, but, to me, I think Pierce is probably the more likely guy if either of the two are to get moved in the offseason.
While speculation resumes about their future, Pierce and Garnett focus on preparing for the playoffs. The two spoke at length about developing consistency in a year full of inconsistencies . Here are the highlights.
What do you like about the new lineup — the pluses and minuses of that bigger lineup for you?
Pierce: “I think it helps when you put me and Jeff [Green] out there, especially. You have to make a decision on who’s going to guard who. The smaller guy is always going to have to guard one of us, and knowing that both of us are a strong post-up presence and good finishers at the basket, it causes a dilemma I think on the defensive end for other teams. So, it’s definitely an advantage, because Jeff can guard 2-guards. He can guard pretty much the 1, the 2 and the 3, so it’s really not a mismatch on the other end.”
Having a smaller man on you, does that kind of light your eyes up a little bit?
Pierce: “We’ve posted me up a lot more since Jeff’s been in the lineup, because often times when Jeff gets it going, they’ll put the better defender on him and I’ll be caught with the smaller guy, and we can take advantage of the mismatches throughout the game.”
You’re kind of going big. It seems to work for the group that you have right now. Is that fair?
Garnett: “I think the reason people are going small is for the advantage. Obviously they’re trying to be quicker, trying to increase the pace. I think we’re doing quite the opposite. Obviously, we’re still trying to keep a certain pace, but for the most part we’re trying to have an advantage. … I see why were doing it.”
Pierce: “A lot of us are the same size, so between me, Jeff and Brandon Bass , we can switch off on a lot of things, I figure. Especially with Brandon at the power forward, there’s not a lot of top-notch power forwards that I can’t guard that he can and that he can guard that I can’t guard, so between us three I think it makes defending a lot easier and causes mismatches at the other end.”
Are you liking it?
Garnett: “It makes sense. I don’t really know what you’re looking for or how you want me to answer that, but that’s the answer.”
Are you liking it for you guys?
Garnett: “Yes. I said Yes. Yes.”
Essentially, you guys are going to be showing an opponent a lineup that they haven’t really seen.
Pierce: “We hope this lineup that we have can continue to develop chemistry over these last few games. We haven’t been out there much as a unit now that Kevin’s back, so I think these last five games we want to try to develop some chemistry. Definitely it’s probably going to catch some teams off guard and alter the way they play, but I figure at this stage of the season it’s going to be difficult for teams to alter the way they play, so we’re hoping this is a success for us.”
Garnett: “Rhythm is important; chemistry is important. Those things are very, very small details, but they’re very important. Everybody wants to go into the playoffs playing well and having a rhythm and having that chemistry, so those are important things.”
Can the bench get consistency with the starters now established?
Pierce: “I think our bench has been one of our biggest strengths all year long with Jason Terry ‘s leadership. It’s tough, because Jeff was a main contributor off the bench and now he’s in the lineup, so now it’s giving other guys off the bench an opportunity and expanding their roles. I think with the move that we’re going to have guys knowing what’s expected of them, knowing their definite role and how much time they’re going to get, so that definitely can improve a lot of consistency, especially these last few games and going into the playoffs.”
Garnett: “Consistency in this league is the difference between good teams and bad teams. Consistent teams that know their system, run their system and know what they’re doing every night, those are usually the teams that are doing very well in our league or any league. Teams that go away or stray from what their systems are usually are the teams that struggle. I don’t think in any profession you have bad players, bed members or whatever, but in a team-oriented [situation] like we have here, you have to collectively bond with someone and bond with others, and if that bond isn’t what it needs to be on a consistent basis, then pretty much it’s nothing. You have the results that you have as a losing squad, so consistency is one of the hardest things in professional sports.”
How do you feel about that bond right now at a critical juncture of the season?
Garnett: “We’re bonded, but how consistent we are with our system and things, that’s a different story. That’s why we’re here. We’re going to continue to work on this thing, and then when playoffs start it’s all out.”
Pierce: “Right now, at this point, the chips are going to fall where they may. Our objective right now is to improve every game, develop some consistency, get healthy, so that we’re as sharp as can be come playoff time.”
How important are those little things on a daily basis?
Garnett: “To the craft, I think people just overlook it because they don’t even know. I’m sure we overlook things in your jobs. We obviously aren’t seeing behind the scenes and the things that go into your preparation and what make you successful in whatever you do, right? It’s no different in the game of basketball. Were one step away from not knowing your job and vice versa. We put so much into it, and the detail things are what make this successful when it is successful. Leaving the small things out sometimes cost you a game or costs you a job or a story or whatever. The similarities are very apparent.”
Is there a formula for you to get ready for the playoffs?
Pierce: “I think so. I have a little bit of playoff experience, I guess. I just know at this time of the year how to prepare myself on and off the court, how to be ready, what to do in the gym, what to do mentally. I’ve been here. I’ve been in the situation before. Each part of the season, your mentality changes, your routine changes as you get closer to the playoffs. I definitely know how to prepare for this right now.”
How confident are you in this team that you guys can make another run?
Garnett: “I think as a team we’re very confident. We don’t lack confidence. Since I’ve been here, we’ve always been a close-knit group, and we never sought out to say that we were going to do X,Y and Z. We’ve always gone into the playoffs taking it one game at a time and focused on not just each series, but each game. That’s the formula since I’ve been here that we’ve used.”
With this team and all the new guys, do you feel like you can do some damage in the postseason?
Garnett: “I said yes.”
Pierce: “Throughout the year, we’ve shown the ability to beat the teams at the top. The main concern is maintaining that level of play for a consistent amount of games. We’ve been up; we’ve been down. We’ve won six; we’ve lost four. Hopefully, we can hit our stride this coming week, going into the playoffs. If so, I like our chances going against anybody in the East.”
As for the injury status of both Pierce and Garnett — the wear and tear on their mid-30s bodies that likely had most teams hesitant to trade for them in February — here’s the latest on the Celtics veterans.
Pierce (ankle): “The ankle’s a little bit sore, but I think in a couple weeks, going into the playoffs, it’ll be fine. I feel fine conditioning-wise. I do the necessary things before practice — the shooting, the running, the bike riding. Especially since we don’t have a lot of practice time, it’s important that you get those things in.”
Garnett (foot): “I feel good.”
On Wednesday night, will both be in the lineup against the Nets ? That remains to be seen. Celtics coach Doc Rivers  hinted that he would rest both Pierce and Garnett at some point during the last five games. But you can bet both will want to face Brooklyn, a team that has gotten under their skin this season.
“You kind of feel some sort of chippiness between the two teams — to be honest with you — when we match up with Brooklyn,” said Pierce. “So, it’s definitely a good test for a lot of us and a lot of the new guys also.”