Regardless of the outcome of the NBA Finals, there is the possibility that Sunday's Game 5 will be the last time the Boston Celtics' latest Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen will share the Garden floor.
Allen is set to become an unrestricted free agent at season's end, while Pierce holds an early termination option on his contract. After three years of overwhelming success that will include at least one NBA championship, could this be the trio's last hurrah in Boston?
Celtics coach Doc Rivers indicated Friday that, while the team hasn't discussed next season, he's in favor of keeping the band together, even with his own future at the helm of the team uncertain amid reports that he might walk away to spend more time with his family.
"We don't talk about it at all, and I don't think this [the window of opportunity is closing], anyway," said Rivers. "I've said that -- I said it in the middle of the year -- I think, hopefully, we sign Ray back. I think I can say that; if not, I just got fined. I think Kevin is going to be better next year because of a year away from surgery ... So we don't think that [the window is closing]. I think everyone outside of us, a lot of people do."
As a team, the Celtics have shied away from discussing anything beyond the present. With their backs against the wall during the Cleveland series, both Pierce and Allen shook off any questions on whether they pondered the mortality of the Big Three.
Both the Celtics and Allen, who is making $18.7 million this season, have expressed an interest in extending their relationship past this season. It will be interesting to see if Boston's desire remains the same in the offseason, when Allen is expected to be lured by deep-pocketed suitors (especially ones spurned in the big names sweepstakes) during the summer's free-agent bonanza.
The Celtics do have Bird Rights working in their favor, allowing them to spend more money on Allen without hurting their salary cap situation, as the team is already set to commit $63.3 million on just six players in Pierce, Garnett, Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace, Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo. Boston spent $86.5 million this season, meaning they'd be in the neighborhood of $23 million for six to nine more players to fill out their roster (or an average of $3.83 million per player, at the minimum of 12 bodies).
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.