With Thursday's 2 p.m. trade deadline getting closer, soon it will be time to find out which playoff contenders will try to stand up, which will stand pat and which will stand down.
The Boston Celtics are the most intriguing franchise in this card game. The Celtics' future was uncertain when they were 20-23 and point guard Rajon Rondo was healthy.
Slipping to the No. 8 seed in the East and at a crossroads, many believed the aging and struggling Celtics would blow up their roster, no holds barred.
The situation then became even more precarious when Rondo suffered a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 25, after which Boston had the audacity to win seven straight and eight of nine to stand 28-24 at the All-Star break — just 2 1/2 games out of the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage for the first round.
As a result, Rondo's injury might end up keeping the Celtics together rather than tearing apart the storied franchise.
There has been steady flow of trade rumors coming out of Houston, site of the 62nd All-Star Game, and most involve the Celtics:
*Rondo to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for center Dwight Howard.
*Center Kevin Garnett to the Los Angeles Clippers for guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Caron Butler.
*Garnett to the Clippers for Bledsoe and center DeAndre Jordan.
*Garnett to the Clippers for Butler, guard Willie Green and forward Ronny Turiaf.
*Forwards Brandon Bass and Jeff Green to Atlanta for forward Josh Smith.
If the 36-year-old Garnett departs, then what becomes of 35-year-old forward Paul Pierce, who has never played for anyone other than the Celtics?
Multiple parties insist nothing is happening, nor will happen.
*Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak repeatedly has said Howard will not be traded and there never have been any discussions with the Celtics about swapping him for Rondo.
*Garnett has a no-trade clause and said he's not about to waive it. “If it's up to me, I'm going to live and die green,” Garnett said.
*The Clippers reportedly are confident they could change Garnett's mind if the Celtics tell him they want the trade.
Asked about the chance of Garnett and Pierce both staying put, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge said: “I think that's by far the most likely thing. Sure.”
Then why so much smoke?
“Nothing has been talked about with Paul,” Ainge said shortly after Rondo's injury. “Nothing is close to being done. I too would like to see Paul retire as a Celtic. That would be great. We're all attached to Paul. He's been great for the city, the franchise, and he's been a true pro. Having said that, if something came up, I would talk to Paul. My job is to do what's in the best interest of our team, regardless of my personal ties or my personal feelings with the players.”
Several other playoff teams are said to be considering moves. Or then again, maybe not.
Will there be fire, or simple more smoke?