The question has been asked several times of Paul Pierce in the latter stages of his career: “Do you want to retire as a member of the Celtics?” Since Kevin Garnett arrived in town, the answer has always been an unequivocal yes.
With the circumstances around the team’s current and future outlook changing dramatically thanks to Rajon Rondo’s torn ACL, the question has boiled to the surface again for Pierce. Despite the fact the C’s won’t be seriously contending for an NBA championship without their All-Star point guard this year, would Boston’s captain still like to finish out his career in green?
“I want to retire as a Celtic,” Pierce said today at practice when asked. “That’s been my longtime goal. But it’s not in my control. The organization, they make their decisions. But that’s something I’ve desired since being here.”
This sentiment is more important than you might think. We all know Danny Ainge is going to explore the market for Pierce over the upcoming weeks. He has to, based on the circumstances surrounding this team’s roster and it’s future . The fact is though, once Garnett decided to return this offseason, Ainge constructed this roster to compete not just for this season, but the proceeding couple years as well, by giving KG (and other veteran free agents) three and four year deals.
The pieces have not meshed this year obviously, moving Boston from being a fringe contender to not even being considered a serious threat to advance outside the second round of the postseason (if, that). The fact remains though. Garnett is probably not going anywhere to chase a ring (hence the no-trade clause) and he’s likely going to be vocal in not wanting Pierce to go anywhere as well. The team’s ownership clearly wants to let Pierce finish out his run here as well and have made it known as such in various interviews of the year, including one with Forbes earlier this month.
Ainge has made it known he’s not one for sentimentality, which I understand and respect but in the case of Pierce, sentimentality and other factors will be in play when deciding if Pierce should be dealt. Not just for the chain effect it will have on guys like Garnett, but for business and the team’s fanbase.
Boston fans love Pierce, and face it, without him this team will be at the start of what will be a long and painful rebuild, potentially with an unhappy Garnett still in place who may agreed to be shipped out if Paul is gone as well. Pierce is a valuable commidity but is still of value as a piece of this team on the floor as he is off of it. In terms of the long-term, barring finding teams willing to take on the glut of bad deals Ainge signed this offseason, the C’s won’t be capable of doing much rebuilding beyond salary dumps for the next two seasons as is, leading to some long dreary winters at the Garden.
Pierce shouldn’t have to be a part of that rebuilding process if he doesn’t want to be over the next year or two. If he does though, I feel like he’s earned that right. Without him and Garnett, the C’s won’t be relevant again for a long time. With a few tweaks and a lot of luck, they could be semi-relevant again in the Eastern Conference next year with their current core once Rondo returns.
If Pierce is dealt though, that chance vanishes and the team is sentenced to mediocrity (or worse) for years to come. That mediocrity is probably destined either way for the team if they just to stay the course with their veterans, but the fans will enjoy rooting for Boston (and come out to the Garden) much more if Pierce is a part of that group.