Lost in yesterday's Game 5 season-saving win at MSG was Paul Pierce's comments about his desire to retire as a Celtic. With the team approaching every game as a Game 7 and the media treating this season as a swan song for him and Garnett, it's hard not to think that each game could be Pierce's last in Celtic green. With Jeff Green's rise as his apprentice at the 3 and a possible $5 million buyout in the final year of his contract looming, Pierce made it very clear at yesterday's shootaround that he wants to finish his career in Boston:
The organization is going to do what it has to do," Pierce said. "It's nothing that's stressing me out; that's what it is. Every year, they have decisions to make. And those are their decisions, so I leave it to them."
Pierce added, "the decision is in their hands. Whatever decision they make, maybe if they trade me somewhere or I end up somewhere else, maybe it can end up a situation where I come back for a one-day deal and retire a Celtic."
However, in a conversation with CSNNE.com, Danny Ainge intimated that although #34 wants to come back, that may not be the case:
"What's important to understand, yeah, it's going to be hard for fans and everybody else, but as far as what's doing what's best for the Celtics, it's probably going to be very hard, too," Ainge told CSNNE.com. "It's not a no-brainer. It's not like you get a 21-year-old All-Star player, or you get the number one pick in the draft [if you let Pierce go]. Those decisions would not be hard, but I have a feeling the decision is going to be very hard, yeah."
For those of you fluent in Ainge-ese, he's not saying anything we don't already know. Even with Pierce's $15 million off the books, the team's salary cap is hovering around $60 million. A trade is more likely; he's still a very good "professional scorer" that could help a team like the Clippers or Bulls get over the hump and I'm sure Danny will explore those options this summer. The buyout clause makes him an attractive commodity for teams looking to save some cash with the new luxury tax in place, so don't be surprised if we hear Paul-for-Pau (Gasol) rumors start to surface in July.
There's also the issue of Kevin Garnett. If Pierce goes, there's no way KG comes back. You can't have Butch Cassidy without the Sundance Kid. We can talk money, economics, and even whether or not it makes basketball-sense to get rid of a guy who could ultimately be the leading score in Celtics' history, but the bottom line comes down to heart, grit and balls, and the intangibles that Pierce and KG bring to this franchise. We've seen it on display the last two games and I'm betting we see it in 2014. When this team was assembled last summer, I can't imagine that Ainge thought that this was a one-year window for his aging vets and vice versa. Pierce and Garnett have to be thinking that if they can keep this team fairly intact with a few minor tweaks on the fringes, the Celtics will be a force to be reckoned with with the return of Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger next season.