What if Paul Pierce wants to come back to Boston next summer?

Jim Rogash

Next summer, Paul Pierce will be an unrestricted free agent. He'll have a chance to decide where he wants to play out the twilight of his career. Will he chase another ring in another city or could he head back to Boston and retire a Celtic?

While my fellow bloggers opine for a more favorable bounce of a ping pong ball in the lottery or a basketball hanging on the rim of a big playoff game of years past, I'll use What If Day at SBNation for something that could actually happen.

First of all, we have to set a market for Pierce. Next year, the Captain will be entering his 17th season at 37 years old. Contemporaries Al Harrington just inked with the Wizards for one year at the vet minimum and Ron Artest got two seasons from the Knicks at $3.3 million, but we're talking about Paul Pierce here and a return to where he belongs. The most comparable contract signed this summer might belong to Spur-for-life Manu Ginobli who guaranteed the rest of his career will be in San Antonio with a two-year, $14 million deal. Let's say that's the ballpark.

We'll also need to consider the Celtics' finances next summer. There's the matter of whether or not Danny will let Kris Humphries' contract expire and save the cap space for 2014-2015 or will he trade Hump before the deadline for a long term commitment to another player. Gerald Wallace could also still be in a Celtic uniform at his $10 million salary would still be on the books for two more years. He also plays the same position as The Truth and Jeff Green. Ainge will also have to decide on whether or not he wants to re-sign Avery Bradley or extend him a qualifying offer and let the market dictate his price. All things considered, the Celtics may not even be in a position to pick up Pierce at all. They won't have his Bird rights (the Nets would and would probably offer him more) and they'll probably try to avoid the luxury tax until they're contenders again.

But let's play it out. If Pierce is willing to take less to come home and if Ainge can figure out a way to fit him under the cap, what would be the point? Pierce doesn't make us contenders and from his perspective, a return to Beantown would purely be a legacy move. He could continue his chase at Havlicek's scoring record and retire with the team that drafted him. It's a nice story for the Celtics and Pierce would provide some nice veteran leadership for a team finding itself, but basketball isn't a charity. Even if #34 came off the bench as a 6th man, he'd presumably be taking time away from teammates working towards a championship window that'll open years after Pierce is gone. Pierce would also return after a year with Rondo as the face of the franchise. Even after publicly supporting Rondo as the Celtics' next leader, would a reunion subvert a season's worth of Rondo at the helm?

Personally, I'm all for it. As excited as I am at the direction that the team is headed, I'm a sentimentalist at heart. The rebuild could have waited a year and Pierce would have probably retired at the end of his current contract. Ainge wouldn't have the treasure trove of draft picks, but I'll trade potential for Celtic pride any day of the week. The reason that Celtic pride exists is because the history is so interconnected. The years we've had dry spells usually came when the slate was wiped completely clean and there was no semblance of what came before. Rondo and Bradley have been here for a couple of years now and Green and Bass have fought in some battles. Even new head coach Brad Stevens seems to get it when he talks about the history of the franchise and sends letters to ex-Celtics, but I'd feel more comfortable if Pierce was around to really bridge the gap.

Question is, how do we get Kevin Garnett to come back, too?

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