Paul Pierce is an all time Celtics great.
This summer it was Ray Allen.
Next summer it could be Paul Pierce.
Could be...what exactly? Departure, that's what.
Nonsense, it won't happen. After all, this is Paul Pierce.
He entered the NBA as a member of the Boston Celtics, he's been a member of the Boston Celtics through thick and thin and he'll retire a member of the Celtics as well.
Maybe, but maybe not. Pierce was recently asked about his impending potential free-agency. Here's what he told The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn.
"I think I am going to play this one out. I want to see what it feels like to be a free agent for once in my life."
Next summer, when Pierce's contract runs out, he'll be a free agent. He may very well end up following the path of Kevin Garnett.
Allen wasn't the only free agent when the 2011-2012 season concluded. Garnett was as well, and unlike Allen, Garnett did end up signing a new contract to remain in Boston.
What about Pierce's legacy? He's not just a good Celtic. He's one of the all-time greats, which is really saying something when you're talking about a Celtics franchise that is among the most decorated in NBA history.
The short answer to a question about his legacy is yes. Yes, there's no question that his legacy would be impacted were he to depart Boston via free agency in the summer of 2013. The real question is to what degree?
One can agree or disagree with Celtics fans anger following Allen's departure, what is not debatable is its existence.
It wasn't just that Allen left, it was that he left in spite of the Celtics making him a decent contract offer, and he left for a contract worth less money and he left to join up with one of Boston's most hated current rivals, the Miami Heat.
That's a lot for a fan base to absorb, and they weren't shy about voicing their displeasure.
There are number of different options that Pierce may have next summer.
He could take an offer from Boston and re-sign. That would obviously be a move without risk to his legacy.
He could take an offer from another team, after the Celtics fail to make him any sort of legitimate offer.
This seems unlikely, but what if Pierce really shows his age this coming season? I'm not saying it will happen, but it could happen. What if he has a career-worst season, and the Celtics just decide that they're a better team without him on the roster?
If that happened and Pierce left, most fans would probably understand. They wouldn't like it, but if they were angry about his departure, a portion of the anger would likely be directed towards the team's upper management, as opposed to Pierce.
What if Pierce weighed his options, and just decided he needed a fresh start?
This one probably would make Celtics fans angry, and could have a lasting negative impact on his legacy. After all, Pierce has been a lifelong Celtic.
His resume is impressive. He's a 10-time All-Star. He was the MVP of the 2008 NBA Finals. Pierce is one of three Celtics to have scored more than 20,000 points as a member of the Celtics. The other two? Larry Bird and John Havlicek. For those reading who aren't Celtics fans, if your name is mentioned alongside Larry Bird and John Havlicek, you're in a good place.
Pierce holds the record for most made three-pointers in Celtics history. He's third in games played, second in points, second in steals, fifth in assists and seventh in rebounds. Basically he's one of the greatest basketball players in the illustrious history of the Boston Celtics.
Yet in spite of all that if he were to depart under a certain set of circumstances that legacy would unquestionably be tainted.
Those other names, Bird and Havlicek, they played 29 seasons and 2,167 games combined, and every single one of them was spent in a Boston Celtics uniform.
Pierce is currently in that very elite class, but in order to stay solidly in it, he's going to have to stay in green and white.