Danny Ainge Leaves Open Possibility of Trading Paul Pierce

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IFebruary 1, 2013

Jan 5, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce (34) during the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge would love to see star forward and top scorer Paul Pierce retire with the team, but stopped short of saying he would do everything in his power to ensure that would happen.

According to Ben Rohrbach of the Celtics blog Green Street (part of WEEI.com), Ainge would consider trading away the team legend if the offer was good enough:

"Nothing has been talked about with Paul,” said Ainge. “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."

This isn't the first time that Ainge has voiced the possibility that Pierce could be traded. Last season, he mentioned that he would break up the team's Big Three for the right price, though nothing came to fruition. Ray Allen subsequently left Boston via free agency, and Boston's scoring struggles this season have been notable.

Now that Rajon Rondo is out for the season with a torn ACL, the prospect of trading Pierce for a boatload of talent and draft picks becomes all the more tempting. Pierce may be 35 years old, but he has accomplished more in 14-and-a-half seasons with the Celtics than most players have in an entire career.

Pierce has averaged 21.9 points and six rebounds per game for his career and has also made 37 percent of his threes. His great play has earned him 10 trips to the All-Star Game, two to the NBA Finals, and a championship ring in 2008. I can't tell you how many fans remember Pierce for being carried off the court and placed into a wheelchair during Game 1 of that year's NBA Finals, only to return and guide the Celtics to victory.

That said, just imagine if Ainge did receive a mind-blowing offer for Pierce. Not only would the Celtics rid themselves of about $15 million in salary for next season, of which only about $6 million is guaranteed, but they would get something in return for a surefire future Hall-of-Famer's services, rather than have him retire and leave them with nothing.

Based on Pierce's numbers alone, it's hard to not justify trading him. He has posted 18.7 points per game this season, but his field-goal percentage of 42 and three-point mark of 35 are his lowest since 2004.

His rebounds and assists are up quite a bit, at 8.4 and 5.4 per contest over his last five games, but Pierce also isn't getting any younger at 35 years old. Thus, it'd be better to trade him for younger talent who can help the Celtics now, as opposed to just watch his skills decline along with those of the team.

At the same time, however, memories and sentimentality come into play. Pierce has done so much for the Celtics, their fans and the city of Boston in general, so how can Ainge so easily entertain the idea of trading him? Yes, basketball is a business, but Pierce's commitment to the team even in the worst of times should count for something.

Anyway, this is all pure speculation. No teams have shown a great deal of interest in Pierce, and to freak out would be premature.

More importantly, how often does Danny Ainge make statements like this? Not only did he mention the possibility of breaking up the Big Three last season, but he also entertained the outrageous idea of trading Rondo. Neither happened, but the things the man says regarding trading players are so unbelievably extreme, it's hard to NOT take him seriously, at least a little bit.

The point is that the end of Pierce's run in Boston would truly be the end of an era, and Ainge should think long and hard about how he wants to close that chapter in Celtics history before rushing to pull the trigger on a deal involving his team's best player. Considering a deal is one thing, but actually going through with a trade involving a team legend is a whole other monster.