Boston Celtics Must Retain Paul Pierce at Any Cost

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IFebruary 8, 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

Paul Pierce could still bring in a great deal of talent to any team at age 35, but Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge needs to bite the bullet and keep him on the team.

However, that could be easier said than done. After coming within one win of a trip to the NBA Finals last season, the Celtics are now the No. 8 team in the Eastern Conference and have struggled all season long. Believe it or not, the loss of Ray Allen via free agency made more of a difference than it initially appeared.

The point is that Ainge may have to blow up the roster soon and enter a rebuilding phase. Speaking to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, Pierce, the perennial winner, made it clear just how he felt about being part of a team undergoing such a transformation:

I mean, I really don’t want to be part of a rebuilding situation again. I just think at this point in time that’s something that would wear on me too much mentally that I don’t know what decision I may make if I have to. I may retire if I have to. You know, that’s something that’s a year-end process, especially given the situation that we have right now.

Granted, Pierce has repeatedly said he wants to retire a Celtic, but he has now changed his tune depending on what Ainge does in the future. Regardless of what Ainge decides to do, he simply MUST keep Pierce aboard.

The facts are simple. The Celtics may appear that they need to rebuild at this point, but they are still four games ahead of the No. 9 Philadelphia 76ers. Were it not for the Milwaukee Bucks owning the tiebreaker, the team would be No. 7.

That said, why not hang onto Pierce and get as much as he can out of him before it's time for the veteran to call it a career? Yes, he's on the decline at age 35, but he is still averaging a respectable 18.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists per contest.

Pierce is also shooting 35 percent from long range, and his knack for making clutch shots has not deserted him.

More importantly, just what does Ainge think he can get in return for Pierce? At 35 years old, he doesn't have many years left in the tank, and teams looking for scoring help are unlikely to give up top talent plus draft picks to acquire him.

That means, even if Pierce does ask to be traded at some point in the near future, be it tomorrow or at some point next season, Ainge isn't going to be able to deal him without taking a big loss in terms of return package. Knowing the Celtics, their fans and how used both parties have gotten to winning, no deal like that will be accepted under any circumstances.

Thus, it's time for Ainge to face the facts and realize that Boston does not need to blow up the roster and rebuild just yet. The Celtics have looked great recently and still have plenty of time to make some noise in the playoffs, barring a late-season collapse.

Ainge simply has to hold on to Pierce if he believes that the team can win, which it has proven it can. Losing him means losing the key piece of the puzzle, which Boston can ill afford to do at this point.