Well, this is depressing.
… I know that the company that Paul Pierce hangs around in, they do not believe – and I don’t think Paul Pierce believes – that he is going to be brought back next year at $15 million. I know for a fact that people around Paul Pierce have pretty much resigned themselves to the fact that he’s played his final game in a Boston Celtics uniform. Again, Paul wants to stay – obviously for $15 million — but he wants to finish his career in a Celtics uniform…. Probably a buyout (rather than a trade)…
Pierce's reign of dominance in Boston was always going to come to an end at some point, and he's been the focus of trade rumors for quite some time, but that doesn't make this any easier to stomach.
The notion of Danny Ainge and the Celtics parting ways with Pierce, to this point, had been approached with a sense of ambivalence. Never before had you heard Pierce or the team provide any sort of definitive answer behind what the future held.
Now, there's this.
Recently, Ainge predicted that both Pierce and Kevin Garnett would be back next season, but he's never been one to be overly candid. He also didn't rule out the departures of one (or both) of them either.
On so many levels, the buyout Dickerson discusses feels so wrong. Why just pay one of the organization's best players ever to leave? Why not trade him and capitalize on his market value?
Just $5 million of Pierce's $15.3 million salary is guaranteed next season. Rather than trade him and likely be forced to take back a comparable amount of salary, it does make financial sense for the Celtics to just cut him loose. With Pierce already on the wrong side of 35, it would be difficult for Ainge to strike an accord that returns enough young assets to Boston to make an exchange worthwhile.
Still, this can't be happening. It hasn't happened. Pierce hasn't played his last game as a Celtic. This is just like all those other times. This can't be true. And perhaps it's not.
If Pierce himself, however, doesn't believe that Boston will bring him back, there has to be something to it. He wouldn't purposely manufacture these feelings of self-doubt, especially if there was no need to.
His reported stance then suggests that these Celtics are on the brink of a complete overhaul. And if Pierce becomes collateral damage of that reclamation project, you better believe Garnett will follow, whether Boston wants him to or not.
“(Garnett) doesn’t want to be around for a rebuilding phase for another year," Dickerson said. "If Paul’s gone, I think without a doubt Kevin Garnett is gone."
It all depends on Pierce, just like the Celtics have for the past 15 years.
Only this time, it seems there's more stock being placed in his inevitable departure than his value on the court.