Nets star Paul Pierce says he’s open to returning to the Celtics as either a player or team employee, he told reporters including Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe. Responding to a question on the possibility of a return to Boston, he answered, “Yeah, why not? Maybe play for them, maybe work for them.” As final as the departure from Boston of Pierce and fellow star Kevin Garnett felt last summer, the small forward says he remains close with point guard Rajon Rondo and still has affection for the franchise he build his Hall of Fame career with.
The 36-year-old becomes a free agent this summer, and sees hope in Boston despite the losses that have piled up in their first year of rebuilding.
“They’re a young team. They’ve got a mix of some veterans, some young guys who are developing. They’re only going to get better,” Pierce said. “Rondo is ready to lead, he’s leading them right now, moving into the next generation of Celtics. I think their future is going to be very bright.”
A good chunk of Pierce’s 15 years with Boston was spent enduring similar rebuilding efforts before finally enjoying a championship, so he is optimistic about the Celtics current trajectory.
“When you’re in the middle of your prime, like Rondo is, and you’re frustrated with the losing, it’s about just staying patient, staying with the guys, helping them develop, helping them get better,” said Pierce.
Pierce averaged 21.8 PPG with the Celtics, and only experience three winning seasons during his first nine years in the league. After turning their assets and appeal into the Big-Three of Pierce, Garnett, and Ray Allen, the Celtics immediately won a title, reached the Finals again, and won nearly two-thirds of their games over his last six seasons in green.
Pierce is averaging career lows in points, assists, rebounds, and minutes per game this season. Although he has played better of late, it would seem out of character for Celtics GM Danny Ainge to consider adding an expensive contract for a veteran in the twilight of his career. Pierce makes $15.3MM this year, and would likely fetch a salary well north of the veteran’s minimum should he extend his career beyond this season. Ainge has vowed to stay patient and avoid shortcuts in the rebuilding process, which in most cases means prioritizing youth on a roster and reserving cap space for elite players that can help build a long-term contender.