Paul Pierce has become Mr. Boston Celtic.
In an era that sees most players switch teams at least once, Pierce has remained as loyal to the team he was drafted by as the team he was drafted by has been to him. As such, Celtics fans have become attached to Pierce in a way most fanbases never have a chance to become accustomed to stars.
Pierce has grown up in front of our eyes, from the immature player who once wore a mask of tape over his chin and ears to a press conference in a show of disdain over being ejected from a playoff game against the Indiana Pacers into a star who claimed his worth as the best basketball player in the world — and, though he wasn’t generally considered the best, one could hardly argue with him after he had outplayed Kobe Bryant while garnering the Finals MVP. In the mold of Larry Bird, John Havlicek and Bill Russell, it was always expected that Pierce would finish his career the same way he started it — as a Celtic.
Now Pierce says his days as a Celtics could be nearing an end, if Doc Rivers decides to step down and the Celtics decide to go through a rebuilding process. Pierce has the opportunity to opt out of his contract at the end of this season and, while it has been thought to be almost a given he will stay in Boston, Pierce says he will give leaving a thought should Danny Ainge decide to rebuild the Celtics. (Boston Herald)
“I really try not to think about it too much,” Pierce said. “My whole thing is that I want to retire as a Celtic. And if they get into a rebuilding phase . . . I don’t know.
“Who knows what’s going to happen? Who knows what’s going to happen with Doc (Rivers, the C’s coach)? That’s a good question, man. I don’t know. I do want to retire a Celtic, regardless of if I have to go the Nomar Garciaparra route or whatever.”
Pierce laughed about the Nomar line, but then returned to speaking with a straight face.
“No man, really,” Pierce said, settling back into serious mode. “I’m not thinking about playing anywhere else. This is where I’ve been my whole career. But honestly, it’d be a tough decision for me to make if Doc decides to step down and we rebuild.” [...]
“I think I’m at a point in my career where it would be tough for me to go into a full-on rebuilding phase,” Pierce said. “That’d be tough just mentally and physically. I can’t see myself doing that anymore. That’s why this is so important.
“I want to be a Celtic and win championships.”
But if the Celtics aren’t poised to win any more championships, will Pierce still be a Celtic? Doc Rivers’ decision seems to be weighing heavily on Pierce’s own decision to return to Boston or leave for less Green pastures.
“I think you always have that comfort level with a guy you’ve been through the ups and downs with,” Pierce said. “You know, we’ve been at the bottom together and we’ve risen to the top together, so it’d be tough to think about playing for somebody else right now.
“It’s just like when Kobe (Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers star) said he didn’t want to play for nobody else but Phil (Jackson). (Shaquille O’Neal) said the same thing, but that didn’t come true. But I think you create a certain bond with a coach when you’ve been through those type of situations.” [...]
“I really can’t picture myself playing for another coach and trying to do it all it over again,” Pierce said. “We’ve developed something good over all the years of being together.
“After the season I’ll see what he’s thinking. I’ve still got some years left in me. I hope he does, too.”
Let’s hope this is just an impassioned cry for the team to stay intact and Doc Rivers to remain its coach. After twelve years of piecing together one of the most productive careers in Celtics history, it would be beyond sad to see Pierce end his career with another team.
Stay in Boston, Paul. Whether this season ends in a championship or not, no other town will ever love you more.