WALTHAM, Mass. — Paul Pierce is rare and fortunate among modern professional athletes to have known only one employer for his full career. Thus far, every one of Pierce's NBA paychecks has come courtesy of the Boston Celtics, and if Pierce has his wish, it will stay that way.
Pierce opened his 15th training camp with the Celtics on Friday, but there is an outside chance that this season could be his last. The 34-year-old small forward's salary for next season is not guaranteed, and the Celtics may need to make some tough choices now that they have dedicated nearly $72 million over the next three seasons to Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo.
Pierce has no plans to orchestrate his exit from Boston, though, and he has an idea of which teammate he would like to attach his fate to.
"Hopefully, I can be around next year and the year after," Pierce said. "The goal is, hopefully, to retire with Kevin. He recently signed a three-year deal, and I see my career kind of ending along the same path as his."
Pierce averaged 19.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists last season, numbers that were close to or in some cases exceeded his career averages of 22.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists. With the clock ticking down not only on his contract, but on his shelf life as an NBA player, Pierce said he feels no added pressure as he approaches his 35th birthday.
"The pressure I put on myself is far greater than any pressure anybody can put on me," Pierce said. "I expect to go out and perform well every year. I expect to go out and play at a high level. I expect to go out here and be one of the best players in the NBA every year that I step out there."
Pierce will step out there at least one more year — for the Celtics, anyway — and beyond that is anybody's guess.