When an NBA player says he's terminating his contract with his current team and hitting the open market, that doesn't necessarily mean he's leaving — it just means he's looking for a new deal. So will Paul Pierce opt back in?
He's the captain and he's been around for a good 12 years. Unless something extremely crazy happens, you can bet your bottom dollar he will.
Pierce has been the face of basketball's most storied franchise for the past decade and he would have to be criminally insane to leave that behind now. Pierce is introduced 41 times a year at the TD Garden as "The Captain and The Truth." Truth is, he gets the kind of treatment in Boston that he couldn't get anywhere else.
He has so much invested in the past, present and future of the Celtics that he would be crazy to leave. And he knows it, too.
If Pierce wanted to leave, then why would he have lobbied so hard for Doc Rivers to stay in town? The Celtics' coach spent the better part of a month deliberating over his future after the Celtics lost to the Lakers in the NBA Finals, and one of the contributing factors to his decision to stay was the support of his players. Pierce, who's played under Rivers' guidance for the last six years, was a big part of that.
If Pierce wanted to skip town and play in Chicago, Miami or L.A., then why would he have bothered to keep the future bright in Boston? What would have compelled him to work so hard on keeping Rivers in town?
The only explanation is that Pierce wanted Rivers around because he wanted to play for him. Now he's got his chance.
If Pierce wanted to leave, then why would he have put so much effort into building the chemistry of this Celtic team? It was a rough year for the Celtics in terms of handling personalities — there was the schism between young and old, the constant shake-ups in the Celtics' rotation and of course the maddening instability of one Rasheed Wallace. It was Pierce, the team's captain and vocal floor leader, who helped hold everything together.
That's a rewarding job, no doubt — especially when it gets you all the way to the Finals. Did Pierce do all this work on building the personality of these Celtics just to skip town? Nope — that doesn't add up.
If Pierce wanted to leave, then why would he have cared so much about his legacy as a Celtic? As the Celtics first approached the Finals back in May, Pierce began to open up about his desire to be seen as one of the all-time Celtic legends — in the conversation with Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Larry Bird. He talked about his desire to win multiple titles, not just the one he has now.
Pierce is a champion, and he's a Finals MVP. But to spend over a decade in Boston and only do it once? That's not enough, and Pierce knows he still has work to do. He can't bail out now.
Last but not least, if Pierce wanted to leave, then why would he have kept so quiet about his contract situation all year long? Look at it this way — the NBA is a league where the stars know how to market themselves. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh — you knew all year long that these guys were approaching free agency, because it was a constant storyline all season.
That wasn't the case with Pierce. The Celtics' captain kept quiet and he refused to let his contract be a bigger story than his game. He belongs in Celtic green and isn't going anywhere. Before you know it, he'll be sitting down with Danny Ainge and making it official.
NESN.com will answer one Celtics question every day in July.
Thursday, July 1: Are the Celtics still championship contenders in 2011?
Saturday, July 3: Will the Celtics re-sign Ray Allen?