Paul Pierce may have opted out of the final year of his contract with the Celtics last month, but it didn't take long for him to opt back in. The C's captain has agreed to a four-year, $61 million deal, and he will be back in green this winter.
He wouldn't have had it any other way.
"I never thought once about leaving the Celtics," Pierce said in a conference call Thursday. "What I thought after this season was that I knew I wanted this team to get better and to win a championship. That's why I opted out — I took less money to give this team a chance to try and improve."
It's been a busy offseason in the NBA with big stars moving every which way — LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami, Amare Stoudemire to New York, Carlos Boozer to Chicago. But to Pierce, a Celtic and a Celtic only for the last 12 years, the idea of a scenery change never occurred to him.
"Not really," Pierce said. "It never really crossed my mind. I knew this was where I wanted to be — I knew I wanted to retire as a Celtic. I never really had any doubts."
Bill Russell played his whole career in Boston. So did Larry Bird. So did John Havlicek, Kevin McHale and Tommy Heinsohn. Being the next great Celtic lifer is important to Pierce, who's now 32 and beginning to think about his legacy.
"It means everything," Pierce said. "Just knowing that I've had a place in this franchise for a long time, knowing that there are not a lot of players that get that opportunity, knowing that my legacy is all going to be left with this one ballclub. That's big."
With his contract situation settled and his commitment to Boston renewed, Pierce is ready to focus on next season. He's hoping the Celtics can rebuild their bench; he's hoping they'll be healthy, rested and prepared for next winter. And he's hoping his Celtics, who lost the NBA Finals in heartbreaking fashion to the Lakers last month, will be able to regroup.
"It's difficult, man," Pierce admitted. "I think it's one of the hardest losses I've ever had to take in my career. As much as you want to put it behind you, it's hard. I've thought about it pretty much every day. It's driving me crazy knowing we could have won our second title in three years. I'm using it as motivation, for the next four years, or for however long I'll be a Celtic."