Immediately following the Celtics elimination from the playoffs at the hands of the Knicks in Game 6 on Friday, the questions began to turn to the team’s veteran core, and whether or not they’d be back in Boston next season.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are both under contract, but are also in very different situations.
Pierce is on the books for over $15 million next year should the Celtics retain his services, but only $5 million of that deal is guaranteed. If Boston decides it’s time to rebuild completely, Pierce could be an amnesty candidate, and might end up playing next season elsewhere. Garnett, meanwhile, has two more years on his deal, along with a no-trade clause that essentially means it’s completely up to him whether or not to play out his contract or consider retirement after just completing his 18th NBA season.
Neither player was ready to talk about the large decisions facing them and the Celtics franchise this summer, but at least in Garnett’s case, he hinted that his decision to return may be based on what ends up happening with Pierce.
“One of the big reasons I came [to Boston] was because of Paul,” said Garnett. “Obviously, you want to be in a situation where it’s better. I want to make sure that I’m able to always help a team. I want to be in positions to where I’m giving something. I demand a lot of myself, both physically and from a skill level. But I’d be lying to y’all if I said Paul didn’t play into that factor. Like I said, it’s too soon of a conversation for me right now.”
Asked if he expected to be back in Boston next season, 35-year-old Pierce said that was a question for the Celtics’ front office.
“That’s up to [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] and them,” said Pierce. “I have no idea.”
Pierce continued to say that he’ll be playing next season somewhere, even if the Celtics decide it won’t be in Boston.
A healthy Rajon Rondo changes a lot in terms of what the ceiling is for this Celtics team, and if there are other roster tweaks available, Boston may give it one more go with Pierce and Garnett in place. Then again, the flexibility available by cutting Pierce loose may open the door to even more attractive options for next season, and ones that could be more sensible long-term solutions for the franchise.