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The end is near. The apocalyptic event that will inevitably come crashing down on the Celtics is dawning on the organization. It’s something that nobody wants, but everyone knows it has to come at one time or another. A nation’s leader, loved by his people will be sailing off into the sunset, or in this case somewhere in Europe, leaving the masses behind to fend for themselves. It had to happen eventually; Paul Pierce has announced this is his final contract. Julian Benbow of Boston.com reports that Pierce has stated he will retire a Celtic after his current contract, and most likely move to Europe to live and play basketball. It’s a couple of years from now, so maybe we should just try to enjoy watching the Celtics go for another title. It won’t be that bad….right?
At some point, Boston’s “Big Three” will be no more. The transition will take place, and hopefully for Bostonians who enjoy basketball, it’s as smooth as can be. But at least the organization, and we as fans, now have a timetable that we can work with to prepare ourselves, which is three to four years. Make it two years if you’re under the assumption that Ray Allen isn’t coming back after his contract, which you probably should be. Ray Allen will probably retire or leave first, and Kevin Garnett won’t be far behind Pierce, but make no mistake; this is Pierce’s team. He’s the captain, and he deserves that title more than anyone on the Celtics, hands down, no argument. He stayed green through the good times, the tolerable times, and the very worst of times, which seemed to never end at some points. Pierce will be the hardest to see leave, and will undoubtedly leave many questions behind with his departure. But how bad could it really, really be?
The exit of Pierce will be heartbreaking, there’s no doubt about that. But one could look at it as one door closing and another opening. The Celtics will have $61 million to spend when Pierce leaves. If they spend it right, they could pick up exactly where they left off. That $61 million convinced one of the best Celtic players in the franchise’s history to stay. That money will land a player (or maybe players) with big talent, there’s no doubt about that. The free agent and trade markets in the year Pierce retires will tell a lot about the direction Boston will be headed, and whoever eats up that salary has some mighty big shoes to fill. Pierce has been nothing short of spectacular from start to finish, but the age factor is just starting to take its toll. He’s not quite as quick, not quite as agile, not quite the slasher and aggressive player he used to be. That’s completely understandable, but how much life can you squeeze out of a player before you realize you’re just wasting money? Pierce deserves to go out on top, not limp out of the league from an injury-plagued or totally unproductive season due to age and health.
We shouldn’t panic yet, it’s a couple of years away. But it is coming. Boston has some franchise-altering decisions to make in the next two to three years. However, maybe we should be happy with what we’re getting, and what we’ve gotten out of one of the best players in the game. Pierce has given us consistent production his entire career, a title, and complete loyalty to his team. And it’s not over. The guy has a couple years left in the tank, he’s said so himself, and he’s given us no reason not to believe him. My one and only hope when the time comes for our captain to exit the game: Please, Paul, no “Brett Favre” shenanigans. If you’re going to retire at the end of this contract, please, for the love of all that is good in basketball…stay retired.