Thursday, July 15, 2010
Pierce: Celtics still have holes to fill
By Chris Forsberg
BOSTON -- Boston Celtics captain Paul Pierce, whose new four-year contract was made official Thursday, said on a conference call with reporters that while he took great pleasure in knowing the deal likely meant he would retire in a Celtics uniform, he did lament that the team still has "a lot of work to do" in filling out the bench.
"I thought it was a great move picking up Jermaine [O'Neal], giving us an inside presence in case Rasheed [Wallace] retires, but sometimes I'm looking at all the players signing and wish we would get on the ball a little bit," Pierce said. "I trust in Danny [Ainge] to put a good team around us, but I'm sitting here watching all these good players fall to other teams."
In making the announcement, the Celtics gave no details of Pierce's deal. ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher reported at the time of the agreement that it was a four-year, $61 million contract, with the fourth year fully guaranteed. The Boston Herald reported that there is a mutual option for the last year.
Pierce had opted out of the final year of a contract that was to pay him $21.51 million next season. While noting that he never considered another team outside of Boston, Pierce stressed Thursday that he took less money in order to help Boston reassemble a championship-caliber team.
Since losing the NBA Finals in seven games to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Celtics have re-signed Pierce, 32, and Allen, who turns 35 on Tuesday. They also gave a two-year deal to center-forward O'Neal, 31, who played for Miami last season. Those three, plus Garnett, 34, have a total of 54 seasons of NBA experience. And Doc Rivers is returning for a seventh season after considering stepping down to spend more time with his family.
Still, Pierce suggested there were still important pieces that needed to be added. He seemed particularly stung by the loss of reserve swingman Tony Allen, who chose to join the Memphis Grizzlies over staying in Boston.
"We got a lot [to add] right now," said Pierce. "We lost TA, we don't have Nate [Robinson], we might not have Rasheed. We gotta add a bench. We got our work cut out. We need perimeter defense and we need to add a backup point guard to help out [Rajon] Rondo, if Nate doesn't come back. And we need another big."
Pierce joked that Allen is always unpredictable, but was floored by his decision to sign with Memphis, especially after he called him to reinforce his opinion that the Celtics needed him for the 2010-11 season.
"That definitely surprised me," said Pierce. "I was a little bit upset. I thought Tony was a guy we definitely needed. That's a tough one to swallow, especially with the deal he got. I thought we offered the same deal."
Allen got a three-year, $9.7 million deal from the Grizzlies.
Ainge said Wednesday that the Celtics attempted to bring Allen back for a seventh season but that "things didn't work out."
"We wanted Tony back and we tried to get him," Ainge said. "It wasn't a financial decision."
Pierce said that on paper, based on offseason moves, the revamped Miami Heat and the Lakers would have to be considered favorites in their respective conferences.
The Big Three who haven't won a title together -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh of Miami -- upgrade the Celtics' competition in their effort to return to the Finals for the third time in four years.
Pierce, the MVP of the 2008 Finals, has played his entire 12-year career in Boston and is the Celtics' third leading scorer in franchise history with 19,899 points, trailing only Larry Bird and John Havlicek.
"Paul has been a cornerstone of our franchise for the last decade and we could not be more pleased that he is returning to the team," Ainge said in a statement issued by the club.
Pierce, a first-round draft pick out of Kansas in 1998, made his eighth All-Star team last season, when he averaged 18.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
"I am very excited to be back in Boston," he said. "I have always said that I would love to retire as a Celtic and re-signing here will allow me to do that. I would like to thank Danny, Doc, the ownership group and the rest of the organization. I'm thrilled that they kept the core intact and look forward to getting back on the parquet with my teammates so we can bring Banner 18 home to Boston."
If Pierce completes his contract with Boston, he will have been with the team for 16 years, tying Havlicek for most seasons with the team.
"Since day one, I have seen Paul as a lifetime Celtic and this deal is another big step towards that goal. He's a champion and a finals MVP but also a true champion in the community," Celtics co-owner and CEO Wyc Grousbeck said.
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.