There were times last season when Boston Celtics fans wondered whether Paul Pierce would return for a 15th NBA season. The Celtics captain is returning, and he intends to play out his current contract, which includes a team option for the 2013-14 season.
Beyond that though, Pierce's future is anyone's guess.
"I think I am going to play this one out. I want to see what it feels like to be a free agent for once in my life. I think I am going to play this one out," Piece told The Boston Globe.
"A lot can change in two years. My body [may not] be where I want it to be, I could retire, a lot of things could happen. It's not about the money at this point. I love the game. I made as much money as I possibly can. It's about winning a championship and if I feel like it's the right thing to do, maybe so [come back] but I really don't know the specifics on the KG [Kevin Garnett] deal or Jason Terry's deal. If I solidify my third year, maybe they opt out, so it's about keeping your options open."
Pierce also made it clear that he's "not at all" uncomfortable with the Celtics' team option, because he knows there will likely be plenty of other options available to him if Boston decides to move on.
"I mean if they don't want me back, I feel like I'm good enough and I'll be wanted by a lot of teams," Pierce reportedly said. "I'm coming into this year and I just made another All-Star team at 34. So I still feel like I'm playing at a great level."
As long as Pierce continues to play at a high level, so should the Celtics. They came within one game of reaching the NBA Finals last season, and look poised to be contenders again this season after re-signing Garnett and adding the likes of Jason Terry and Courtney Lee.
The Celtics will also enjoy the presence of Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox, both of whom are returning from heart conditions that sidelined them last year.
One guy the Celtics will be without in their quest for banner No. 18, however, is Ray Allen. Pierce spoke recently about Allen's departure in an interview on the team's website, saying he's a "little bitter" that Allen signed with the Heat, but that he still considers the two to be brothers.
We'll soon see if Celtics fans still hold Allen in high regard as well, but Pierce doesn't expect any ill will the first time Allen visits TD Garden.
"If the crowd boos Ray then the [rivalry with the Heat] will be crazy," Pierce reportedly said. "It's going to be crazier than it really it already. But I don't expect them to boo Ray for the time that he put in here, what he's accomplished, he'll get cheered. Maybe the first time [he comes to Boston]."
Most Celtics fans are probably hoping the decision to cheer or boo Pierce in another jersey never presents itself.
What are your thoughts? Should Boston decide to rebuild and trade "The Truth" when the time comes? Or keep the veteran squad together until retirement?