NEW YORK — Danny Ainge has no doubts about whether Paul Pierce still has quality basketball left in him.
Whether he'll be playing those final seasons in Boston remains to be seen.
Ainge and the C's have an option to buy out Pierce for $5 million, which would provide the C's a savings of more than $10 million.
Ainge told CSNNE.com prior to Boston's 92-86 Game 5 win on Wednesday night that whatever the team decides to do with Pierce during the offseason - keep him, trade him or buy him out - it will be one of the toughest calls he has had to make.
"What's important to understand, yeah, it's going to be hard for fans and everybody else, but as far as what's doing what's best for the Celtics, it's probably going to be very hard, too," Ainge told CSNNE.com. "It's not a no-brainer. It's not like you get a 21-year-old All-Star player, or you get the number one pick in the draft [if you let Pierce go]. Those decisions would not be hard, but I have a feeling the decision is going to be very hard, yeah."
As far as whether he is leaning one way or another, Ainge made it clear that no decision on Pierce's future had been made.
"I have not even discussed that with anyone within our franchise yet," Ainge said. "So that's something for like a few weeks from now to contemplate."
While Pierce said Wednesday morning that he had not given his future too much thought, it's clear that he plans to finish his career off with the only team he has known even if that means a short detour between now and the time he decides to call it quits.
"The organization is going to do what it has to do," Pierce said. "It's nothing that's stressing me out; that's what it is. Every year, they have decisions to make. And those are their decisions, so I leave it to them."
Pierce added, "the decision is in their hands. Whatever decision they make, maybe if they trade me somewhere or I end up somewhere else, maybe it can end up a situation where I come back for a one-day deal and retire a Celtic."
Ainge wasn't much of a mood to stroll down memory lane too much when it came to Pierce and what he has meant to the Celtics franchise. But there's no mistaking his deep admiration and respect for what Pierce has done for the Celtics, and what he has the ability to continue doing in the NBA.
Pierce showed flashes of that in Wednesday's Celtics victory, overcoming a slow 0-for-6 start shooting the ball to finish with 16 points on 6-for-19 shooting to go with four rebounds and three assists.
The one downside of Pierce's game was him racking up yet again a high number of turnovers. The Captain has turned the ball over at least five times in each of the C's five playoff games.
But when Ainge looks at Pierce's body of work this season, the positives far outweigh the negatives.
"Paul has given his heart and soul," said Ainge, who acknowledged prior to the game that Pierce has turned the ball over too much. "He's trying to do too much; he's trying to carry an unnecessary burden, but that's only because he cares; he's just trying. I have no criticism of Paul. I know he's capable of playing even better, and I know he still has a lot of basketball left in him."
But will that basketball be played in a Celtics jersey?