Ainge: No decision yet on Pierce's future

Ainge: No decision yet on Pierce's future
May 28, 2013, 2:00 pm
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WALTHAM, Mass. — Danny Ainge can only chuckle when asked about the latest round of rumors involving the Celtics, who are reportedly "likely" to buy out Paul Pierce's contract for $5 million.

"Nothing surprises me," Ainge told CSNNE.com. "I'll just let speculation continue."

While no decision on Pierce's future has been made yet, how Ainge handles Pierce's situation may have an impact on whether Kevin Garnett returns to Boston for a 19th NBA season, decides to retire, or urges the C's to trade him to a contender which would force him to lift his no-trade clause.

During All-Star weekend, Garnett was emphatic that he had no plans to waive his no-trade clause.

"I bleed green. I die green," Garnett said at the time. "But it is a business. Trades are a part of this league. Every year, you're going to hear things."

But when pressed about the likelihood of him being traded Garnett said, "If I were y'all, I wouldn't read too much into it."

The only noteworthy changes since that time are that Garnett is a year older and the Celtics are seemingly more motivated than previous years to trade Pierce who is due $15.3 million this season if he is not bought out by June 30.

After the Celtics' season-ending loss to the Knicks earlier this month, Garnett alluded to his return being somewhat tied into what the Celtics decide to do with Pierce.

"One of the big reasons I came here was because of Paul," Garnett said after the C's 88-80 defeat in Game 6 with New York. "I'll be honest, I'll be lying to you if I said Paul didn't play into that."

A league source told CSNNE.com that the biggest factor in Garnett's return will be his health, and whether the perennial All-Star feels he can still compete at a level he is accustomed to.

"If his body isn't where he wants it to be, Paul's return is a moot point of discussion," the source said.

Ainge said he has not spoken with Garnett or his representatives about the future Hall of Famer's future, nor have Ainge and the C's made a decision on whether Pierce will be back, bought out, or traded.

Instead, Ainge said the franchise has been more focused on the June 27 NBA draft in which the Celtics have the No. 16 pick.

"I think we're going to get somebody that we like at 16," said Ainge, who added that the C's may look to make a move up or down depending how the draft plays out.

"There's some good players out there that I think have pretty good value," Ainge said. "There just aren't a lot of franchise players."

One of the few franchise-caliber talents in this year's draft is Everett, Mass. native Nerlens Noel who is projected by most draft boards to be the No. 1 overall pick.

The C's were among the teams to meet with Noel in Chicago earlier this month at the NBA pre-draft combine, fueling speculation that the Celtics might look to swing a deal for the rights to draft the 6-foot-11 big man who suffered a torn ACL injury at Kentucky and isn't expected to make his NBA debut until sometime in December.

Any deal that would position the C's to land a player of Noel's caliber would almost certainly have to include Pierce who has spent his entire Hall-of-Fame career as a member of the Celtics.

During the playoffs, Ainge talked to CSNNE.com about how difficult it would be to make a decision on Pierce.

"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."