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Doc Rivers didn’t want to see Paul Pierce leave the Celtics

Sep 12, 2013, 9:17 PM EDT

Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce and head coach Doc Rivers react during a break in fourth quarter action against the Miami Heat in Game 2 of their NBA Eastern Conference basketball playoff series in Miami Reuters

Paul Pierce played all 15 of his NBA seasons with the Celtics, before the team’s GM Danny Ainge decided it was time to enter a full-fledged rebuild, which meant ridding the club of expensive veteran salaries that remained on the roster.

Pierce and Kevin Garnett were traded to the Nets this offseason, and Doc Rivers — who spent the last nine seasons in Boston — ended up leaving too, for an opportunity to coach a contender in the Los Angeles Clippers.

But it wasn’t how Rivers wanted to see his former champions go out, especially in Pierce’s case.

From Justin Barrasso of WEEI.com:

“I didn’t want Paul to go, even though I knew it was coming,” said Rivers. “That was a tough one for me. Even when I was here and it was being talked about — my thing is, Kobe [Bryant] is going to end up being a Laker for life.Dirk [Nowitzki] is going to be a Maverick. That’s the one thing that, if we didn’t do right, that was the one right thing we didn’t do for Paul.”

That’s the unfortunate side of the business of basketball — once veterans reach the twilight of their careers, teams need to start focusing on the future and need to begin making tough decisions.

I tend to side with Rivers here, though, in that Pierce and Garnett can still play, and with a healthy Rajon Rondo in place, Ainge could have brought everyone back for another run. It’s actually an easier decision to blow it all up, because there won’t be any scrutiny on the front office or expectations for success next season.

Pierce may indeed have deserved better, and to finish his Hall of Fame career as a Celtic. Only time will tell if Ainge made the correct decision in terms of when exactly to begin Boston’s rebuilding project.

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