Pierce has one more year left on his contract, plus a team option.
“With KG re-signing, that just said that I’m going to be here,” he said. “I know Danny was like, ‘We’re trying to reload and trying to make another run at this,’ and [Garnett] was the first step in it. Once we did that, everybody knew the Celtics are trying to compete for a championship again. They’re not trying to rebuild when you sign KG to a three-year deal.
“I was very excited. I feel like we’re putting more talent on the floor than we have in quite some time.”
The Celtics were dealt a blow when Allen signed with the Heat, but they re-signed Bass, Green, and Chris Wilcox and added versatile guard Courtney Lee, along with Darko Milicic and Jason Collins. Ainge retained the team’s core (minus Allen) and rebuilt the supporting cast.
“I kept saying to everybody, I didn’t think we were going to fall apart,” Rivers said. “I thought we’d get Ray back and Kevin back and we were going to add somebody. A lot of times, the talk outside is not the same as the talk inside.
“Things could have gone the other way. We could have not signed Jeff and then we would have been in a hell of a lot of trouble. It just came our way. Things broke our way too, the fact that Kevin decided to come back.
“The good thing that I’m proud of over anything besides a title is Boston is a place that people come to now, and before it wasn’t.”
Garnett’s decision may dictate the course of the franchise for several years.
“KG was the key — not to say KG is more important than other players on our team — but there just aren’t big guys that are as good as KG,” Ainge said. “The replacement of KG is tough and we’re grateful that he wanted to come back and play.
“I think a lot did hinge on KG. We have some good young players but, yeah, we probably would not have been a contender had KG chosen to retire.”