WALTHAM -- If Wyc Grousbeck had his way, Paul Pierce would remain a Celtic for the rest of his career and No. 34 would be raised to the rafters.
Considering Grousbeck co-owns the Celtics, oversees the daily operations, and serves on the NBA Board of Governors, he certainly has the power to get what he wants. While personnel decisions technically rest with executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge, the opinions of Grousbeck and the Celtics' other managing partners heavily influence the process.
With the Celtics struggling to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff picture at 14-21, Pierce willing to consider a trade, Ainge acknowledging the team needs to make changes, and the Feb. 23 trading deadline approaching, Grousbeck was asked for his perspective.
Grousbeck said he is just as disappointed with the Celtics' record as the fans, coaches, and players. He sees a promising core of young players and veterans, starting with Pierce and Delonte West. Above all, he has a long-range view of the situation.
When asked if changes would be made before the trading deadline, Grousbeck said, ''I'm sure that this roster will look different four years from now. I know that sounds like a throwaway line, but I don't know if it will look different four weeks from now or not. We may stay with this roster right through the end of this season. We've got a couple of guys whose contracts are up [Marcus Banks and Justin Reed]. We've got a couple draft picks.
''But I'm not anticipating any blockbuster deal. It's up to Danny and [coach] Doc [Rivers] fundamentally, but I'm not anticipating a blockbuster deal. I'm anticipating trying to keep building this team. We're one game out of the playoffs right now, but we're not playing well enough to avoid being disappointed with the record. Whether or not we're one game out of the playoffs, we've got to do better. Fundamentally, it's up to Danny to make that happen."
Any deal involving Pierce qualifies as a blockbuster. Grousbeck was not concerned by Pierce's recent remarks about the possibility of playing elsewhere. Grousbeck views those comments as the byproduct of frustrating losses and the tedium of answering the same questions about the Celtics' struggles every day. After hearing a clarification from Pierce and receiving a call from Pierce's agent, Jeff Schwartz, Grousbeck was reassured the captain wants to stay in Boston.
''We don't intend for Paul to go anywhere," said Grousbeck. ''Paul has also said that he would like to retire a Celtic and that is my primary goal. Not only do I want him to retire a Celtic, I want his number retired. I want him to have the kind of career here where he would be the last guy to wear No. 34. The way to have that happen is for us to really do something and for him to keep playing at a high level. That's the goal. Life brings changes. It's not a promise, but it's a hope."
Grousbeck knows wins will keep Pierce happy. But the owner acknowledges without a better effort, there cannot be better results.
''I'm disappointed with the record, and in stretches, disappointed with the effort, including, for example, the first half of the Atlanta game," Grousbeck said of Tuesday night's game in which the Celtics trailed, 62-53. ''I didn't think the effort was there. But then, we made a concerted stand in the second half and won the game. But there has to be a more consistent effort. We have to value putting on the uniform more and value the chance to be out there competing for the Celtics more. Over the long term, we are looking for players who do that, value that opportunity.
''As we continue to evaluate the roster over the longer term, not today, but over the long term, we're going to have players that bring it every single night. There are players like that on this team right now and we're going to build around those players . . . There is a quality core here that gives me reason to hope for the future. We're going to stick with the core and try to get better."
While Grousbeck would not single out players worthy of that core group, it became clear during the conversation that Pierce and West belong to it.
''I like Delonte," said Grousbeck. ''I would say that I see with Delonte shooting what he's shooting, never taking a play off, diving on the floor, playing hard, as just one example. I don't want to jinx him, but I think Delonte could have a decade-long, fantastic career here in Boston. He's one example of why I'm very optimistic.
''I saw Paul dive for a ball in practice [yesterday]. When your captain, who is playing the best basketball of his career, is diving, getting floor burns at noon on a Thursday, I think it says something to the rest of the team. So, we've got leadership, we've got some youth. So, I'm optimistic about where we're going.
''Danny is a very active director of basketball operations. Danny evaluates things monthly, certainly season by season. I evaluate things year by year, decade by decade. We're going to be here and we're going to get this right. I can't tell you when, but I see signs that it can get better in the future."