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Ainge: Paul will be one of our top priorities

Posted by Gary Washburn Globe Staff  June 30, 2010 01:23 PM

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Now that Danny Ainge doesn't have to search for a head coach, he can focus his attention to re-signing Paul Pierce, who opted out of his contract late last night.

Pierce walked away from $21.5 million for next season in hopes of signing an extension with the Celtics or perhaps procuring a long-term deal with another club. Ainge said he wants to see Pierce retire a Celtic.

"This is something that we’ve known was possible since the season was over," he said. "We knew that this possibility existed. We’ve been preparing for all the different scenarios that have been possible for us and based on what’s possible and what’s realistic, where our team is and everything, Paul will be one of our top priorities tomorrow morning."

Ainge and Pierce's agent. Jeff Schwartz, attempted to hammer out an extension before the deadline to opt out of the deal. Pierce is eligible for a maximum extension, starting at $20.7 million next season. It's unlikely Pierce would garner a maximum contract on the open market, considering his age (32) and slight dip in production but the Celtics are interested in a multiyear deal.

"We weren’t able to work out an extension that would prevented him from opting out, so now he has more options," Ainge said. "So now if we want Paul back, we need to present an attractive situation. I think Paul wants to come back to Boston. He could be ours to lose, but there could be other circumstances that prevent him from coming back. We understand that."

When asked whether he wanted to see Pierce retire as a Celtic, Ainge said, "I would like to see that."

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