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What's Next for Paul Pierce? Could He Return to the Celtics Next Season?

Paul Pierce’s basketball days are not over. His career with the Brooklyn Nets however may be ending after just one season.

The former Celtic star took questions on his future last night following a 96-94 season-ending loss to the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Pierce enters this offseason as an unrestricted free agent and would not commit to staying in Brooklyn next season. (Via: ESPN New York)

"I haven't really put much thought into it," Pierce said of what his future holds and if he wants to remain a Net. "I put my whole focus into this season, it's my last year of the contract. I will sit back and talk to the family and see where my options are from there and go from there. I think I still have something in the tank I can give a team. Maybe one or two (years) at the most…When I get a chance, sit back and really get my thinking hat on, I will figure out what's next.”

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The 36-year-old showed he could still be a valuable contributor to any contending team during the series against the defending champs. Pierce averaged 14 points per game and shot 46 percent from the field before the Nets came up short against Miami.

Pierce’s next move will likely be largely dependent on the future of Kevin Garnett. Pierce’s longtime teammate is signed with the Nets through the 2014-15 season. If Garnett elects to play next season, it seems unlikely Pierce would abandon his lifelong friend after helping convince him to waive his no-trade clause and accept a deal to Brooklyn last summer.

With that said, it would be no surprise to see Garnett call it a career this summer after an injury-plagued season with the Nets. Brooklyn general manager Billy King told reporters on Thursday that he spoke with Garnett on the team plane about his future and would give the veteran time to get away and make a decision on his future. If Garnett decides to retire, that development would likely lead Pierce to leave Brooklyn and finish his career elsewhere.

Pierce earned $15.3 million with the Nets during the past season. It’s also important to note Brooklyn does have bird rights on Pierce, which enables them to offer him more money than any other team in free agency.

That significant advantage for Brooklyn may be less of a factor than one might imagine in free agency from Pierce’s perspective. The veteran small forward has earned over $180 million dollars during his 16-year career, so money may be less of a factor in Pierce’s decision during free agency if he wants to chase a championship ring or finish his career in Boston.

Would Pierce consider reuniting with his former coach Doc Rivers in Los Angeles to chase a championship with the loaded Clippers? Could another contender lure him into taking a supporting role? Would he return to Boston if the Celtics follow through with some “fireworks” this offseason and revamp the roster? Pierce said earlier this season he would be open to the possibility.

"Yeah, why not?" Pierce said back in March on a return to Boston. "Maybe as a player, maybe as a coach. Who knows what the future holds?"

It’s too early to tell what Pierce’s intentions are, but it’s clear right now everything is on the table for the former Celtic captain.