WALTHAM — Celtics captain Paul Pierce opened up about his offseason Friday afternoon, touching on his minutes this season, the departure of Ray Allen, and the return of Kevin Garnett.
On Allen signing with the Miami Heat, Pierce said, “I was very surprised by Ray’s decision. I thought we would finish our careers together. He’s a grownup, he has to make a decision that’s best for his family.”
Later in the team’s media day festivities, Garnett took the podium and said he wished Allen no ill will. He said he hasn’t reached out to Allen since he made his decision to leave the Celtics.
“I don’t have Ray’s number anymore,” said Garnett. “I’m not trying to communicate. I’m just being honest. I don’t wish him less. It just is what it is.”
Allen’s departure was just one part of a fluid offseason. Garnett was a free agent and was also contemplating retirement. Pierce said he honestly didn’t know if Garnett would return to the Celtics this season.
“I really wasn’t confident he was coming back,” said Pierce. “Kevin said, ‘This is it for me.’ … But I’ve learned with Kevin that when he says no he means yes, and when he says yes he means no. But this is in his blood, this is what he’s born to be.”
Pierce said he might have retired if Garnett had. “I knew one thing, I wouldn’t want to go through a rebuilding phase,” said Pierce. “It was something I would have had to think long and hard about. If there was another team out there for me, I would have considered that.”
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he wasn’t sure what Garnett would do, either.
“Let’s just be grateful that both those guys didn’t retire,” said Ainge. “Both those guys played great last season. Those guys have a lot of basketball left in them. The will is there. They’ll find a way.”
On his future, Pierce said he’s been taking good care of his body and thinks he can play at a high level going forward.
“Hopefully I can retire with Kevin,” said Pierce. “He just signed a three-year deal. I see my career ending on the path of his.”
Some quick-and-dirty updates from Doc Rivers, who just stepped off the podium.
— On Garnett saying he would retire during the season:
“Kevin told me that all year. It was a bunch of crap, I never believed it. Even this summer when we heard whispers, I just didn’t believe. He just has too much passion. You don’t usually see guys at the level he had played.”
— On Pierce saying he might retire:
“Paul wouldn’t have retired. I saw his contract and I don’t think he was going to retire.”
— On the NBA landscape:
“I honestly rarely look at the West. I could care less abut the West. Because we have to get out of the East. We have one target, and that’s Miami.”
— Rivers said he is not sure whether Jason Terry or Courtney Lee will start the season at shooting guard.
— In addition to managing Garnett’s minutes, Rivers said he and his coaching staff have spent a good deal of time discussing how to manage Pierce’s minutes.
“We’re going to try some things with Paul in preseason and see how it goes,” said Rivers.
— Both Rivers and Danny Ainge said, repeatedly, that Rajon Rondo is ready to be the team’s leader.
Rondo was engaging in his session with the media, touching on his role as the team’s leader going forward. He said, “I’m trying to accept the role more.”
Rondo said he started to take on more of a leadership role last season. He gave credit to Pierce and Garnett for allowing him to take charge. He admitted, “It’s not easy accepting a young guy with my type of demeanor or attitude to take charge.”
Said Rondo, “It didn’t surprise me because of their character. They’re good men, I know their families. They knew it was time. It’s a part of life. You get older, you slow down, and a new guy steps up.”
Rondo was asked if he was the best point guard in the NBA. He didn’t deny it.
“We’ll I’m biased,” said Rondo. “You don’t want to be cocky, but you want to be confident. I don’t think I would have become the player I am today.”
Rondo said he and Garnett have become close.
“I would probably say Kevin is my best friend on the team,” said Rondo. “He’s always pushed me and expected more out of me than a lot of people did. He’s been kind of like a big brother/mentor. He’s always wanted the best for me.”
On Garnett getting older, Rondo said, “I laugh when people say he’s old or he doesn’t do this or he can’t do that. When you play with Kevin, he does so many little things that don’t show up in the stat book. When you play with another big guy, you notice that.”