WALTHAM-It was all smiles and cautious optimism as the Celtics officially announced the signing of Paul Pierce to a three-year, $59 million extension at a press conference today.
Flanked by Pierce, coach Doc Rivers and ownership, executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge called the deal that will keep Pierce under contract for the next five seasons a ‘‘historic occasion in Celtics history’’ and ‘‘a big step in us becoming a great basketball team.’’ Ainge and Pierce both agree the next step will be surrounding the captain with players who can help bring a championship to Boston.
When asked why he signed on long-term with the Celtics, Pierce cited the commitment shown from the owners, Ainge and Rivers and the confidence he has that ‘‘this will be a great situation for everybody.’’
Still, Pierce acknowledged that his agent Jeff Schwartz encouraged him to decline his player option for the 2007-08 season and test the free agency market next summer. Ainge said he could understand such a suggestion from an agent. But when he sat down and thought about it, the captain knew he wanted to remain with the Celtics.
‘‘Jeff actually wanted me to be a free agent just because I hadn’t experienced the whole thing,’’ said Pierce. ‘‘But I wanted to be a Celtic. That’s why I made this decision.’’
Pierce grinned through the whole affair, even as he announced plans to have surgery on his left elbow Aug. 1. Team physician Dr. Brian McKeon will clean out the area in minor procedure set to take place in Boston. After approximately two weeks to three weeks of recovery and rehab, Pierce expects to be back on the court and more than ready to go when training camp starts in October.
‘‘I have a great deal of faith in Paul and it’s great to have Paul here in the prime of his career,’’ said Ainge. ‘‘We can get into a discussion of where Paul today, his legacy, fits into Celtics history. I think he’s comfortably in the top 10. We hope over the next five years as he continues his career that that legacy continues to grow.’’