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Paul Pierce reportedly expects that the Boston Celtics will either deal or release him

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Paul Pierce, during what could be his final game as a Boston Celtic (Getty Images)

With great players comes great responsibility, and also great intrigue and great drama. Those great players are going to get old, and they need to be replaced nearly as-great players at some point so as to sustain your team’s greatness. No team, for years, has known this better than the Boston Celtics, and yet nobody on the team – from the front office down to the coaching staff to the team’s great players – has any idea what they’re going to do with their potentially franchise-changing 2013 offseason.

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Save for Paul Pierce. At least, according to Comcast New England’s Greg Dickerson. Because only about a third of Paul Pierce’s $15.3 million deal is guaranteed for 2013-14, rumors abound that team personnel boss Danny Ainge may want to cut ties with the star to save money, or deal him elsewhere to prop up an aging roster. Which is why Pierce, according to Dickerson, thinks his days in Boston are numbered. Here’s what the Celtics sideline reporter told his viewers on Sunday:

"I don't think they will (bring Pierce back)," Dickerson said Sunday on CSNNE. "And I know that the company that Paul Pierce hangs around in, they do not believe – and I don't think Paul Pierce believes – that he is going to be brought back next year at $15 million.

"I know for a fact that people around Paul Pierce have pretty much resigned themselves to the fact that he's played his final game in a Boston Celtics uniform. Again, Paul wants to stay – obviously for $15 million, but he wants to finish his career in a Celtics uniform."

[…]

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"If Paul's gone, I think without a doubt Kevin Garnett is gone – either by retirement or he finally decides to waive his no-trade clause, and the Celtics maybe work something out with a (Los Angeles Clippers) team," said Dickerson. "But the list is real short; the teams that Kevin Garnett would go to, there might be two of them on it, and they both might be the Clippers and (Los Angeles) Lakers."

All with a grain of salt, this. We basically have one guy guessing what another guy is thinking about what another guy is thinking about what could happen in late June. That’s it. Ainge has until June 30 to bash around ideas on Pierce’s 2013-14 contract, and we haven’t even set the draft lottery yet. There’s still plenty of time to figure this out, or for the plans to become clearer.

Ainge found interest in his stars as trade assets surprisingly muted during the trade deadline, but new options and money-saving potential around the June 27 draft could change the market. During February’s trade deadline, the pitch on Pierce was that he was going to be able to help you put your lacking team over the top. This time around, Ainge can sell his future Hall of Fame as a cap buster. Send me your $15 million in salary for Pierce, Ainge can tell teams, and you’ll only have to pay $5 million next year to make him go away.

That’s only if these teams exist, though. There are obvious luxury tax fiends in Brooklyn, New York and Los Angeles, but by and large the NBA has been cutting costs and minding the long-term deals since the lockout ended in the fall of 2011. Expiring contracts don’t have as much value as they used to, which puts both Ainge and Pierce (especially if Paul is dead set on walking away if it’s made apparent that he won’t be a Celtic next season) in a tough spot. To say nothing of Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers, who still have to decide if they’re returning.

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All of this is guesswork, though. Guesswork made to guess the potential work of a personnel chief a month and a half ahead of when that chief will have to make his big move. The Celtics would really, really like June to get here quickly. And not for the usual reasons.

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