The End On An Era: Paul Pierce Could Come Off The Bench

Over his 13-year NBA career, Paul Pierce has started in 961 regular season games out of a possible 964 for the Boston Celtics. In the postseason, he’s a perfect 110-for-110. But after losing to the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, sending him home for the summer, this somehow got the Celtics brass thinking about what to do with the nine-time All-Star and former NBA Finals MVP. And maybe, just maybe, it’d be better to bring him off the bench.

“Maybe there’s a change of roles,” Danny Ainge told WEEI yesterday. “Maybe Paul comes off the bench, cuts down on his minutes. Maybe we find a way to get Jeff [Green] more minutes. His role will expand if he’s back here next year. There’s no question about that.

“It wouldn’t totally shock me if there’s a change in the starting lineup, but that’s just way too tough to tell.”

Right now, Green is a restricted free agent, but Ainge said he intends to extend him a qualifying offer. Say what you will about his play since arriving in Boston, but the 24-year-old was averaging 15.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in 37.0 minutes a night in Oklahoma City. And like Pierce, he started 208 out of a possible 209 games for the Thunder over the past three seasons. You could say the transition to the bench, where he logged a mere 23.5 minutes a night, was tough.

“We need to make changes for sure,” said Ainge. “I don’t think [the roster is good enough to compete for a title next year]. But having said that that’s my job is to evaluate the reasons why we didn’t play the way we’re capable of playing … We do have a team that next year come playoff time will be a year older and a team like Miami will be in their prime years.”

Yes, Paul Pierce will be 34 years old before he steps back on the court next season. And yes, the Celtics do need to get younger. But is bringing their captain and fearless leader off the bench the answer? Don’t get it twisted: Pierce is no Jason Terry or Lamar Odom. Regardless of his age, Pierce still averaged 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and one steal a game this year, bumping his scoring average to 20.8 points per game in the playoffs. But with that said, Ainge made it clear that the veterans – Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Shaquille O’Neal, etc. – will be playing different roles next season.

“Knowing father time never loses, I think their being able to carry a team day in and out might be over,” said Ainge. “But their ability to be contributors to very good basketball teams is still there. We have to surround them with good players if we have any chance of winning a championship next year.”

What do you think? Should the Celtics bring Pierce off the bench?

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