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Pierce returns to Celtics after signing four-year deal


Posted Jul 15 2010 12:58PM

BOSTON (AP) -- The Big Three, who already have won an NBA championship, are officially signed to try for two more.

Boston Celtics captain Paul Pierce has re-signed with the team he led to the 2008 title, staying with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, whose contracts run for the next two years.

In making the announcement on Thursday, the Celtics gave no details of Pierce's deal. The Boston Herald has reported that he agreed to a four-year contract worth $61 million, with the team and Pierce having a mutual option for the fourth year.

He had opted out of the final year of a contract that was to pay him $21.51 million next season. By re-signing for a lesser amount, which was not disclosed, he creates cap room and gets long-term security.

Since losing the NBA finals in seven games to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Celtics have re-signed Pierce, 32, and Allen, who turns 35 on Tuesday. They also gave a two-year deal to center-forward Jermaine O'Neal, 31, who played for Miami last season. Those three, plus Garnett, 34, have a total of 54 seasons of NBA experience.

And Doc Rivers is returning for a seventh season after considering stepping down to spend more time with his family.

The Big Three who haven't won a title together -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh of Miami -- upgrade the Celtics' competition in their effort to return to the finals for the third time in four years.

Pierce, the MVP of the 2008 finals and the third-leading scorer in Celtics history with 19,899 points, is an essential part of their chances of doing that.

"Paul has been a cornerstone of our franchise for the last decade and we could not be more pleased that he is returning to the team,'' president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in a statement issued by the club.

Pierce, a first-round draft pick out of Kansas in 1998, made his eighth All-Star team last season, when he averaged 18.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists.

"I am very excited to be back in Boston,'' he said. "I have always said that I would love to retire as a Celtic and re-signing here will allow me to do that.''

The emergence of point guard Rajon Rondo and the signing of O'Neal, who is expected to play a key role until center Kendrick Perkins returns, boost Boston's hopes of another long playoff run. Perkins likely will be sidelined at least until February after undergoing surgery for torn knee ligaments.

If Pierce completes his contract with Boston, he will have been with the team for 16 years, tying John Havlicek for most seasons with the team.

"Since day one, I have seen Paul as a lifetime Celtic and this deal is another big step towards that goal. He's a champion and a finals MVP but also a true champion in the community,'' Celtics co-owner and CEO Wyc Grousbeck said.

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