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Paul Pierce: ‘I see Kevin and Ray playing past this year’

WALTHAM — While much of the discussion at Celtics [1] Media Day focused on a closing championship window for the aging veteran core, team captain Paul Pierce [2] left it open a crack.

‘€œI really see Kevin [Garnett] and Ray [Allen] playing past this year, hopefully with the Boston Celtics [3] even though their contracts are up,” Pierce said. “But if Doc [Rivers] wants to use that as motivation, then I will.’€

Both Garnett and Allen are free agents after this shortened season, clearing $31 million worth of contracts from the books, and neither addressed his future beyond this season. Speculation has ranged from this being Garnett’s last season to both he and Allen signing more cap-friendly deals and making another run in diminished roles.

‘€œAt any moment, anything can change, so this year, last year, the year before, you guys have asked this same question: ‘Is this our last opportunity?'” Allen said. “Every moment we come out here is our last opportunity, because nothing is promised.”

Pierce, on the other hand, is one of only three Celtics players signed beyond this year ($16.8 million in 2012-13 and $15.3 million in 2013-14). Obviously, he’d like to see the Big Three remain intact beyond 66 more games.

‘€œRight now, my motivation is to play longer than Ray,” said Pierce, tongue firmly planted in cheek. “I think he’€™s going to play another five years. I don’€™t know if I’€™ll make it, but he’€™s been my inspiration, even though he’€™s been consistently great even at his age of 42 [laughs]. It’€™s just amazing. He’€™s a genetic wonder.’€

Pierce has a little added motivation for remaining in a Celtics uniform, as he trails Larry Bird [4] by just 381 points for second on the team’s all-time scoring list. Pierce’s 21,410 points in green are still 4,985 behind the record of 26,395 set by John Havlicek from 1962-78. Pierce scored 1,511 points last season, so it could take more years than are left on his current contract to become the C’s all-time leading scorer.

‘€œI’€™ve been very fortunate,” said Pierce. “There have been a lot of great players who have come along that have had injuries, and I’€™ve been fortunate not to have that. Along with my consistent work ethic, even at this age as I continue to work, I treat it as if it was my first year in the league.’€

“Paul’s legacy? It’s the obvious,” added Garnett. “When you speak of Celtics, and you speak of modern Celtics, you think of Paul.”

Pierce is entering his 14th season in Boston, and he left no doubt about his historical knowledge of the storied franchise, adding, ‘€œAt least I passed Bird in one record: More media days.’€