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Pierce stays with Celtics

BOSTON, July 16 – Paul Pierce made it official Thursday, re-signing with the Boston Celtics and saying hoped one day to retire from the team where he has spent his entire NBA career."I never thought once about leaving the Celtics," Pierce said, explaining he opted out of the final year of his contract to help the Celtics attract some new players and insure he would be with the club even longer.

"I wanted this team to get better, knowing we didn’t win a championship. … Also, I wanted to ensure that I had a chance to retire as a Celtic," said Pierce, who signed a four-year deal.

Since losing the NBA finals in seven games to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Celtics have re-signed Ray Allen, who will be 35 on Tuesday, to a two-year contract and gave free agent center-forward Jermaine O’Neal, 31, a two-year deal.

Kevin Garnett, 34, also has two years left on his contract. Those three, plus 32-year-old Pierce have a total of 54 seasons of NBA experience.

They face a new potential hurdle in repeating as Eastern Conference champions now that the Miami Heat have put together the star triumvirate of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

Pierce said the Celtics wouldn’t mind being cast as underdogs.

"We relished that role this year," Pierce said. "It really doesn’t matter. You’ve got to show it on the court."

On paper, he acknowledged, the Heat are the Eastern team to beat.

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"You’ve got to expect going into the season, when you’ve got the caliber of players they have that they’re going to definitely be the favorite along with the Lakers," he said.

Pierce admitted the game-seven loss to the Lakers last month was one of the toughest of his 12-year career.

"I think that’s one of the hardest losses for me that I’ve taken in my career and, as much as you want to put it behind you, it’s just tough," he said. "I’ve pretty much thought about it every day."

If Pierce spends the next four seasons with the Celtics, he will equal John Havlicek’s record of 16 years with the club.

"As far as record chasing, that’s not something I’m doing. I’ll be more satisfied with a championship," Pierce said.

Another title would be especially sweet with a team he’s represented for his whole career.

"It means everything," Pierce said. "A lot of players really don’t have that opportunity to say they played for one team."

James relinquished that opportunity, departing Cleveland after seven years to play with Wade and Bosh in Miami.

James’ method of announcing his move to Miami, with a one-hour television show on ESPN, was criticized by many, but Pierce said it was merely a sign of the times.

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"Everything has become a production," Pierce said. "You see people living in their homes in a reality TV show now, so it’s that day and time.

"Hey, people want to watch it."

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