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Paul Pierce undecided about future, except one thing is set in stone

Doc Rivers believes the Celtics are pointed in the right direction.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press/File 2016

Three years removed from his departure from the Celtics, Doc Rivers still considers Boston a second home. His annual September return for a charity function allows him to heap praise on his former organization.

The current Los Angeles Clippers coach was back in town for the ABCD Hoop Dreams at TD Garden, along with his Celtics’ successor, Brad Stevens. Rivers discussed all things Celtics, including the status for former Boston great Paul Pierce.

Pierce is still mulling whether to return for a 19th NBA season, coming off the worst statistical season of his career with the Clippers. Rivers offered little insight into Pierce’s decision just three weeks before training camp begins.

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“Depends on the day I talk to him,” Rivers said as participants played half-court games at the Garden. “Paul has had the summer, he goes back and forth. I think he has a right to do that, I really do. Paul didn’t have the best year last year and I don’t think he wants to go out that way, so that’s why I think he’s working to try to get back. He still may change his mind next week so we just have to wait.”

“If I don’t think [aging veterans] can play, I tell them that. I think Paul can play. I don’t know how much he’ll play, but he can play.”

One thing Rivers said is a certainty is that when Pierce decides to retire, it will be as a Celtic, meaning a ceremonial one-day contract with Boston.

“I think it’s important,” Rivers said. “We have to do that and I think we will. Danny [Ainge] and [assistant general manager] Mike [Zarren], we’ve already talked. The day he retires, he’s going to retire a Celtic and he has to. I don’t think anyone disagrees with that.”

Rivers said he has also had offseason conversations with another former Celtic, Ray Allen, who is considering a return to the NBA at age 41 despite missing the past two years. Rivers said Allen is capable of such a feat.

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“I won’t talk about what we talked about but I think if Ray was in the right spot, he may play,” Rivers said. “I think Ray wants to golf a lot too, right now. But Ray is in amazing shape. I mean I don’t know how he does that as a player and I don’t know how he does it as a non-player. He’s probably in the top-five shape in the NBA right now. Can Ray play? Absolutely, he could.”

Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett is still deciding whether he wants to return for a 22d season at age 40. He has spent the past two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, one of the league’s rising young teams with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, and Kris Dunn.

“I think Kevin — I know it because I talked to him — loves the young guys on his team. He loves how they work,” Rivers said. “He thinks they have an old-school mentality. I think he’s really bought into ‘Kevin the Teacher’ and I honestly never saw that coming either. Yet, he was a phenomenal teacher with us; I just didn’t think he’d have the patience to do it. I think Kevin loves teaching these young guys and I think Paul just loves playing. He was the one that I thought would play the longest because of the way he plays, and he’s doing it.”

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Asked whether he ever thought two of the Big Three would still be playing nine years after they joined forces in Boston, Rivers said: “Talking how wrong I was, I told the guys when we got them together; we’ve got to win this year. I don’t know how long you’re playing. I thought two or three years. I was a little wrong on that one for sure.”

Finally, Rivers said the Celtics’ signing of Al Horford will be a significant move for the organization’s future.

“Getting Al [Horford] was big,” he said. “I think that was more important than any of the draft picks, to be honest, because I believe once you get one [major free agent], others will follow. We learned that in 2008, we did it through trade but once we made the trade, all of a sudden the Eddie Houses and all the other guys wanted to join in. I think Al will have that same impact.”

Said Celtics coach Brad Stevens: “The one thing about Al is he’s very comfortable in who he is. And he knows that he’s going to impact the game defensively in a good way. All he’s ever cared about was winning. Winning is enough for him. He’s clearly proven that over the years, that’s what makes him a really special addition for us.”


Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.

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