BOSTON (CBS) — It’s been well-documented at this point that Danny Ainge’s plan for the “New Big Three” was a three-year plan to have Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett leading the Celtics as championship contenders.

That plan obviously stretched a couple of years longer, thanks to a Finals run in 2010, but it very likely ended on Saturday night in Miami, when the Celtics lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Miami Heat.

While nobody knows for sure what the future holds, Pierce, the team’s captain, spoke at length about the privilege of playing alongside Garnett, now a 36-year-old free agent, for the past five seasons.

“He’s been everything for my career,” Piere said. “Just his locker room presence, his desire, his determination, his leadership. When Kevin first got here, he really changed the culture of everything we did around here. From practice habits to the on-court, just the discipline. He made everybody accountable, from the ball boys to the chefs to the guy who flew the plane. He held everybody accountable.

“It’s been tremendous just to have him around. Just the culture he brought. It’d be great for me to end my career with Kevin. I have a couple of years left, and who knows what his future is going to bring? Maybe management can do something to bring him back, maybe add some pieces to this team that we need to get over the top.

“If not,” Pierce said, ‘it’s been a tremendous ride.”

Allen, now a soon-to-be-37-year-old free agent, was likewise unwilling to close the door on the “Big Three” era.

“When we first came together it seemed like it was up to this point five years has gone quickly but it’s seemed like we’ve lasted forever,” Allen said after the Game 7 loss. “Man, it’s been a privilege, I can definitely say that. … We’re proud of what we accomplished. By no means do we think that it was a fluke.

“I don’t know what Kevin’s situation is. There’s still a lot of basketball left in my legs. I know that for sure. There’s four of us [with Rajon Rondo]. We know how to play basketball and win games.”

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