Post-game Reactions

pierceguts1One lingering question that many have had throughout this offseason regards the status of The Captain going into next season and beyond. Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald  caught up with The Truth regarding his age and player option for next year among other items. A couple key snippets from the piece:

“I always said my goal was to play until I was 36, but my goals can change,” Pierce said. “My contract is up when I’m 33, so we’ll see from there. But hopefully I can play three more years after that, and if I’m in good shape and I’m taking care of my body, then maybe I’ll play more.

“I don’t know. I haven’t really given it much thought. I’m just playing it out.”

Pierce’s first decision will come next summer, but it really isn’t much of one at all. He’s on the books for this season at just less than $19.8 million, and it’s his option whether he wants to stay for the 2010-11 campaign at just more than $21.5 million. Seeing that it would be pretty much impossible for him to get that one-year salary elsewhere, he probably won’t be calling any moving vans.

The only realistic issue would be if the situation here changes and Pierce is lured by a long-term deal that allows him to recoup anything lost next year down the line. Either that or a sudden loss of sense.

“I might get hit in the head,” Pierce said. “You never know.

“I don’t know yet,” he continued. “Maybe I might leave my options open. Hey, what if they trade Kevin (Garnett) and Ray (Allen) and Rasheed (Wallace) away? What if they trade everybody? You want me to be here on a 15-win team? I already did that.”

Pierce stopped laughing in time to add, “Truthfully, I’ll evaluate everything at the end of the year. I’ll talk to Danny (Ainge, general manager). But, you know, I’ve always said I want to end my career as a Celtic.”

Now this report really wouldn’t be news at all except for the statement Wyc Grousbeck made at the beginning of the summer regarding the 2010 offseason and the team having the potential flexibility to go after a big name free agent.

This potential scenario was a pipe dream to begin with, given the fact the salary cap will likely be coming down again in 2010 and Paul Pierce would have to opt out of his contract and take at least a 50% paycut, along with the team renouncing the rights to Ray Allen in order for the C’s to have the room to make a major offer under the cap. There are also other variables regarding cap holds that come into play that our friend over at Celtics Blog Roy Hobbs does a great job explaining in his salary cap FAQ.

Now that the team spent about 9 million dollars on next year’s salaries this offseason with the addition of Rasheed Wallace and re-signing of Big Baby, there is even less financial flexibility going into next year than when Wyc made that intital statement. This essentially ends any chance of the team bringing in a top of the line free agent for more money than the mid level exception next year. Let’s take a look why.

With $40 million tied up in contracts to Rasheed, Baby, Perk, and KG, along with a substantial cap hold of 6 million dollar due to Rondo’s restricted free agency, Pierce would have to opt out and take at least a 15 million dollar paycut for the team to have a chance of making some serious noise with the big fish in free agency. And though Pierce is as loyal as they come, but there isn’t anyway he is going to accept that kind of money. So barring an unlikely trade that clears some of this cap space, say goodbye to Wyc’s dreams of having lots of free agent money to play with next offseason.

That being said, is there still a chance that Paul Pierce will opt out of his option this offseason? Absoutely, if the Celtics are there waiting with a 2-3 year extension at a reduced salary say in the 15 million dollar range, that is a deal the Captain may very well take.  A look at this possible scenario, after the jump.

A deal like this with Pierce taking a modest hometown discount may very well be a win for all parties involved. With the luxury tax likely moving lower next year due to economic factors combined with the team’s need for money to re-sign Rajon Rondo and/or Ray Allen, reducing Pierce’s salary  by a few million dollars could have a tremendous effect on reducing the team’s luxury tax liability next year.

By giving Pierce an extra couple years of security in exchange for a modest paycut, the team could easily save the team 6-8 million dollars next season when you account for the dollar for dollar tax the team will have to pay for being over the luxury tax. From Pierce’s standpoint, he gets a couple more years of security in Boston along with one last big payday of his career. There is little likelihood Pierce would see anything more than 10-15 million dollars if he were to enter the open market as a 33 year old, given a lot of team’s economic and cap situations so the one year sacrifice in salary could be one worth making.

Pierce also likely would be encouraged by the fact that the team would be spending that extra money on Rondo’s and potentially Ray Allen’s contract, increasing the likelihood of Pierce maintaining a Championship supporting cast around him in Beantown. The team could also use their savings to throw some mid level exception money at another mid to upper tier free agent candidate who would like a crack at an NBA title alongside The Truth and KG.

In any case, entering next offseason, Danny Ainge will have a lot of decisions to make while figuring out if he can fiscally keep this core of players together. It may seem a given that Paul will exercise his option but you can bet one of Danny’s first moves at the end of next year is to see if he can come to a deal with The Captain to soften the blow of that 21 million dollar cap hit. Overall it may end up being the best move for all parties involved.

My question to C’s fans is this though. What would you offer for Pierce in an extension? 15 million a year? Less? More? And how many years would you be willing to give him at that price? Keep in mind The Truth will be going on 33 this offseason. Would you rather have Pierce just exercise the option next year and let the market dictate his value going for? No easy answers to this scenario.

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Brian Robb

Brian Robb co-founded CelticsHub in 2009 and is the currently editor-in-chief. He is a producer and reporter at 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston and also contributes to Boston.com and Bleacher Report among other outlets.
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  • hopefully pierce will opt out then resign for 10 mil then we can maybe spend 10 mil on a decent free agent just not a superstar…id lke all of the big 3 to retire a celtic but thats easier said than done

  • jonathan

    Not being a Celtics fanatic, can someone please explain to me the recent use of "The Captain" as a nickname for Pierce? Especially because he already has one of the best nicknames around. Is it a Boston thing? I know Red Sox fans copied Yankee fans nicknaming Jeter and started calling Varitek "The Captain," but Paul Pierce? I didn't even know basketball teams had captains.

  • Pierce is the captain. I try to alternate between Captain and Truth.

    Very few veterans turn down big money to which they are entitled, so I would not expect Pierce to do so. But you never know.

  • jonathan

    Sorry if I wasn't clear: I do understand the fact that he is the Celtics captain, I just was asking why that's become his nickname. I could be wrong, but no other NBA team refers to their captain in that fashion. Is it a Boston thing (as I pointed out, the Red Sox appropriated it from the Yankees/Jeter)? I didn't even realize that NBA teams had official captains until Celtics fans started this thing. Seems like a purely ceremonial title.

    And stick with The Truth. Much better, especially 'cause apparently there's thirty other players who should have the same nickname, and that's assuming no teams have co-captains…

  • Arvin

    I think signing Pierce to a 3 year extension for say, $40 million would be worthwhile to both parties. I would like to see Pierce retire as a Celtic. It just doesn't happen very often anymore (a player who plays his career on one team). Pierce deserves to be rewarded, and we the fans deserve it. THe Celtics deserve flexibility to resign Rondo, Allen and possibly a mid-level free agent. Now on this premise Mr. Lowe: Who could the Celtics get next year for the ME?

  • Rocci

    The guy writes a great post, and all you can talk about is how he refers to our captain as "the Captain". Stephen Jackson out in Golden State is often times referred to the captain as well, so there's your counter-example.

    This is good stuff Brian. Keep it up.

  • jonathan

    Sorry Rocci, it's been something I've wondered about for a little while now. And as for your counter example he's known by "Captain Jack," which is wholly different in the nickname category. Anyway, since no one's answered my query I'll let it drop. Although I will point out that your post criticizing me for my post also failed to address anything in the original topic as well.

    As for Pierce's contract, I'd let it expire and let the market dictate. Realistically, if the Celtics don't win this year their championship window has closed. The Lakers, Orlando, Portland, Cavs are all younger (key players) and if things work out for Miami this coming summer than I'd say the Celtics in 2010-11 are probably the sixth best team in the league and the fourth in the east. At that point best thing to do is blow it up and hope Rondo's good enough to rebuild around.

  • str|ps

    uhm….because he’s the team captain?

    in the nba, team captains are the only people allowed to speak to referees during timeouts…or so i’ve heard

    yeah, the “truth” is also the captain…maybe also because he stuck with and led the team during its under-manned years…

    i do hope the big three retire as celtics though…

  • Ted

    Don’t make too big a deal out of it. I think when talking about Pierce in the context of team affairs some may refer to him as the Captain just to show some respect and state the fact.
    He is really known as the Truth everywhere all the time in any other context. Quite frankly, I rarely hear the nickname the Captain” and it’s probably more of a writing gimmick to avoid writing Pierce, Pierce… Pierce…

    I too am curious what good prospects will be available and a good fit for the ME.
    As for the thesis of this latest story, I like the idea of giving Pierce the next 3 years at a lower rate if he forgoes the big final year. Of course, even if he takes the big pay day, the following year we can go for him at market value anyway. I’d love for him to retire a Celt but let’s not slit our own throats regarding a championship. We gotta do right for the franchise.

  • Sweeney

    I think the key is that we want the franchise to treat the franchise player with class and dignity. In the same light we expect the same in return from him.

    I believe a 3 year deal worth 38 mil is realistic, especially in light of what has transpired this year with regards to the FA market.

    Because of the championship, I would gladly take competitive Celtic basketball for a few years with a moderate chance of winning it all. If that meant keeping PP and to a larger extent the big 3 together to go out together. It is not not often we as fans get to show our appreciation to players in the twilight of their career.

    Unless PP goes all Favre on us…eeeewwww.

  • Paul is unselfish and loyal. However I think he will exorcise his option for just over 21mil and wait to deal with his contract the following season to see what direction the team will go in. I hope he doesnt and realizes that by accepting a modest paycut and take a contract of 15 milish and leaves a little money for the team to sign its own players (ie rondo) or free agents keeping the team in the title hunt for atleast the next few years

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