One 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.