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5 Reasons Why Pierce Opting Out Shouldn’t Surprise You

 

It’s not often you will see a 32 year old veteran walk away from 21.5 million dollars. Yet, that was exactly what the beloved Paul Pierce informed the Celtics he was doing last night, positioning himself to be a potential player for this year’s free agent bonanza, starting tomorrow.

At first glance, this looks to be a bit of a risk by Pierce to leave that much money on the table, in hopes of scoring a bigger, long term deal. The closer you look though at this decision,  the more sense it makes that the Pierce camp wanted to strike while the iron is hot. So without further ado, let’s take a look at five reasons why Pierce isn’t really “rolling the dice” here by declining his option.

1) The Collective Bargaining Agreement Expires After Next Season

It can’t be overstated just how important this factor is. When you turn down a guaranteed 21 million dollars in the latter stages of your career, you better have a good reason to do it. This qualifies. To set the stage for the next year, let’s take a look at the current NBA climate. You see, plenty of owners have been losing money on their teams in a down economy these last few years, while handing out monstrous contracts to many NBA stars in the process.

Therefore next year, there’s going to be plenty of jockeying for a new CBA by the owners and they are going to want big changes, specifically with salary structures that help them get their teams out of the red. The “max” and long term deals these owners have been handing out are almost guaranteed to be reduced in design, to more economically feasible amounts.

Obviously this will be a sharp point of contention during negotiations and the players will fight to hold onto their current arrangement, but the truth is the owners will be holding a lot of the cards here.

So why does this matter to Pierce’s decision now? Well, if and when the league comes up with a new CBA, chances are very high he wouldn’t be eligible to make as much money under new salary structure agreements. For example, say he’s looking for 14-15 million dollars/year in his new contract, well that, in theory might be a max salary in the new CBA and guess what? A 33 year old Paul Pierce isn’t getting a max contract type money in a long term deal in that climate.

Under the current CBA, Pierce is almost guaranteed to get more favorable terms, so why wouldn’t you try to lock up that long term deal now?

2) Paul Pierce had a pretty damn good season last year

I’ve read in a lot of places that Pierce is nuts to turn down that option since he’s “on the decline” in his career. While there is no doubt he is past his prime, The Truth is still easily one of the best small forwards in the league. In fact, last year he set career highs for both FG Percentage (47.2%), 3 pt FG Percentage (41.4%) and FT Shooting (85.2%). That’s not something you generally do in the downslope of your career.

You also have to consider that Pierce put up those numbers, despite playing through all kinds of various ailments throughout the season. An infected knee, a sprained foot, bad shoulder, thumb fracture, Pierce put up career bests despite playing through it all.

Did those injuries affect him? You bet they did, Pierce admitted he played in several games he had no business suiting up for with those ailments, and they in turn caused a major hit in his number. Still, it’s rather impressive that despite this, Pierce still put up career highs in those shooting categories.

That’s not to say Pierce’s durability is not a concern at this stage of his career. His rebounding numbers were down as well, but got a major spike in the postseason when Pierce was healthy to 6.0/game.

Pierce also delivered a fantastic all around averages during the C’s postseason run of 18-6-3 despite laboring 39 minutes/game, while shooting 43 percent from the field and 39 percent from deep. Those are numbers any team would take.

All things considered, Pierce’s agent Jeff Schwartz will have a lot of good numbers to point to when he heads to the negotiating table for Number 34. Make no mistake folks, Pierce’s overall game may be on the decline, but the numbers say otherwise, so why wouldn’t he try to position himself for a long term deal after that?

3) Negotiating Leverage

The Truth, almost assuredly wants to say a Celtic for the rest of his career if he can. He’s admitted such in the past couple years. So say, he wanted an extension this offseason! Great! He goes to Ainge to try to negotiate. If Pierce opted in to his 21.5 million deal, guess how much leverage he has to negotiate? Pretty close to zero.

The 33 year old Pierce was not going to get favorable terms from C’s management in that arrangement, simply because they had no incentive to ante up. Danny doesn’t want to overpaying an aging vet, and doesn’t want to tie up his salary cap room for the future on a potential over the hill guy if he doesn’t have to. That’s likely the mindset Ainge had in any extension negotiations during this past year with Pierce. He likely wanted Pierce back, but at a number that made sense for the team.

Pierce’s agent really had no way to counter this move if Pierce is locked into a contract. If Paul had opted in, he could wait Ainge out and go to free agency, but then Pierce is a year older, and may have caused himself plenty of dough with a new CBA in place.

By opting out now, Pierce is now forcing Ainge’s hand. He will be able to gauge his market value and come back to Danny in a position to negotiate for demands, with the threat of walking away from The C’s if Danny fails to comply.

Now in this sense, it’s somewhat of a risk if the market isn’t as friendly to Pierce as he thinks it will be, but with so much cap room out there, someone is likely to throw a hefty long term deal at an All-Star like Paul, that increase the chances of Ainge paying him what he wants.

4) The Uncertainty Looming Around The C’s Next Year

This one is quite simple really. Doc Rivers still might not be back. Ray Allen may not be back. I do believe that Doc still hasn’t made a decision, but it’s of course possible that Paul knows something we don’t know right now about Rivers.

That being said, opting out gives Pierce options here. The Truth is after additional Championships and he wants to do in Beantown. However, it’s not apparent yet whether Danny Ainge is planning on throwing in the towel on contending with this core group for the next few years, especially if he has to overpay for them.

Pierce ideally wants to know who will be back here next year, and they potentially will affect his contract demands for whatever his next contract will be. With Doc due to decide his fate with this team by tomorrow, opting out was the only real way Pierce gets a full read on this situation and allowing him options.

5) Agents Like to Get Paid

This is kind of the wildcard in this scenario. Pierce’s agent Jeff Schwartz has a bit of a history of playing hardball with his clients. For an example, look no further than last year with Lamar Odom in LA. Schwartz turned down a 3 year/27 million dollar offer for Odom, shopping his client around the league with limited success at getting a better deal.

This development angered Lakers owner Jerry Buss to that degree that he pulled the offer off the table for Odom in mid July, leaving Schwartz twisting in the wind for couple weeks. Eventually, cooler heads prevailed after Phil Jackson stepped in to mediate, and advocate for the  his power forward. Finally, Odom was signed to a 4 year/33 million deal and all sides went home happy, still it took until the end of July for the resolution to be settled.

Pierce opting out also means that Schwartz gets commission on a new contract, and as stated from reason number one, what will likely be a bigger contract than anything he could get after next year.

So what does this mean when it comes to Pierce? Schwartz likes to play hardball and stick to his guns, setting the table for what may be some contentious negotiating with Danny Ainge, who doesn’t like to be pushed around. Buckle your seatbelts folks, this one could get ugly.

Other Factors To Consider in Negotiations

-How much does Paul Pierce want to win? Or is he willing to follow the team that throws the most money at him? If that’s the case, he may be saying goodbye to Boston

-The Celtics are likely very happy Pierce opted out here, as it reduces their luxury tax burden for next year in a big way. Don’t go thinking though the C’s will have lots of cap room if they let Pierce and Ray walk. For further reference on that, be sure to read Zach Lowe’s terrific salary cap breakdown.

-What will Pierce’s market be? For some sense of perspective, Manu Ginoboli signed a 3 year/39 million dollar extension this past March. He’s also 32 years old. Pierce, at worse, should likely expect 1-2 million more a year over Manu, so 3 year/45 million is a likely starting point. You can bet though Pierce is going to want a 4th year.

-Ainge has shown a willingness to walk away from a vital player and not overpay them in free agency (a la James Posey). How much will his stance change, (if at all) for the face of a franchise like Paul Pierce?

Lots of questions, very few answers as of right now.

Prediction: It won’t be pretty, but this deal gets done. Pierce holds out for a 4th year and eventually gets it (team option with a reasonable buyout) 4 years 52 million.

  • dslack

    I don’t understand why he’d go for a 3 year $45M contract. He’s likely to lose year 2 to the lockout. So really that’s a contract that in years 1 and 3 pays $30M. If he hadn’t opted out, he’d get $21.5M in year 1 anyway. So he’d only have to score an $8.5M contract in year 3 to make the same amount of money that way. Even with the new CBA, I think that should be plenty doable.

    Okay, the lockout might not last the whole year. But then again, he should be able to get a lot more than $8.5M in year 3 anyway. Plus if the lockout doesn’t last all year, he’ll score some money for next year too.

    If he takes a 3-year $45M contract, I think that’s less than he would have gotten by simply playing out this one and taking a new one with the Celtics. So I think he’d only take a contract like that somewhere else.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    i agree with your prediction on the contract he can command….but i’m not so sure danny will give him that.

    may be the end of an era….if pierce goes, doc and ray are gone too…

  • http://rapidcow.com buzz

    Celtics should get Lebron!!!

  • Jay P

    Danny will only put in a 4th year if it’s a team option, you’re right there.

    He is flat out not going to lock Paul in to play through 38 years old, with no option to get the team out of the contract.

    If Paul holds out for a guaranteed 4th year, or a Player option, Danny will let him walk, he has to.

    That being said, I still believe the far more likely scenario is danny conceding 3 guaranteed years, and Paul settling for 3.

    3 years, 40 million.

  • NC

    Why the assumption that PP gets paid more than Manu? I’m a big fan of PP and the C’s but I don’t think he’s clearly better than Gnobs. Many would argue that it’s the other way around.

  • dslack

    @NC — Certainly PER would argue it’s the other way (i.e., that Manu is better).

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    and i think manu’s contract was a rare dumb move by the spurs (not that it won’t be used in negotiations).

    the other benchmark pierce’s agent will use is kobe’s recent 3 year/86M re-up. similar age, top player on a finals team, etc. not saying he is kobe but thats not how his agent will play it.

  • Zain

    Is it possible that Pierce perhaps wants a 3 year 45-50m, no trade clause contract? That’s what I’d be shooting for. Maybe Danny adds a 4th year team option, not so sure about that piece though.

  • luke walton

    Let the youth movement begin.

    I don’t want to watch the big three grow old and more injured and less effective together.

  • dslack

    @Zain
    But see my comment at the top. Why is 3 years $45M preferable to staying on his current contract, which pays him nearly half of that for just 1 year, given that 1 year of the 3 is likely never to be paid?

  • Handofdoom21

    Pp.

    3 year.

    32 mill.

  • Zain

    @dslack

    No trade clause, play longer, add to his legacy, retire as a celtic like he says he wants to. That’s my guess..

  • Steve

    I hope he signs for three years. I also hope they try to compete for the next two years and then rebuild once Garnett’s contract runs out. To that end, resign Ray Allen and hope Charlotte takes a package of Rasheed Wallace and Tony Allen via sign and trade for Tyson Chandler who has decided not to opt out. Chandler’s a risk with his injuries but he would provide rebounding and defense better than any of the free agent bigs or other bigs realistically available through trades. They would still have the MLE to go after Mike Miller or chop up for another big and a three point shooter.

  • Sophomore

    @dslack – I’m not sure you can bank on him losing a full year’s salary to lockout.

    And regardless, I don’t think anybody can be sure yet what next year’s Celtics team looks like or what PP’s other options might be. If the Cs decide to blow up the team, no way PP wants to be here.

  • Ricardo

    Only one name, DIRK Nowitzki, with big three, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnet y Ray Allen. Paul Pierce, bye.

  • Jeff

    So do you think that when thinking of first ballot HOF’s that people would pick Manu over PP?!!!

    If you do you’re nutts!!!

    If Paul wants 4 years I’d give it only on a Team option for the 4th. Otherwise 3yrs $42 mil is sufficient for a hometown deal.

    Otherwise Danny will tell Schwartz to shove it!!!

  • Berkcelt

    @dslack, that’s what I thought initially ie the 3yr/$45M not being preferable to $21M, but the extra $9M (and that’s probably worst case with a full season lockout) or whatever it is, is that much more in the bank. At 34, coming off a locked out season, I don’t think he would want to try free agency.

    I just wonder what numbers Wyc and Danny are willing to go to. My guess is 3 yrs maximum and they’d probably prefer 2 (but I don’t think that gets it done). Maybe they could frontload the deal to make a third year more palatable. I wonder if they also could get a provision in where they’d have to pay him part of his year 2 salary before a lockout would take effect.

  • dslack

    Yes, but he could have worked out an extension for $12M per year on top of his current deal to total $45M over 3 years anyway. Maybe Danny refused to do that, who knows?

  • dan

    So since Paul Pierce has opted out, what are the odds that the C’s end up with some cap room left after resigning Ray Allen and Paul Pierce? I don’t envision us getting anywhere near the max, but would we have enough room to sign a player at around 5-7 million?

  • K.J. Lee

    @Brian,

    ‘It won’t be pretty, but this deal gets done. Pierce holds out for a 4th year and eventually gets it (team option with a reasonable buyout) 4 years 52 million’.

    To even agree to a third year would be outright mortgaging our future.

    I predict that Ainge would offer a maximum of 40 million over two years, with a third year as the team option. Pierce would decline the offer and hopefully agree to a sign and trade to maximize his earnings. Meanwhile, Ainge tries to reload on the run around Rondo.

  • Paul

    I’m leaning towards blowing this team up now and rebuilding it under the new CBA. Too many teams have cap-space this summer, PP could get a big offer from the Clippers and it would be a terrible idea to match it. After Danny caved and gave Sheed a third year I have a bad feeling he will do the same thing with PP. Doc coming back certainly points to PP being resigned though.

  • K.J. Lee

    @Paul,

    There is a huge difference between the two cases. Sheed’s contract was the MLE. Pierce is asking for near maximum.

  • dslack

    @dan
    It doesn’t help. They only get $7M if Pierce, Ray, Nate, Scal, and Tony all re-sign for about $9M (or don’t just re-sign). They get $6M if the above folk re-sign for about $10M. The midlevel exception is about $6M. So the only way they do better than the midlevel is if Paul and Ray (and the rest) sign for a total of less than $10M. Not going to happen.

  • MP

    We should sign and trade Pierce for Melo, now that he might be on the trading block.

  • Paul

    @K.J.

    Well PP won’t be getting close to the maximum, but giving him a 4th year that isn’t a team option (like the third year with sheed should have been) would be a very poor decision considering how the landscape may change under a new CBA. But given what Pierce has meant to Boston and Doc’s statements about giving it another run makes me think that PP’s agent now has the upper hand in bargaining and can get a 4th year out of Danny and Wyc.

  • Paul

    @MP

    I wish! We would have to give up much more to get Melo who is just an all around better version of PP at this point. Maybe PP + Baby, Bradley, and a future 1st could do it. But I would give up anyone on this roster not named Rondo if it gets us Melo

  • CRizik

    If PP asks 52 millions for 4 years Danny Ainge should call him right now and sign a deal. We’re talking about 13 million per season.

  • Rich

    This should be fun. If a legit team, like the Heat, throw a near max deal his way…does it he take it?

  • K.J. Lee

    @Paul,

    If he ever agrees to a third or even fourth year, Ainge would be guilty of what Red has been being accused of. In all likelihood, we would be watching members of our own Big Three taking a long farewell tour over the next three to four seasons, even as we slip further away from contention. Ainge often said that he urged Red to trade Bird, McHale, and Parish to get something in return when it was clear that the window of opportunity as contenders had closed.

    Our present window of opportunity is nearly shut, unless Rondo, our best player, could develop a consistent jump shot and free throw. Even so, to complement his strengths, Rondo would have to play alongside a dominant scorer and a leading defensive rebounder. With each passing day, Pierce and Garnett are further away from the preceding.

  • http://www.truecloud.com Dave

    @KJ…Agree with you. Pierce has got to do what he thinks is best for him. I tink Schwartz is going to get a surprise in a couple of weeks when the highest profile FAs get situated.

    I think the teams that have worked their butts off to create cap space but can’t sign Lebron will wind up going for the younger FAs for smaller money and shorter deals.

    I don’t see anyway this guy is worth a 4 year $15M deal. More power to him if he can get it, but if he does get it he’ll be playing for the Clippers or the Nyets for the rest of his career.

    The Celtics are insane if they go beyond two years for a 33 year old small forward. They need to make sure that they time the departures of the Big Three to take no longer than 2 more years when KG’s contract runs out.

  • http://www.truecloud.com Dave

    Sorry..meant to say $15M per year for 4 years

  • I love Green

    Pierce + Bradley + 2 future 1st rounders for Melo and Ty Lawson.

    Now that would be awesome.

  • dslack

    @IloveGreen,

    Come on. Imagine you’re Denver. Is there any way you do that deal?

  • Zain

    @Dslack

    Nope. Denver would never do that.

  • MP

    They would if they had to trade Melo (which they might) and had no better offer. But I can’t imagine someone else wouldn’t offer a better deal.

  • willrudmin31

    Any chance this is a ploy by the celtics to sign one of these big free agents then use the Larry Bird exception to resign Pierce.

  • http://wickerchaise.net Wicker Chaise

    It was good that they were able to retain Pierce, he really is their primary scorer and will be for some time. Him and Rondo work well together.

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