Report: Paul Pierce Will Opt Out, Become Free Agent
Pierce's agent has confirmed Pierce will exercise his early termination option in his contract, leaving over $21 million on the table next season while in pursuit of a long-term contract, Ken Berger of CBS reports.
Pierce joins Ray Allen as an unrestricted free agent and will attract his fair share of suitors. The most likely scenario results in Pierce returning to Boston, but either way, this decision will have ramifications for the Celtics and the league.
Even if Pierce signs a max contract, the most he can earn in 2010-11 is $20.8 million -- but he's obviously willing to take a pay cut for one season in exchange for long-term security. And by signing this year, Pierce avoids the uncertainty surrounding the next collective bargaining agreement, which is still being negotiated and will take effect next summer. The new CBA will likely include a reduced salary cap, with a slight chance of a hard cap. By opting out, Pierce enables himself to take advantage of the higher salary structure.
Even as Pierce's athleticism begins to wane with age, he's still a top-notch player for a Finals-contending team. That, combined with the sheer number of teams with available cap space, will result in Pierce getting offers. The Celtics' plan consistently has been to retain Pierce and Allen in order to make one more run with this core. But try to conceptualize a Celtics team with Pierce and Allen playing elsewhere. It's a possibility, no matter how remote.
Pierce has strong ties to California, and was not happy when the Celtics were out of the championship picture. With the C's having just fallen short in the Finals, it's possible he's receptive to leaving the team that drafted him. It's unlikely, but it's out there. The Celtics will actually have some cap room with those two players opting out, but Pierce and Allen are likely the best free agents who would be interested in joining Boston.
So Yao Ming is staying and Paul Pierce is going.
This summer keeps getting weirder and weirder.