Reports from Boston continue to suggest that Paul Pierce’s time in green may be coming to a close.
Ohio News-Herald reporter Bob Finnan indicated on Sunday that the Celtics are ‘likely’ to buy out the remainder of Pierce’s contract to slash their salary and keep them out of the luxury tax.
Pierce is currently on the books for one final, $15.3 million season in Boston and a buyout would cost $5 million. While the veteran small forward has been an erstwhile servant of the club all through his illustrious career, injuries have ravaged his aging body this season and left him a shell of his former self.
For Boston fans, this would be a bitter pill to swallow. Pierce stuck with the team while they were floundering at the bottom of the league and took them, along with Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to championship glory in 2008, securing the first championship for the franchise since 1986.
With point guard Rajon Rondo still rehabbing his torn ACL, the Celtics’ 2013-14 plan seems to be to let him recover and rebuild around one of the best young guards in the league.
However, the team is over the salary cap and just nearing the luxury tax line, which, for a non-contending team is perilous. With Pierce’s money off the books, the Celtics would have some room to make improvements to an injury-depleted roster. Whether this forces Garnett into retirement or elsewhere will form a crucial facet of their approach to Pierce.
Garnett has indicated his preference to also retire a Celtic and has the added leverage of a no-trade clause he received in his last contract that allows him to veto any trade the Celtics may propose for him.
The Celtics could also opt to find a trade partner for Pierce, though finding a team willing give up the kind of young, valuable assets Boston needs in return might not be easy. That would also include the risk of getting an aging, injury-prone veteran who may even want a buyout from his new team without playing a minute.
Celtics’ owner Wyc Grousbeck has indicated his preference for the two future Hall of Fame players to have one more season in Bean Town, a final hurrah for one of the greatest teams of the past decade.