You do think about that, getting schmoozed. You never say never in this business, but it would be very tough for me to do that [leave Boston.]”-- Celtics captain Paul Pierce, on whether he would consider opting out of his contract in July and testing free agency
The sum at hand is sufficiently staggering -- more than $21 million -- to pretty much assure that Paul Pierce will look at the temptation of unfettered free agency this summer and say, "Nah. What's the point?"
The Celtics' captain has an early termination option for the 2010-2011 season. To join LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the other glittering free agents this summer, all he has to do is notify the Celtics before July 1 that he wishes to opt out of the final year of his deal. He would forfeit the $21.5 million owed him for next season. He then would be an unrestricted free agent, able to sign with whomever he pleased.
Asked if he has given any thought to what he might do this summer, Pierce said, "Well, at least I know I won't be on the [US world championship-bound] team." He laughed, then continued, "I really haven't given it that much thought. I've always said I wanted to finish my career as a Celtic. And a long as we have the players here to compete [for a title], I want to be here. But really, I haven't given it that much thought. I suppose I will when it's time."
This issue hasn't kept Danny Ainge or ownership from losing any sleep. Asked if he had any idea what Pierce might be thinking, Ainge said, simply, "No." Ownership views Pierce as a Celtic For Life and will do what it can to ensure that happens.
But opting out and being a Celtic For Life may not be mutually exclusive. In fact, Pierce and his agent may look at the NBA landscape over the next couple years and try to get Pierce a new deal for a number of years. True, he'd be giving up a boatload of cash in the short run. But he might be able to recoup it while (a) still playing until he's 36 or 37 (he turns 33 in October) and (b) still playing for the Celtics. Ownership might jump at that as well, for it would lower the payroll in 2010-11, though not enough to make the Celtics players in free agency.
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