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Can Paul Pierce Rework His Contract?

10/20/2009

By Marc Stein

Read a pretty provocative item on HoopsHype on Wednesday about Paul Pierce saying he’s prepared “to re-work his contract to keep players in Boston.”

Which would be a rather helpful development given that Ray Allen is in the final year of his contract and hoping for a new one, while Rajon Rondo remains hopeful of landing a contract extension this month before the Oct. 31 deadline.

Only one problem.

Restructuring contracts in the NBA can only happen when a team is under the salary cap and almost never happen even then. The Celtics, of course, are more than $14 million over the luxury-tax line this season, so it’s somewhat of a moot point in this case.

Pierce, though, would have two options if he wants to save the Celts some money:

1) The 2008 NBA Finals MVP can sign an extension at any time over the next two seasons that kicks in starting with 2011-12, but league rules say that the first-year salary in a new deal can only be reduced by a maximum of 10.5 percent from the $21.5 million Pierce is owed in 2010-11. That means the starting salary in an extension could only drop to $19.3 million.

UPDATE: My initial info from a cap expert on the first option has since been amended by another cap expert. More drastic reductions in salary are permissible in extensions, as seen recently when Washington’s Antawn Jamison went from $16.4 million to $9.9 million in the first year of his Wizards extension in 2008-09 ... and when Pierce’s teammate Kevin Garnett went from $24.8 million in the final year of his last Minnesota contract to $16.4 million with Boston last season.

2) Pierce could take the unlikely and rarely seen step of opting out of his contract after this season, leaving next season’s $21.5 million on the table and signing a long-term deal at a reduced rate.

Pierce has said repeatedly this week that he doesn’t plan to give his future deep thought until after the season. After digging out the actual clip from his conversation with Celtics sideline reporter Greg Dickerson, it must be noted that Pierce himself never used the word “rework” -- that came from someone else’s Twitter feed -- but did re-iterate that he hopes to “retire a Celtic” and reveal that he wants “to do what’s best for the team.”

Said Pierce: “If it means me doing whatever to keep guys here and makin’ this team stronger next year . . . then I’m willing to do it.”

Something to file away, perhaps.