NBA Free Agents: Paul Pierce Opts Out, the Truth Hurts for the Boston Celtics

James Brown@@chasingballgameSenior Analyst IJune 30, 2010

Does Paul Pierce opting out signal the end of the Celtics?

Here is the next installment of the crazy free agent summer of 2010 in the NBA. LeBron James led the way of NBA All-Stars that are testing out the free agent market in hopes of getting a big payday and a championship ring. That is just the beginning of the story.

I wrote an article on the odds of LeBron James switching teams and mentioned other great all-stars such as Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, and Joe Johnson.

However, that list has changed dramatically since Paul Pierce opted out of his contract with the Boston Celtics. Brobury Sports has yet to put out odds on where Paul Pierce will land, but it may be just a matter of time.

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Dirk Nowitzki opted out as well, but it is almost 100 percent sure that Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks will give him a max contract and keep him in Dallas. The same cannot be said for Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics.

The reason Paul Pierce opted out of his contract is simple. Like many NBA players before him, he is going after the money before a potential new collective bargaining agreement can reduce the salaries of players. He left $21.5 million on the table and is searching for a max contract. This is in the best interest of Paul Pierce, but not the Celtics fans.

The Boston Celtics just don’t have enough cap room to sign Pierce to a max deal and get involved in the free agent market. For those of you that believe that Pierce opted out so the Celtics can lure a free agent and then re-sign Pierce for a max deal using the Larry Bird rights, think again.

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The salary cap of the Boston Celtics and the Larry Bird rule is broken down quite nicely by Celtics Hub, and the future looks bleak. The Celtics can either sign Paul Pierce or get involved in free agency, but they can’t do both.

The Celtics are in flux right now. Kendrick Perkins needs surgery, Rasheed Wallace is retiring, Ray Allen’s future is a question mark, Doc Rivers may retire, and now Paul Pierce is opting out.

Once LeBron signs with a team, the dominoes will start to fall and the teams that missed out will be scrambling to make amends for missing out on the King and Paul Pierce will be a prime target.

Danny Ainge has already admitted the Celtics won’t be able to match what other teams are offering. Asked to gauge the likelihood of re-signing Pierce, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said last week on WEEI radio in Boston, “I don’t know because he may be able to get a long-term contract somewhere else. It may be better than what we have [to offer].”

Paul Pierce has nothing more to prove in Boston and regardless of where he ends his career he will always be a Celtics legend. He has eight All-Star appearances and he was the NBA Finals MVP when he won what could be his only ring in Boston.

The Celtics may have showed their hand by drafting Avery Bradley with the first pick in the NBA draft. Although I named them as one of the league’s losers in the draft, this may be an indication that the Celtics have no intent of re-signing Ray Allen.

If Ray Allen is not re-signed and Doc Rivers hangs it up it would make it easier for Paul Pierce to pick up his things, take a max contact and finish up on a team that can win a ring right now.

If LeBron signs elsewhere it would be very tempting for Pierce to suit up next to Wade in Miami or take the court in Chicago next to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

The writing is on the wall in Boston and for the fans of the franchise and the immediate future, it does not look pretty.

The truth is Paul Pierce may have played his last game in a Boston Celtics uniform.

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