Despite multiple reports circulating that the Celtics most likely plan is to buyout Paul Pierce before June 30, when his contract becomes fully guaranteed, GM Danny Ainge has not made a decision yet, according to CSSNE Celtics Insider A. Sherrod Blakely.
Danny Ainge can only chuckle when asked about the latest round of rumors involving the Celtics, who are reportedly “likely” to buy out Paul Pierce’s contract for $5 million.
“Nothing surprises me,” Ainge told CSNNE.com. “I’ll just let speculation continue.”
Pierce is scheduled to make $15.3 million next season but, if the Celtics waive him before June 30, he will only be owed $5 million. Ainge is unlikely to make his decision before the NBA Draft on June 27, because Pierce’s contract could be used as trade bait for a team looking to add a veteran swingman, or a team looking to shed salary to get under the luxury tax line, or the cap.
What Ainge decides regarding Pierce could have something of a ripple effect in Boston. Kevin Garnett was quoted towards the end of the season, saying, ”‘I’ll be honest, I’ll be lying to you if I said Paul didn’t play into [my decision]‘.”
Garnett is under contract for the 2013-2014 season, with a partially guaranteed salary for 2014-2015, but he is among the career leaders in terms of accumulated salary, so money is unlikely to be the deciding factor. More likely, Garnett’s health and his comfort-level with the Celtics roster situation will be the driving forces behind his decision to return, or retire.
Meanwhile, Celtics coach Doc Rivers has not confirmed that he will return to coach next season, despite 3 years and $21 million remaining on his contract. It is expected that Rivers will ultimately resume his duties, but if Pierce is bought out or traded, and Kevin Garnett retires, then Rivers could very well have a change of heart. There aren’t many people in the NBA–players or coaches– more competitive than Doc Rivers, and he may be hesitant to reside over a rebuilding effort.
Because Ainge’s decision regarding Pierce will not be made in a vacuum, and because of the complexity of the Celtics’ salary cap situation, it is highly unlikely that Ainge has made up his mind yet, as Blakely’s report indicates. Tomorrow, we will delve deeper into the Celtics’ cap situation, and the varied options Ainge has in his decision to retain, trade, or buyout Pierce.