For the past several months it’s been the general consensus that the Boston Celtics payroll structure would derail any opportunity to sign one of the significant free agents of the 2010 class. It was thought that due to the Celtics being some $25 million over the cap this season, that even with the loss of Ray Allen, the team would still be over the cap and unable to sign any 2010 free agent. Well, that consensus could be wrong.
This theory all depends on lifetime Boston Celtic Paul Pierce. Right here on Tanguay and Zolak earlier this season, we spoke about Pierce’s willingness to opt out of his contract to work a “team friendly” deal. Now the initial thought was Pierce was doing this in order for the Celtics to resign Ray Allen and their own players, while not endangering the team’s overall salary cap. Well, that initial thought, while reasonable, might not go deep enough into what the C’s captain is able to do by opting out.
A couple years ago, the L.A. Clippers were looking at Baron Davis and were trying to find ways to keep Elton Brand and Davis on the same team. This is when Brand went to team management and told them that he could get Davis to come to L.A. Sounds great, but how? Well, the logic was that Brand would; a) opt out of his $16 million player option to help the Clippers cap number, then the team would b) sign Baron Davis while they were currently under the cap and then, c) Brand would then resign with L.A. End result, Clippers get both Davis and Brand. Now that we have that background, let’s fast forward to the C’s and Pierce.
Pierce, before the season began, let it be known he would opt out and “help the team.” One can surmise that the captain could be hinting at pulling a “Brand”. If Pierce and Ray Allen both come off the books, the team would be roughly $18-$20 million under the cap. This would allow the hometown team to offer some of that money to one of the free agents that have been written about ad nauseum. Joe Johnson a possibility? Once that free agent is signed, Pierce would then be able to go back to management and ink his own deal. The question is how much each player will want and if the Celtics would be able to maneuver around the cap to accomodate each player? That question is too deep into the CBA for me to break it down, but an NBA source tells the Tanguay and Zolak show that they believe it’s possible.
Now, this scenario could go wrong in a couple of different ways. Pierce could end up leaving the Celtics in the end, much like Brand leaving L.A. for Philly. However, I highly doubt that Pierce would decide to let his intentions be known to all of Boston, opt out and then decide to bail out on the organization that he has stated he’d like to retire with. Pierce is a guy who is incredibly aware of his “legacy” and would like to do nothing more than keep that intact.
A move also like this could affect the club’s depth, but the C’s would still be able to resign their own, use the mid-level exception or sign some veterans to fill out their roster with veteran minimum contracts. You could fill out your bench with valuable pieces, while starting a hypothetical lineup of Rajon Rondo at the PG, Joe Johnson at the SG, Pierce at SF, Kevin Garnett at PF and Kendrick Perkins in the middle.
So, there’s the hidden truth (no pun intended) behind how the Celtics can indeed circumvent the cap and look toward the future. We thought it was wasn’t possible. We thought it was going to take a “dream” scenario that included Lucky with his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Well, the reality of the situation is that it could happen and that Paul Pierce could be more important to the Celtics than we all first thought.