On Tuesday, Comcast aired a conversation between Paul Pierce  and Greg Dickerson, who asked Pierce about his contract situation. For those who don’t know, the captain has a $21.5 million option sitting on the table for the 2010-11 season. Ordinarily, this would be a no-brainer. As a general rule NBA players (or anyone else, for that matter) don’t leave $21 million sitting on the table.
But the Celtics  will have some interesting financial decisions to make after this season. Ray Allen’s  contract will be up, and we’ll know by the end of the month if they have extended Rajon Rondo  or whether he’ll be a restricted free agent. Add to that Wyc Grousbeck’s cryptic comment last summer that there was a scenario where the Celtics  could be a player in the fabled free agency class of 2010, and suddenly the Pierce option is no longer such a no-brainer. (Worth noting that Grousbeck said that before the Celtics signed Rasheed Wallace  to a three-year deal).
Before we get to all that, let’s go to the videotape.
Pierce said two things of note during the conversation.
“I definitely want to retire as a Celtic. As far as my option goes, I haven’t really given it any thought.”
“I want to do what’s best for the team. If that means doing whatever to keep guys here and make this team strong for the next three or four years, I’m willing to do it.”
That’s pretty consistent with what Pierce has said at other times during camp. But CSN’s Gary Tanguay wrote on his Twitter page : “Pierce told CSN he will re-work his contract to keep players in Boston,” which then made the rumors page on Hoops Hype , which brought it to the attention of True Hoop , which had an item by ESPN’s Marc Stein outlining the scenarios by which “doing whatever” became Pierce opting out and/or signing an extension, which could spread out the cash and free up some cap space, which got play on Celtics Blog  and Celtics Hub  Thursday night, to name two.
First things first. The Celtics already have about $33 million-plus committed to Kevin Garnett,  Kendrick Perkins , Glen Davis  and Wallace for 2010-11. Add to that a “cap hold” of $6.3 million for Rondo if he doesn’t sign an extension, and we’re already looking at about $40 million for five players before Pierce even does anything, let alone before the team makes a decision on Allen. The salary cap for this season is set at $57.7 million  and there has already been talk that will trend down in 2010-11 . (Celtics Blog has a good look at the down and dirty ).
Second, this sets up an unrealistic set of expectations for Pierce, who has already shown on the court that he is willing to “do whatever” to help the Celtics win games. That should be more than enough before anyone asks him to leave a pile of dough on the table.
The Celtics are positioned to win this season, if everyone stays healthy. There are way too many factors at play to go much beyond that.