As ESPN’s Marc Stein first reported , Paul Pierce  will opt out of the final year of his contract, which will make him a free agent on July 1. While Pierce is leaving $21.5 million on the table, he is setting himself up for a longer deal before a new collective bargaining agreement is in place following next season.
The move, while not unexpected, makes Danny Ainge’s life a little more difficult as he attempts to bring back the core of the Celtics  team for another run. The Celtics still retain Bird rights on Pierce and Ray Allen , which allows them to go over to the cap to re-sign both of them.
That remains the best course of action for Ainge. Despite their status as free agents, Pierce and Allen are still tied to the Celtics cap in the form of cap holds at around $20 million each until they sign a new deal. The Celtics would have to renounce both players, as well as the remaining six free agents on the roster, in order to get significantly under the cap to pursue free agents.
There is a chance that a team like the Clippers, Nets or Knicks could make a run at Pierce if they fail to sign LeBron James .
The big question on new deals for Pierce, and for Allen, is the length. Ainge would prefer to tie everything back to Kevin Garnett’s contract, which has two years remaining, but he may be forced to go to three, or even four years in Pierce’s case.
Still left to be determined before the start of free agency is whether Doc Rivers  will return to coach the team, which may also have an impact on whether Pierce and Allen want to return.