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What Pierce’s new deal means for the Celtics

07.02.10 at 9:59 am ET
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Multiple outlets are reporting that the Celtics have reached an agreement with Paul Pierce on a new contract that will likely keep him in Boston for the duration of his career. A source told Jeff Goodman of WEEI.com/FoxSports.com that the total package would be worth $61 million over four years, with all four years guaranteed.

Pierce left $21.5 million on the table for next season by terminating the final year of his contract and the new deal gives him certainty in what promises to be an uncertain NBA. The collective bargaining agreement is set to expire after the 2010-11 season, and the expectation is that the owners will try to rein in player’s salaries.

Pierce’s new deal will take the Celtics over the salary cap, but it may provide some luxury-tax relief in the long run, which is no small consideration.

There are risks for the Celtics. Pierce will be 36 years old in the final year of the deal, which can’t be finalized or officially announced until next week. It will also take him well beyond Kevin Garnett’s contract, which has two seasons remaining.

But four years is the cost of keeping the team together for another run at a championship and that has been Danny Ainge’s plan all along. Doc Rivers elected to return for the final season of his coaching contract earlier in the week, but the work is only half done.

Re-signing Ray Allen is now the top priority and that’s a process that will likely last into the month of July. Allen’s ability as a shooter is coveted throughout the league and there have been reports that top free agents like LeBron James have been pitching Allen on joining him wherever he lands.

The key question for Allen and the Celtics is the length of a new contract. Two years would be ideal, but three might be more realistic and that would at least allow Ainge to go year-to-year with his veterans after Garnett’s contract runs its course.

The re-signing of Pierce leaves the Celtics with six players under contract for next season, plus rookie first round pick Avery Bradley, and takes them up to the salary cap level. [Full salary cap figures will be announced next week by the league when deals can become official.]

It was never a realistic option for the Celtics to get under the cap and try to land one of the Max-level free agents, as the outsized deals for Joe Johnson and Rudy Gay showed in the early stages of the free agent process.

Beyond Allen, the Celtics are still in the market for a big man who can step in and start while Kendrick Perkins rehabs from knee surgery, which is expected to take place next week. Early indications are that Perkins will be out until January. The Celtics have the mid-level exception to use in that pursuit and have been tied to Brad Miller, among others.

There is also the matter of  Rasheed Wallace, who has indicated that he will retire, but hasn’t filed the paperwork yet. He has two years and about $13 million left on his contract and that has suddenly turned into a valuable trade commodity. Ainge could conceivably trade Wallace’s contract, perhaps as part of a package in a sign-and-trade with another of the Celtics free agents, for a big man who is already under contract.

Golden State’s Andris Biedrinis has been mentioned as has Dallas’ Erick Dampier.

There are still several moves for Ainge to make before the 2010-11 roster takes shape, but the big pieces of his plan are falling into place.

Read More: free agency, NBA Rumor Mill 2010, Paul Pierce,
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