If the Celtics  can unload captain Paul Pierce  to a team with enough cap space to absorb his $15.3 million contract next season — acquiring an equally hefty trade exception in return — Danny Ainge already has a sign-and-trade package prepared to offer the Hawks for unrestricted free agent Josh Smith, according to a Sporting News report .
The Bucks and Cavaliers  have both been rumored among potential Pierce suitors , but the Celtics legend’s desire to play for a contender if he doesn’t stay in Boston remains an apparent hurdle for Ainge, who also reportedly wants a first-round pick back for Pierce.
Unless Ainge finds a trade destination for Pierce or both agree to extend the deadline, the C’s must decide by July 1 whether to pay Pierce his $15.3 million or cut him for $5 million against the cap.
While Sporting News reporter Sean Deveney‘s source did not divulge any details of a potential sign-and-trade deal for Smith, the Celtics would reportedly be willing to offer the athletic 27-year-old $15 million.
However, Smith could receive as much as $17.5 million on the open market from teams with the salary cap space (i.e., the Bucks, who sought Smith at the trade deadline), throwing yet another wrinkle into Ainge’s rebuilding plans this summer.
Of course, Smith and Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo  have been close friends since their days as roommates at Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) Academy. The mercurial Hawks forward has admitted being “a little jealous ” of Rondo’s Boston experience in addition to conceding that a trade to the C’s was “a possibility ” in February.