Nets GM Billy King told reporters recently that he would make retaining Shaun Livingston his top priority this offseason, but apparently he didn’t mean to imply that the club wouldn’t like to re-sign Paul Pierce, who’s also set for free agency this summer. King said on the “Joe and Evan” show on CBS Radio New York today that the team wants to keep Pierce, but he pointed to Pierce’s Bird rights as an advantage that will make it easier to re-sign him than to bring back Livingston, with whom the Nets have only non-Bird rights. Tim Bontemps of the New York Post passes along King’s remark via Twitter.
The Nets could go up to the maximum salary to re-sign Pierce, though it’s highly unlikely that they’d do so, even given the team’s profligate spending. Still, Pierce’s Bird rights allow the team to re-sign him without dipping into any of its other exceptions, which is just what the team will likely need to do to keep Livingston, whose non-Bird rights only provide for 120% of the minimum salary. The 28-year-old shooting guard has become a starter for Brooklyn, so it appears the team’s only recourse for keeping him will be to use all or part of the taxpayer’s mid-level exception, which would allow for a three-year contract with a starting salary of $3.278MM. It’s because of these financial limitations that Livingston is the team’s No. 1 focus, King also said on radio, as Bontemps tweets.
King said last week that he hadn’t offered an extension to Pierce, though few veterans sign extensions because the terms mandated under the current collective bargaining agreement don’t make sense for many players. Pierce recently expressed a willingness to return to the Celtics, with whom he spent his entire career until the trade that brought him to Brooklyn last summer, and Boston’s second all-time leading scorer has admitted that he never wanted to leave.
Still, the Celtics are a rebuilding team, and they have Rajon Rondo‘s impending 2015 free agency to worry about. The 36-year-old Pierce remains a productive player this season, averaging 13.6 points on 9.7 shots per game with a 16.4 PER. Pierce might have to take a discount to play with Boston, while the Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has shown a willingness to spend whatever necessary to build his team.