Paul Pierce can envision playing for the Celtics again, and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge can see Pierce returning to Boston, too, if the price and circumstances are right, as Ainge said this morning on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, tweets Ben Rohrbach of WEEI. The 36-year-old Pierce becomes a free agent in the summer, though the Nets would like to re-sign him, too.
Pierce spent all 15 of his NBA seasons with the Celtics before they traded him to the Nets this past summer. He talked teammate Kevin Garnett into waiving his no-trade clause to help facilitate the move, but Pierce was emotional upon his return to Boston to play against the Celtics this season, and said he never wanted to leave. Much of Pierce’s decision this summer might come down to whether Garnett, who has one more year left on his contract, retires at the end of this season.
The Nets have Pierce’s full Bird rights, though it’s almost certain that he’ll have to take a pay cut from his current salary of more than $15.3MM. The Celtics have about $45MM in commitments for next season, though that doesn’t include the rookie salary for Boston’s lottery pick and a $3.8MM player option for Joel Anthony that he’s almost certain to exercise. Anthony and the rookie would give the Celtics nine players and roughly $10MM worth of cap flexibility, plus some form of the mid-level exception, so there’s probably a path back to Boston for Pierce if both sides are motivated enough to get a deal done.