The future of 36-year-old Paul Pierce‘s playing career is closely tied to that of Kevin Garnett, who’s giving no indications about whether he’ll retire, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com writes. Garnett’s return will make re-signing with the Nets a more attractive option as Pierce enters free agency this summer, but if KG walks away, Pierce would have greater interest in pursuing his already-burgeoning interest in signing with the Clippers, according to Stein. Such a move would reunite him with Doc Rivers, who coached Pierce and Garnett on the Celtics.
Pierce appeared unsure if he wanted to stay in Brooklyn as he spoke to reporters after Wednesday’s season-ending loss to the Heat, observes Andy Vasquez of The Record. He also said that while he still feels he can help a team, he senses the number of years he has left is down to “maybe one or two at the most.”
Tim Bontemps of the New York Post wrote this week that all indications were that Garnett and Pierce would be back with Brooklyn next season. There nonetheless appears to be mutual interest between Pierce and the Celtics, and Stein mentions a return to Boston as a possibility in his piece. Stein also points to the Lakers, noting that Pierce is a Southern California native, but it’s unclear if he has any real interest in wearing purple-and-gold.
Nets GM Billy King has expressed his interest in re-signing the 16-year veteran, pointing to Brooklyn’s Bird rights on Pierce as an advantage. Pierce seems unlikely to command a salary close to the more than $15MM he made this season, but Brooklyn can outbid the Clippers, particularly given Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s willingness to pay whatever it takes. The Clips have more than $66MM in commitments for next season, limiting them to the non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception.
Still, Pierce has made nearly $185MM in his career, per Basketball-Reference, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned down an aggressive bid by the Nets to join a Clippers team that appears closer to a championship, especially if Garnett retires. The league might have stepped in had Pierce wound up on Rivers’ team this season, given the NBA’s sensitivity to the idea that there would be more than draft compensation involved in the trade that sent Rivers from Boston to L.A. A year’s removal and Pierce’s unrestricted free agency probably means the league will let him play for Rivers if that’s what he wants to do, though that’s just my speculation.