Despite the fact that a slew of media outlets have confirmed that Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics have agreed in principle to a new four-year contract worth $60 million dollars, Gary Washburn of the Globe is now saying the deal is not done just yet:
Despite several reports that a deal has been consummated, there has been no agreement on a potential four-year contract, according to the source, and there was little progress made yesterday.
The Pierce camp would like a four-year, fully guaranteed deal at about $15 million per season, but the Celtics are haggling as to whether to fully guarantee the fourth year, which would end the contract when Pierce is 36.
The sides have been talking since Pierce opted out of the final year of his contract, worth $21.5 million, late Tuesday night. Pierce, according to those close to the situation, has not negotiated with another club. The sides can only agree on a deal at this point; free agent contracts cannot be officially signed until July 8.
Well, there was a lot of speculation that the length of the contract would be a hiccup in the midst of this process. As Jeff Clark pointed out the other day, Pierce is clearly looking for financial security and the chance to end his career with the team he began it with, while the Celtics want to keep Pierce around, but not necessarily at the expense of Rajon Rondo's prime a few years down the line.
I suppose you can't blame the Celtics for not wanting to guarantee that fourth year, simply because some sort of rebuilding process will have to commence at some point in the semi-near future, perhaps as early as the 2012 offseason when Kevin Garnett's contract comes off the books.
So, should we be concerned? Personally, I for one am not. I fully expect the two sides to reach an agreement before July 8 (when free agents can officially sign with teams), and I wouldn't even be horribly opposed to the fourth year being guaranteed, as long as Pierce knows he might be part of a rebuilding process in the last one or two years of the deal (unless Ainge can rebuild on the fly over the course of the next few years, with Pierce obviously taking a lesser role as new players are brought in. I certainly wouldn't be shocked if Danny found a way to make that work).
In terms of cap space in four years, as of right now, if Pierce does sign a deal that would pay him roughly $15 million per season, only his and Rondo's contracts would be on the payroll, totaling about $27 million. Even though a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) will be negotiated on at the end of next season, if the salary cap heading into the 2013-2014 season resembles anything close to the projected $56 million salary cap for next season, the C's will still have about $30 million in cap space to sign other players. But, it seems safe to say other moves will take place in between now and then, so I'm sure we'll see more than just Rondo and Pierce signed to deals at that point.
Will the Celtics be overpaying for Pierce in three of four years? Perhaps. But, I don't think it's outlandish to say Pierce has at least two very good seasons left in him, if not three, depending on how kind Father Time is to him. So, for the next two years you could argue that the C's are getting Pierce at a quality price, and he's still going to serve as one of the key cogs for a team that seems to be aiming towards remaining contenders for the championship for at least the next two seasons.