It didn't take long for the rumors to start. In fact, Ken Berger states that the test results weren't even finalized before rival execs started leaking that they could see interest in Paul Pierce heating up around the league.
One team that rival execs expect to be at the forefront of the Pierce pursuit is Memphis, which delayed but did not solve its long-term payroll concerns by getting under the luxury-tax line with last week's trade with Cleveland. While Memphis can survive for the rest of this season without trading Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol, it still cannot sustain such a top-heavy payroll for the next two seasons. Pierce would keep the Grizzlies dangerous -- arguably, make them more dangerous -- for the rest of this season, and allow them to reorganize their spending as soon as next season.
Blah. I hate this.
Update: Steve Bulpett adds to the rumor of interest around the league, but rightly pours cold water on the idea of a fire sale.
There was word last night from two league executives that teams will now look more closely at the Celts to see if a piece or two can be harvested for other clubs’ runs. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge will most certainly receive offers for captain Paul Pierce, and even some complementary pieces could draw interest. But amid calls from the crowd to blow things up, one must keep in mind that, in the NBA, the Celtics would have to take back similar salaries when trading players away. So unless an opposing general manager has young and promising players that a.) the C’s want and b.) add up to somewhere in the vicinity of the nearly $17 million Pierce will make this season, then the prospect of a deal is pretty much a non-starter. It’s also possible the Celts could take a chance on a player with a longer deal, but we already know they’re wary of talented problems (see: Cousins, DeMarcus).
More from Stein:
Grizz, I'm told, highly unlikely to pursue Pierce. Fear No. 1: How happy would Pierce be trading Boston for Memphis? They can guess answer— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 28, 2013
If Grizz move Gay they hope to address depth/shooting deficiencies and/or add youth and/or balance payroll better. Pierce doesn't quite fit— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 28, 2013
Celts, meantime, have shown exploratory interest in Gay but they're $1.3M over tax line. Adding long-term money at this juncture? Unlikely— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 28, 2013
Sense I get is it's far likelier Celts pursue Kyle Lowry and his cap-friendly contract. But do Celts have assets to land Raps PG? We'll see— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 28, 2013
Danny Ainge seen as a try-anything dice roller but trading legends like Pierce & KG way harder than shopping Rondo. Skeptical Danny's ready— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 28, 2013