Glen Davis was bought out this week. Ben Gordon was bought out too. Hey, that sounds like a great idea, we should do it with Gerald Wallace, right? In a word, no.
First I'll give you the public explanations, then I'll laugh at them, then I'll tell you the real reason.
And while the Celtics were certainly open to the idea of trading him prior to last week's trade deadline, it's clear that head coach Brad Stevens loves having the veteran around. "He's just a tough guy," Stevens said. "Just a tough guy to come out and put it all out there like that."
"That ain't my thing," Wallace said when asked about buyouts. "My thing is wherever I'm at, I'm gonna play and make the best of the situation and hopefully something changes or something. If not, I'm satisfied with the situation that I'm in."
That's nice and all, but none of that would matter a lick if either party had a way out of this forced marriage.
The key difference between Wallace and those other guys that got bought out is the years left on their deals. Gordon was set to be a free agent at the end of this year. Glen Davis had one year left and just $6M left on his deal. Their teams tried hard to trade them for some kind of value and didn't get any takers at the deadline. So they were cut with twenty-something games left. The Magic will likely eat most of the $6M for next year for Davis, but in the big picture that's not a whole lot and they might have gotten him to reduce his contract by roughly the amount that he thinks he can get by signing elsewhere this year (probably the vet min.).
Gerald Wallace has two years left on his deal (at $10M a year) and if the Celtics waive him or buy him out, they'll still be on the hook for nearly all of that against the cap and they would lose any slim chance of trading him.
For Wallace, in theory he could retire or agree to rip up his contract or something like that, but that would also mean leaving $20M in cash on the table, and that's simply not going to happen. In fact, if he tried, I'm pretty sure the players association would step in and try to talk him out of it.
The only option that the Celtics have at their disposal is the stretch provision. I've explained this option before so I'll just quote myself here.
So for Gerald Wallace, his salary would be counted as a cap hit of about $4M over 5 years instead of 2 years, $10M. Pick your poison. Do you want his cap hit being a drag on the books for the next 5 years after this one? Or would you rather just take the pain now and get him off the books in 2.5 years? We know we aren't competing this year and the chances of signing a max free agent this summer are pretty slim, so there doesn't seem to be a huge rush to clear his cap number. Also, in a year and a half, he magically becomes a trade asset as his contract becomes an expiring deal.
Expiring deals aren't worth what they once were now that GMs have gotten wise about not giving out really bad long term deals. So chances are he's going to be around for next year and likely through the trade deadline the following year. Then, and only then, will he be a buyout candidate.
The only exception would be if the Celtics really needed to free up cap room this summer in order to make a major free agent signing or trade. The would gain about $6M in cap room this year, but leave dead money on the cap for the next 5 years. Doesn't seem like a great option to me.
So once again, all signs point toward Gerald Wallace being around for a long time.
So the best thing is to allow Brad Stevens' soothing voice lull you into a zen like state of calm as you chant his words back to him about Wallace being a tough, veteran guy that's great to have around.
Or you could find your happy place by remembering all those Nets draft picks we have coming to us in part because we agreed to take on Wallace's albatross contract.