If Pietrus remains a member of the Celtics, as the nine-year veteran from Guadeloupe has expressed a desire to do, it will not be for the veteran's minimum salary. Bill McCandless, Pietrus' agent, told WEEI that "MP will not play for the NBA's veteran minimum, period," and, indeed, Pietrus should not be expected to.
Pietrus was the perfect soldier for the Celtics last season, accepting a minimum offer and adjusting to an evolving role on the court. He spent the season jostling between a starting spot and second or third in the wing rotation, when healthy. It appeared for some time that the Celtics envisioned Pietrus starting at shooting guard and Ray Allen coming off the bench, until Avery Bradley emerged and relegated both veterans to backup roles.
Yet Pietrus is unlikely to sign with the Celtics, or any team, for the veteran's minimum. That amount, which was $1.22 million last year and would be a shade higher for him this season, was palatable for Pietrus last season because the Phoenix Suns had just bought him out for a reported $4.2 million of his $5.3 million contract. Three days before the season was set to start, Pietrus had a full bank account but no team.
In stepped the Celtics, who were willing to take a chance on Pietrus even though the Raptors had canceled a trade over concerns about his surgically repaired right knee. Those concerns turned out to be somewhat well-founded, as Pietrus was sidelined for the first eight games of the season and battled soreness and swelling in the knee at times throughout the season. When he did play, he readily sacrificed offense for defense at the request of coach Doc Rivers, leading Pietrus to tie a career-low of 10.6 field goals attempted per 36 minutes.
With Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Jeff Green in the fold, the Celtics would understandably be thrilled to have Pietrus back at the veteran's minimum. Not only is the veteran's minimum considerably cheaper than the $1.9 million biannual exception on its own, but the league also pays a portion of the minimum salary, as is the case with Chris Wilcox' salary for the upcoming season. The biannual exception might be a more reasonable price to pay for Pietrus, but his agent insisted in the report that Pietrus has several offers from teams in the NBA and overseas for considerably more money than that.
Despite his decreased role and impending return from yet another offseason knee surgery, Pietrus does not quite fit the profile of a minimum player. Marquis Daniels might have been the prototypical "veteran's minimum" player as a member of the Celtics a year ago — Daniels averaged fewer than 13 minutes per game in 38 games, started none, and scored slightly more than three points per game. He scored more than six points in a game only six times all season. Daniels contributed crucial minutes, particularly on defense, in two of the Celtics' three wins over the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, but there was no arguing that Pietrus had the better year overall and was a more important part of the Celtics' gameplans.
Pietrus may end up going out for exactly the opposite reasons that Dionte Christmas, the 25-year-old shooting guard out of Temple, may be coming in. Christmas turned down more lucrative contracts from international teams to sign a partially guaranteed deal with the Celtics, determining at this stage in his career that now may be his best opportunity to play in the NBA. Pietrus, who has spent almost a decade in the NBA, has less to prove to himself or others. If he agrees to a minimum deal now, at age 30, then he will be labeled a minimum player the rest of his career, which could be another four or five years. That is a lot of money to throw away for a player who should still be in his prime.
Pietrus' stated desire is to win a championship, but he does not sound ready to mortgage his future earning power. That only makes sense.