Paul Pierce could retire today and he would be a prominent part of Boston sports lore. That may be why fans were a little startled earlier this month when the Celtics star said he would play out his current contract and examine his choices when the time came.
Granted, Pierce did not say he planned to sign with another team, and there is no known contract extension on the table that Pierce is turning down to explore free agency. In an age in which Dwight Howard wants to control his destination well before his contract expires, Pierce's move to honor his contract should elicit applause, not hand-wringing.
We will get into that topic, plus the possibility of an extra big man and the well-worn topic of Ray Allen's departure, in this week's mailbag.
Pierce not a Celtic is like Cousy, Russell, Bird or the Redster smoking that cigar not a Celtic. Give me and the rest of the nation a break! — Kelly Lawrence, Weeki Wachee, Fla.
Pondering the possibility of Pierce leaving the Celtics in last week's podcast was certain to ruffle some feathers. As Kelly emotionally explains, seeing Pierce in another uniform would be tough to take for Celtics fans who have watched "The Truth" grow since 1998.
As we discussed in the podcast, though, the decision is not entirely up to Pierce. The Celtics have shown a willingness to trade anyone at any time and, if that is the case, Pierce is well within his rights to explore other options once his contract is up for renewal. With that said, a lot of the hubbub over Pierce's plan to "test free agency" is overstated. Pierce has another partially guaranteed year left after 2012-13, at which time he will be 36 years old and could be closer to retirement than another multiyear contract. Even if Pierce does not sign an extension, he still stands a solid chance of retiring as a Celtic.
Question! Who is to blame for Ray Allen's departure from the Celtics? Answer! Very simple. Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers! He was never going to be a Celtic this year. He saw the handwriting on the wall, did not want to be traded to a lesser team and knew Miami was interested in him. Now it's the possibility of another ring, end of story! — Paul Guidi, Indian Wells, Calif.
Well, I wish we could all be as confident as you, Paul. Your opinion has some validity, as Allen did seem to be rubbed the wrong way by Ainge shopping him around next season. Better to go where he felt truly wanted than to sign up for another two years of uncertainty.
Blaming Rivers for Allen's departure may be a little much, however, even though the coach accepted the responsibility. By all accounts, Rivers aggressively courted Allen, short of standing on Allen's lawn holding a boombox over his head. It is also hard to argue with the two-year, $12 million offer Ainge reportedly put on the table for Allen — that offer was roughly $3 million more than the three-year deal Allen eventually signed with the Heat for the taxpayer's exception of $3 million per year.
I love the intensity and rebounding Birdman brings to the game. I think he would be great off the bench to bring some intensity and excitement to the game when the starters need a rest. Any chance we use that last spot to sign him? — Matty Ryan, Marlboro, Mass.
For the uninitiated, the "Birdman" to whom Matty is referring is free agent forward Chris Andersen. The 6-foot-10 Blinn College product is colorful — and we mean that literally, as much of his body is covered in tattoos — and energetic, averaging 3.2 blocked shots and 10.5 rebounds per 36 minutes in his career. He is believed to be satisfied with signing a contract for the veteran's minimum, which would make him a good fit for the Celtics on a few fronts. For one, it would keep the Celtics below the $74.3 million mark they cannot cross in payroll, due to signing Jason Terry to the midlevel exception. For another, the league pays half of veteran's minimum deals, so there would be some savings there.
The Celtics could use another big body, of course, but Andersen does not come without risks. He has averaged only 48 games per season in his 10-year career due to injuries and suspensions, including missing nearly two full years from 2006 to 2008 for violating the league's anti-drug policy. Andersen has never been anything close to a 30-minute per game guy, either, and at 34 years old his ability to play long stretches on the court is even more doubtful. Would it be worth the potential headaches for a player who only logs about 10 minutes a game, at best?
Andersen increased the potential interest in him considerably by opening himself up to the vet's minimum. Several teams reportedly have inquired about his services, including the Knicks, where he would be reunited with his friends and former Nuggets teammates Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. Andersen also might stand a better chance of cracking the rotation in New York, where Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire and Kurt Thomas are the only true post players on the current roster. In Boston, Andersen would vie for playing time with Kevin Garnett, Chris Wilcox, Brandon Bass and possibly Jared Sullinger, Jason Collins and Fab Melo.