Celtics Pay a Steep Price to Go “All-In” for 2011 Title

So how much is it going to cost to keep the Celtics for one more dance? Well, all the accounting hasn’t come in just yet, but given today’s developments, it looks like the cost will be quite steep.

The big news here is Paul Pierce has agreed to a FOUR year extension that will pay his $61M through 2014. I am as big a fan of Paul Pierce as anyone but when I saw “four,” my stomach dropped as my imagination fast forwarded to 2014 and conjured up images of a broken down Paul Pierce limping around, gagging shots and leading the league in turnovers/48 minutes. Two years would have been great, three would have been tolerable, but four? Sorry, that is an awful lot to bear and it ensures that a difficult post-2011 rebuild will be that much more difficult.

The upside here is that by locking Pierce up, the Celts have bought themselves another bite at the apple in 2011 and they have guaranteed that Pierce will end his career in green. Those are good things. Moreover, the ownership will have goosed the 2011 P&L by about $12M as they have saved six million in PP salary and another six million is luxury taxes.

But here is the downside. Yes, you have saved some money on Pierce but you have also handed Ray Allen a gun that he is free to hold to your head. After all, with Pierce in the fold, at these numbers, the Celts have NO option but to hit Allen’s number. So while Allen was probably in line for a two-year extension, at say 8 million per year, I would think Allen’s hand is now so strong that he can ask for 3/30-3/36 and get it. So yes, the Celts just saved themselves some money in 2011 but my sense is Allen, and not the owners, will be the one who benefits.

The other hickey here is the Celts are really hamstrung going forward. Say they re-sign Allen for 3/30. That means that the Celts will have the big four and either Wallace or his trade partner under contract in 2011 for $62M. Throw in another $6M for a mid-level exception this year (Brad Miller? )and there will be little money to re-sign Baby or Perkins if the Celts want to limit their luxury tax, which seems to be a motivation of the owners. Now KG’s $21M contract will expire after 2012, but by then, it’s hard to imagine that the roster will be in very good shape and there will still be no cap room available to re-tool.

The moral to this story is the Celts are paying a hefty price to contend in 2011. Convinced that the 2010 magic has one more year of shelf-life, Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers have gone “all-in” for the 2011 pot. I’m not sure they had much choice and I am one who thinks that with a little good luck on the acquisition side, this roster has a shot to return to the finals. But boy, I have seen teams wait too long to re-tool and that story never ends well. NEVER. And in this case, the re-build has been vastly complicated by this signing and Allen’s likely signature.


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