Paul Pierce Opts Out of Final Contract Year

Paul Pierce, the Celtics captain, perennial all-star and 2008 MVP of the NBA Finals, might have played his last game as a Celtic when the purple and yellow confetti dropped to the floor of the Staples Center earlier this month.

After the Celtics lost to the Lakers in an epic game 7 of the 2009-10 NBA finals, there were boat loads of questions that team president, Danny Ainge, had to address. One of them was whether or not Paul Pierce was going to opt out of his final year of his contract.

The Boston media pretty much ignored the possibility as thinking about a Pierce-less Celtics team is similar to thinking about a Jordan-less Bulls team — it just sounds weird.

However, with the team's future up in the air — from Doc Rivers potentially retiring; an injury to Kendrick Perkins; a slower Kevin Garnett; and, Rasheed Wallace looking to hang up the sneakers — the blip of a contending franchise looks like it's heading to the bottom wrung of the ladder.

According to reports in the Boston Globe and on ESPN.com, Pierce is walking away from about $21.5 million. The key reason, according to the reports, is that the NBA is facing a potential new collective bargaining agreement after next season, which could reduce salaries. As a result, Pierce is likely seeking a new contract under the current collective bargaining agreement.

Despite saying that he wants to retire a Celtic, this move makes sense for Pierce — more than just from a monetary perspective.

Pierce is a guy that likes the limelight. He wants to be the man. he wants the ball in his hands at the end of every game, with the clock winding down. With the current roster, Piece is one of the guys; part of a bigger puzzle.

Well, that worked in 2008. It should have worked in 2009, but injuries prevented that from happening. In 2010, it almost worked, but the Lakers put that fire out in seven games.

Regardless of what happens to Piece, the Celtics franchise is in for a rude awakening in the coming years I'm afraid. Aging veterans and a dismantled coaching staff has quickly turned this franchise around to the wrong direction just as quick as it was turned around to the right direction just a few years ago.

What is clearly evident is that Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale aren't walking through that door.

Apparently, Pierce might not be either.

Article first published as Paul Pierce Opts Out of Final Year on Technorati.