It seems that the attempt of the Los Angeles Clippers to add Paul Pierce to the mix has gone into a higher gear, but it probably won’t be a free agency deal that their after. Instead, it seems like they’re looking for a sign-and-trade with the Brooklyn Nets, hopefully also offloading a player or two they’re not interested in.
The Clippers have three small forwards on the roster right now: Matt Barnes, making $7 million over the next two years; Jared Dudley, making $4.25 million next season and has an early termination option in the 2015 summer; and Reggie Bullock, making $1.2 million this season before a team option for two more years needs to be decided upon. Too many, and they’d like to get rid of at least one, especially if it’s Dudley.
The Brooklyn Nets are in something of a bind. They have over $100 million committed to the salary cap next season. They can’t offer anyone anything other than the veteran’s minimum or one mid level exception worth $3.27 million. Letting go of Pierce through free agency might help them out in terms of avoiding a few more tax dollars, but their owner has shown no indication of actually being worried of being way over the luxury tax.
The Clippers can offer Pierce a mid level exception of $5.3 million, but as they are paying $76 million heading into next season, they prefer offloading a contract or two before acquiring Pierce. The assumption is that Pierce would like to play for the Clippers – they have a very good roster with youth, prime players and depth, but Doc Rivers behind the head is probably the main attraction.
The Clippers aren’t the only team that has shown interest in Pierce. The Blazers, Grizzlies, Bulls, Mavericks and Rockets are also looking into the option of signing him. Pierce went to the Nets with Kevin Garnett, but Jason Kidd leaving to become the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks might mean the two players won’t be together for the first time since 2007. Garnett himself is speculating whether to return for a final season (with $12 million going to him) or retiring.
The Nets need the Clippers to send someone, anyone, because it’s hard to see them getting any better without including players back in the trade, even if it means adding to their already swamped salary cap. It’s interesting to see whether Pierce, who made $15 million last season before becoming a free agent, is willing to take such a huge pay cut in order to remain a relevant signing among title contenders.