Pierce wants Ainge to pull trigger
After taking pay cut to stay, C's captain hopes team spends on supporting cast
On the same day he officially re-signed with Boston for four seasons, Pierce sounded off Thursday on the team's lack of impact roster moves this offseason and suggested he took a hometown discount to aid the Celtics in rebuilding a championship-caliber roster.
Pierce wants Boston to add more talent -- salary cap and luxury tax be damned.
"I never thought once about leaving the Celtics," Pierce said from his Los Angeles home. "After the season, I wanted this team to get better, knowing we didn't win a championship. I opted out and took less money to improve the team. I also wanted to ensure I retired as a Celtic. It was a win-win situation."
I thought it was a great move picking up Jermaine [O'Neal], giving us an inside presence in case Rasheed [Wallace] retires, but sometimes I'm looking at all the players signing and wish we would get on the ball a little bit. I trust in Danny [Ainge] to put a good team around us, but I'm sitting here watching all these good players fall to other teams.” -- Celtics captain Paul Pierce
But, in the interest of getting more wins, Pierce squirms each time he notices another talented free agent signing with one of Boston's rivals. He openly wondered when Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge would start luring some of those players to Boston.
"I thought it was a great move picking up Jermaine [O'Neal], giving us an inside presence in case Rasheed [Wallace] retires, but sometimes I'm looking at all the players signing and wish we would get on the ball a little bit," Pierce said. "I trust in Danny to put a good team around us, but I'm sitting here watching all these good players fall to other teams."
Pierce knows the difficulties Boston faces, especially given salary cap limitations. With 10 players signed for next season, the team is already over both the salary cap and luxury tax lines, which limits its ability to add players at anything more than a minimum salary.
Pierce acknowledged as much by suggesting the free-agent market currently boasts "slim pickings," at least in terms of those willing to sign at the minimum, and noted Boston might ultimately need to resort to a trade to bolster its roster.
Trouble is, like Pierce, no one seems to know for sure what Wallace plans to do next season. While Pierce admitted he'd like to see Wallace return and has texted him this offseason, the Celtics don't boast any other chips in the trade market (short of offering Glen Davis or the surgically mending Kendrick Perkins).
It's not exactly clear how Pierce thinks the Celtics could have operated differently to this point. But one thing is clear: He wants impact additions before the well runs dry.
In a way, you can't blame Pierce. After all, the Celtics reassembled the Big Three (re-signing Pierce and Ray Allen) and lured back coach Doc Rivers with the idea that this core would make at least one more charge at the title that evaded it in June.
Pierce is happy to put the band back together, even if it means finding replacements for some of the backup singers. But if the band isn't being put back together with the goal of being better than the original lineup, he knows how difficult it will be to get back atop the charts.
Pierce also knows this past season's underachieving supporting cast might have been one of the reasons Boston fell short of its ultimate goal.
"We got a lot [to add] right now," Pierce said. "We lost Tony [Allen] we might not have Rasheed. We gotta add a bench. We got our work cut out. We need perimeter defense. And we need another big."
Pierce seemed particularly stung by the fact that the Celtics failed to retain Tony Allen, who will sign a three-year contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. The loss of Allen not only stripped the team of a key perimeter defender, but a player who often spelled Pierce off the bench.
The fact that Allen signed with Memphis for reasonable money made it all the more frustrating for Pierce.
"That definitely surprised me," he said. "I was a little bit upset. I thought Tony was a guy we definitely needed. That's a tough one to swallow, especially with the deal he got. I thought we offered the same deal."
And, regardless of Wallace's decision, the Celtics should strengthen their roster whether he returns or retires. If Wallace opts to come back, it fills that need for another big man (even if there are concerns about his potential to hold up -- or contribute consistently -- for an entire 82-game campaign). If Wallace walks away, Boston can attempt to trade his contract for either a big man or a backup swingman in the mold of Tony Allen (or both, if it finds the right trade partner).
There's no doubt Ainge is pursuing all of these options while keeping an eye on the free-agent market for players who might take a discount to be part of a winner (see also: Udonis Haslem in Miami).
Pierce believes he did his part by signing a deal that should offer significant savings over the $21.5 million he was set to command in 2010-11 (Pierce's deal is reportedly in the neighborhood of $61 million, which averages out to $15.25 million annually but is likely to escalate each season).
But those savings don't open any room under the salary cap since Boston is already over the limit. Boston's starting five (Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Rondo and Perkins) will command around $57 million this season, just shy of the $58 million salary cap. But it might save Boston a few bucks on the luxury tax, with the team forced to pay dollar-for-dollar for anything over $70.3 million.
And even though it cost Boston a few extra dollars toward the luxury tax to retain Robinson -- the Celtics reportedly locked him up on Friday for a two-year deal worth around $4 million -- Pierce was open to bringing back a proven commodity.
But if Pierce is so adamant about adding talent, his best bet might be to stop chirping about it and get on the phone to some friends who might come to Boston for cheap.
He said he plans to do as much, noting, "I'm sure I'll put my hand in there this summer."
Alas, he ought to operate with the same urgency he's demanding from Ainge & Co.
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.