Moving one step closer to his stated goal of finishing his career with the Celtics and raising his No. 34 to the rafters, Paul Pierce agreed to terms on a three-year contract extension yesterday worth approximately $59 million, pending league approval.
``At 3:20 p.m. [Pacific time], the Celtics and Paul Pierce agreed to a contract extension," director of basketball operations Danny Ainge said by phone before he left the Las Vegas summer league yesterday. ``We spent the last week to 10 days working on the final details and the final deal was reached today."
The extension keeps Pierce, 28, under contract for the next five seasons.
Pierce entered negotiations with one year (guaranteed) remaining on his contract, plus a player option for 2007-08. Players can only sign extensions with their current team for five years, making a three-year extension the maximum for Pierce.
``Paul is a premier player in the league," said Ainge. ``He's been one of the best Celtics to ever put on the uniform. He's grown in his role as a leader and he's improved his game year in and year out. He seems to be a good fit with the young group of players. All indications are that he wants to be in Boston. He's beloved in Boston."
Pierce has led the Celtics in scoring seven out of his eight seasons, and he posted career bests last season in field goal percentage (47.1 percent), free throws made and attempted (627 for 812), and points in a game (50 against Cleveland Feb. 15). The Celtics' captain showed a newfound maturity, becoming more of the leader Ainge wanted. Although disappointed the Celtics failed to make the playoffs last season, Pierce remained publicly optimistic about the future.
The Celtics will pay Pierce $15.1 million next season and $16.3 million in 2007-08 before the extension goes into effect. If Pierce had become an unrestricted free agent, the Celtics could have signed him to a six-year deal, whereas other teams could have offered only a five-year deal. If Pierce waited for free agency, he could have received a more lucrative contract from Boston.
But in recent conversations, Pierce sounded more concerned about the Celtics' future than a few million here or there. Pierce still has questions about the direction of the team and the development of the young players, worrying that Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Delonte West, and Kendrick Perkins will realize their potential after Pierce passes the prime of his career. Plus, Pierce and Ainge recognize Boston is still ``a couple pieces" away from fielding a truly competitive team in the Eastern Conference.
Pierce's extension also makes the Celtics' financial situation trickier. The younger players will be seeking extensions over the next few seasons and Ainge might have some difficult decisions to make.
``I don't have a crystal ball," said Ainge. ``Let's just take what we have today. We're intent on making it work with Paul and he's intent on making it work with the Celtics."
The Celtics agreed to terms with Leon Powe, adding the 6-foot-8-inch, 240-pound forward from the University of California after he had strong showings in summer league games and practices. The No. 49 pick, acquired in a draft-night deal with Denver, received a deal almost identical to the partially guaranteed three-year contract given to Ryan Gomes, the No. 50 pick in the 2005 draft. Given the numbers for Gomes, Powe could earn approximately $2 million if he completes his contract.
``We have agreed to terms with Leon Powe, but the contract has not been signed yet," said Ainge. ``Leon is a low-post scorer and rebounder and a really tough kid. He plays with a lot of passion and enthusiasm. We like what we've seen. We think he has a good future."
The Celtics finished off summer league action in Las Vegas by winning a nail-biter against Detroit, 88-85. The Celtics were down by double digits most of the game but got key contributions from rookie Rajon Rondo (14 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 steals) and free agent pickup Allan Ray (26 points) to rally late in the fourth quarter.
With the Pistons ahead, 85-83, Rondo connected on a 3-pointer with 15 seconds remaining. After a steal on the ensuing position, Green (22 points) was fouled and hit both free throws for the final margin. The team returns home with a satisfying 3-2 record.
``There's a lot of really positive things to take away from our summer league," Ainge said. ``I see a lot of potential in Rajon Rondo. Same with Sebastian [Telfair] and Al [Jefferson] and Gerald [Green]. I think they've all had great moments. I think Sebastian was the most consistent of our young guys."
Globe correspondent Gabe Kahn contributed to this report from Las Vegas.