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Seemingly a good deal all around

Pierce and Celtics happy with signing

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / July 5, 2010

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Celtics president Danny Ainge was mum yesterday on Paul Pierce’s contract extension, unable to address the four-year deal until Thursday, when Pierce is eligible to officially sign the $62 million contract.

The deal, agreed to late Saturday night, offers peace of mind for both sides. Pierce now can finish his career with the Celtics. And the club avoided the public relations nightmare of letting one of its all-time great players get away, while also getting some salary-cap relief.

Pierce opting out of the final year of his contract was in no way an indication that he was looking to move to another team. It was a way of garnering a long-term extension in which he traded money for security.

There was interest in Pierce on the open market. He likely would have served as a fallback plan in case teams with salary-cap space came up empty on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Joe Johnson, but Pierce never wanted to leave Boston, just secure his future here.

“Paul’s goal from the beginning of free agency was to stay with the Celtics,’’ agent Jeff Schwartz said in an e-mail. “He restructured his contract to give the organization the flexibility to sign other players. Paul’s thrilled to continue to be a Celtic and hopes to help the team win more championships.’’

Pierce will reach the 20,000-point mark in the first handful of regular-season games of the 2010-11 season, and will be considered one of the franchise’s greatest players regardless of what occurs the rest of his career.

The contract allows the Celtics a little salary-cap wiggle room, and Ainge’s next task is re-signing Ray Allen. Ainge said he has had daily conversations with Allen, who has not been linked to any other club.

The Celtics are benefiting from the free agent frenzy because several teams with enough salary-cap space to sign Allen are waiting on decisions from players higher on their priority scale. So Ainge is taking advantage by keeping in constant touch with Allen, the final piece of bringing back the Big Three, while also dealing with the small number of free agents that have drawn his interest.

Pierce and the Celtics were close on an extension before he opted out, and the sticking point the past few days was the fourth year, which is guaranteed. By that 2013-14 season, the team should be firmly in the hands of Rajon Rondo, and Pierce could be only a complement, but the contract ensured that the Celtics will attempt to compete for championships at least the next two years.

Kevin Garnett’s contract expires following the 2012 season. But he should be healthier than last season another year removed from surgery to remove a large bone spur from his right knee.

The question mark is the status of Rasheed Wallace, who has not officially retired and likely won’t until later this summer so the Celtics perhaps could trade his contract. Wallace has not officially decided to stop playing and there is a question whether coach Doc Rivers’s return could encourage him to play another season.

With Kendrick Perkins recovering from a knee injury, the Celtics are in search of big men, and one of those could be ex-second-round pick Semih Erden, who will debut today for Boston’s summer league entry in Orlando, Fla. The club also has reached out to free agent Brad Miller, who is expected to continue talks with the Celtics this week.

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com.

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