Dirk, Pierce Take (Unwise?) Paycuts

by Ryne Nelson

Now here’s something most star players haven’t considered this offseason.

Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce both verbally agreed yesterday to take less money to give their teams extra financial wiggle-room.

Nowitzki verbally agreed to a four-year contract, paying him a guaranteed $80 million. Dirk was eligible to make $96 million, but took less. Pierce’s new contract with the Celtics is a four-year deal worth $61 million. This is a solid deal for the Celtics — $15 million per year is well below the max.

Was it smart for the two aging stars to sacrifice cash to help their franchise?

The Mavs have pieces to make attractive sign-and-trade deals, but Dirk could ultimately be getting less money to continue to be ringless. Marc Stein remains optimistic:

So Nowitzki responded by potentially saving his boss $32 million if the Mavericks continue to be a luxury-tax payer for the next four seasons — or even more if the next collective bargaining agreement, as some teams fear, comes with a tiered tax system that penalizes teams on a rising scale depending on how far they are past the tax line.

The Mavericks, though, remain well over the salary cap, restricting them to complicated sign-and-trade bids for top free agents such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. All Cuban could promise Nowitzki is that the financial relief he’s providing will make it easier for Dallas to keep trying to swing a landscape-changing trade.

Although Pierce may no longer be a max player, his new contract won’t put the Cs under the cap next season, as re-signing Ray Allen remains a priority.

But, like the Mavs, the Celtics may now feel comfortable to consider trade options (the Boston Herald reports Leandro Barbosa, Rudy Fernandez are on the C’s radar). In short, if the Cs dance around the cap well enough, the team can make some moves. Also from the Herald:

Using the $15 million-plus figure, Pierce will cost the club some $6 million less this coming season. And when you figure in the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax, it would end up being a savings of around $12 million for 2010-11.

That does not – repeat, does not – mean the Celtics have that much to spend on a premium free agent. But it does mean the team is better equipped to take on difficult contracts if it can find an attractive trade. That’s in addition to signing a free agent with the mid-level exception.

At 32 years old, Pierce and Dirk are aging well and still have plenty of gas in the tank. But have they sacrificed their last chance at max (or near max) money to aid a cause that, as some argue, ended years ago?