Paul Pierce to the Clippers? Nets reportedly working on sign-and-trade

Paul Pierce, Doc Rivers

Pierce & Doc Rivers… reunited? (AP)

The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers are laying the framework for a sign-and-trade deal that would send Paul Pierce to the Clippers, according to Ohm Youngmusik and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Because the Clippers are over the salary cap and in the luxury tax, they would only be able to sign Pierce to the taxpayer mid-level exception if they pursued him outright, a deal worth a little over $3 million per season. But a sign-and-trade deal would allow the Clippers to sign Pierce for a bigger salary, and allow the Nets to get pieces back from the Clippers:

The Clippers likely would include some combination of Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes and last year’s first-round pick, Reggie Bullock, according to sources. It’s possible a trade could expand to more teams as discussions progress.

The Clippers already have about $72 million committed to about nine players, and orchestrating a sign-and-trade would set a “hard cap” for them at $81 million. Dudley, Barnes, and Bullock make roughly $8.9 million combined, which would put a contract for Pierce in the $7-$10 million range.

Pierce is close with Clippers coach Doc Rivers, as the two worked together for nine years in Boston during Pierce’s prime, including an NBA championship year in 2008. Los Angeles is also much closer to Pierce’s hometown of Oakland, CA.

Losing Pierce could set the Nets back considerably, considering his first-round heroics and season-long steady play, but if they get a few worthwhile pieces, they could fill out their bench nicely. Dudley struggled with a reduced role in his one year with the Clippers but is a career 40 percent three-point shooter who thrives in the corners (though he criticized the Nets two years ago when Dwight Howard tried to force a trade there), Barnes is a mixed bag of solid defense and controversy, and Bullock is, well, younger than 25, which always helps make deals look better.

It’s not clear what impact (if any) losing Pierce would have on Kevin Garnett’s future with the Nets. Garnett had to be convinced last season by Pierce to waive his no-trade clause and join him in Brooklyn, and also has close ties to Rivers. It’s possible that Garnett could force his way into the deal, but that might make maneuvering more difficult: his $12 million cap hit next season is no small consolation prize for the Clippers to take on, with the Clippers already approaching the hard cap.

One possibility for the Nets: if Garnett and Pierce really want to stick together, Pierce could work out a smaller deal for a little under $6 million, and the two sides could work out a trade of both Garnett and a signed-and-traded Pierce for Dudley, Barnes, Bullock, and the talented but maddening Jamal Crawford.

The Clippers have reportedly been dangling Crawford, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, in trade talks, but he’s reportedly seeking a long-term extension and the Nets aren’t looking to add costs beyond the next two seasons. Crawford’s deal is only guaranteed for $1.5 million next season, and an unhappy Jamal Crawford could spiral an offense in seven seconds or less.

(As an aside: the Nets are too far above the luxury tax to accept any players back in a sign-and-trade, so unless someone waves a salary cap magic wand over this entire trade, the Clippers can’t send them any one of Danny Granger, Glen Davis, or Darren Collison, their three free agents. Even if they shed Marcus Thornton for nothing, they’d still only have about $2 million in wiggle room, not enough to get one of those three guys.)

It’s a gamble with very little wiggle room, since both teams are in the luxury tax and the Clippers would be hard-capping themselves, so the most likely option to make any deal work would likely involve a third team swallowing salary from either side.

This possibility was always on the table, and now that July 1st has come, the sides have begun trying to work something out. We’ll see what happens next.

ESPN — Sources: Clippers want Paul Pierce