BOSTON — The Boston Celtics have agreed to terms with captain Paul Pierce on a deal that could keep the MVP of their 2008 title run with the team for another four seasons.
The contract was not announced, but it was confirmed to The Associated Press by a Celtics official familiar with the deal who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the free-agent signing period does not begin until Thursday.
“Both sides made it clear that staying together was best for the team,” the official said.
Terms of the contract were not immediately available. The Boston Herald, which first reported on the deal, says Pierce would get $61 million over four years, with a mutual option for the fourth year.
Celtics spokesman Jeff Twiss had no comment. Pierce’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.
Pierce has spent his entire 12-year career with the Celtics and is second only to Larry Bird among longtime Celtics in points per game. Pierce is also first in franchise history in 3-pointers, second in steals, third in total points, eighth in games played and ninth in rebounds.
Pierce opted out of the final year of a contract that was to pay him $21.51 million next season. By re-signing quickly for less, he creates cap room, gets long-term security for himself and gives the team a chance to keep together the core of the 2008 champions for another run in 2010-11.
Coach Doc Rivers, who had been considering taking a year off, said this week he would return. Ray Allen, who is a free agent, has said he wants to return to Boston.
With Kevin Garnett under contract for two more years, that would preserve the new Big Three that led the Celtics to an NBA-record 17th championship two years ago. Garnett missed the 2009 playoffs with a knee injury; the Celtics returned to the NBA finals this spring before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.
Pierce, 32, was the 10th overall pick in the 1998 draft from Kansas. He is the last remnant of the ill-fated Rick Pitino era, and his tenure stretches through two trips through the NBA lottery as the once-dynastic franchise tried to restore its former glory.
In 2007, after going 24-58 to earn the fifth overall pick in the draft, the Celtics considered trading Pierce and trying to rebuild with youth. Instead, they acquired Garnett and Allen and won the NBA title in their first year.
For Pierce, it meant giving up his role as a go-to guy who had averaged as many as 26.8 points per game. His numbers dropped — he averaged 19.5 points over the past three years — but the Celtics reached the NBA finals twice in three years.
Pierce has 19,899 points in 884 games, all for the Celtics.
NBA NOTEBOOK: In other free-agen moves, Amare Stoudemire is out of Phoenix and headed to New York — for a meeting.
If the Knicks are willing to give him a maximum salary contract, a deal might not be far behind.
Speaking of meetings, Dwyane Wade had a second one with the Chicago Bulls on Friday, perhaps a sign that his return to Miami isn’t as guaranteed as once thought.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks let Dirk Nowitzki know how much they want him to remain in Dallas, but many of the leading names in this free agency class are still available.
Though the focus has been on LeBron James, Wade and Chris Bosh, Stoudemire might be able to land big bucks before them.
When the Suns gave long-term deals to Channing Frye and Hakim Warrick, it became clear that Stoudemire was on his way out of Phoenix. His agent, Happy Walters, confirmed that the Suns were no longer in the picture and said Stoudemire was going to New York this weekend to meet with the Knicks “but we’re talking to other teams as well.”
Walters said there is “a structure of an offer on the table” from the Knicks. He added no matter where Stoudemire signs, it will be for the maximum of five years and about $100 million.
The Knicks might be willing to spend that if they feel they’ll fall short in pitches they made to James on Thursday, and Wade and Bosh on Friday.
James received visits Friday from the Heat and Los Angeles Clippers. The Heat have also spoken to Stoudemire and Bosh as they try to find a player or players to come join Wade — if he sticks around South Florida.
“This is a very fluid process,” Heat president Pat Riley said. “We’ve had five meetings across the country in the span of 40 hours. We will continue with the process. It’s still early in free agency, but we feel very good with how our presentations have gone thus far.”
Wade has long said his preference was to stay in Miami, but he’s given himself options. He met with the Bulls and New Jersey Nets on Thursday, then got a pitch from the Knicks on Friday.
“It was a good meeting, it was a real good meeting and I will say I’m intrigued,” he said, declining further comment before driving away.
Then he sat down again with the Bulls, his hometown team which has been considered a favorite to land James. The league’s MVP will meet with them Saturday and first talking to Chicago.
Mavericks president Donnie Nelson said he made a “significant” contract offer to Nowitzki’s adviser during a meeting Friday. Nowitzki could respond as soon as Saturday, when the sides are expected to meet again.
Warrick agreed to a four-year, $18 million deal with Phoenix on Friday, shortly after Frye agreed to a five-year, $30 million offer to re-sign with the Suns.
The Bucks made another move, agreeing in principle to a $40 million, five-year deal with free agent guard John Salmons, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. That came one day after Milwaukee agreed to a $32 million, five-year deal with forward Drew Gooden.
Deals can’t be signed until July 8, after the salary cap for next season has been determined.