Paul Pierce to Test Free Agency

Paul Pierce is taking his NBA career on a new path, as the 12-year league veteran has reportedly signified his intention to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time.

ESPN reported that Pierce has already informed the Boston Celtics of his decision to opt out of the final year of his contract, which would have earned him $21.5 million in the coming season. In a text message to ESPN, Pierce’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, said that the 2008 NBA Finals MVP will indeed join the free-agent market.

Pierce, who has played with the Celtics ever since the team made him the 10th overall pick in the 1998 Draft, will join a free-agent class that could include LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, among other marquee players.

Although Pierce is a proven scoring machine and clutch performer, it is not clear how much money he can command from teams that are looking for long-term success considering his age. Pierce will turn 33 less than a month before the new season begins. Pierce’s agent said the player is not shutting the door on the possibility of staying put in Boston, which is hoping to sign the team captain for less than $21 million.

Pierce is the second among the Celtics’ starters who will become free agents by July 1, ┬áRay Allen being the other one.