The agent for swingman Mickael Pietrus, placed on waivers by the Suns on Thursday, said four teams are most interested in picking him up once he clears waivers Saturday, with league sources strongly believing the 29-year-old will sign with the Celtics.
The Celtics are desperately hoping that Pietrus will clear waivers. Boston’s need for a defensive wing player is profound, and the Celtics know Pietrus well from his days with the Magic. Pietrus killed the Celtics off the bench in the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinal series, averaging 12 points in 25 minutes. He scored 17 points in three games of the series, including going six of seven from the floor, making all three of his 3-point attempts, in Orlando’s Game 7 win at Boston.
But agent Bill McCandless said Friday morning that he thought there was a “15 percent” chance that a team would claim Pietrus off of waivers before he clears. But that team would have to pay Pietrus the $4.2 million on his original contract (that is pro-rated for the 66-game regular season this year; Pietrus originally was to make $5.3 million this season). Pietrus and the Suns worked out a buyout that will pay him $3 million of the $4.2 million once he clears waivers; after that he’d be free to negotiate a new contract with the team that signs him.
Currently the most teams are offering Pietrus is the “mini” mid-level exception for teams that are more than $4 million above the luxury tax threshold of $70 million. The mini mid-level can run as many as three years and a little more than $9 million total. Pietrus, who was a key contributor during the Magic’s run to The Finals in 2009, wants to play for a contending team and is willing to take a little less than may be available to do so.
“In this case, cap space is a little less relevant,” McCandless said. “If you’re on a team that’s successful, then you’re successful.”
McCandless said that Pietrus got a clean bill of health from an independent medical examination on his right knee on Wednesday. The Suns had originally dealt Pietrus to Toronto earlier this month for a protected second-round pick, but the deal was voided when Pietrus’s knee swelled up after working out in Toronto. The Raptors then signed veteran Rasual Butler and got forward Gary Forbes from Denver via offer sheet. The independent physician “said he’s fine and ready to go,” McCandless said.
The Suns were still trying to work out a trade for Pietrus when they reached the buyout with him, and were not happy with his comportment while in Phoenix. Pietrus came there last season as part of the trade that sent center Marcin Gortat to Phoenix in exchange for Hedo Turkoglu going back to Orlando. Pietrus played in 38 games last season for Phoenix, averaging 7.4 points in a little more than 18 minutes a game, almost all of those as a reserve.
“You know the old saying, ‘all’s well that ends well?’,” Suns GM Lon Babby said. “In this case, it’s ‘all’s well that ends.’ “