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Will money carry the day for Paul Pierce?

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Mike Ehrmann

The most likely competition for Paul Pierce, say league sources, can be found in Los Angeles with the Clippers and Chicago with the Bulls, maybe in Dallas with the Mavericks. As everyone waits for the free agency logjam to clear, the Nets and Pierce remain patient.

While the Nets can offer Pierce the most money -- they hold his Bird Rights -- teams like Chicago and Dallas may have a lot to spend on the 6'7" forward. Both teams have socked away cap space to go after bigger fish in free agency and if they can't hook them, they'll be looking for a back-up plan and Paul, along with players like Luol Deng and Trever Ariza, could be the back-up plan.

The Clippers are a different animal. They are already hard-capped and although there are sign-and-trade possibilities, it's going to be complicated. Because of that hard cap, the Clippers can only take on a salary if it reduces their payroll. So the Clippers would have to 1) satisfy Pierce's desire for a big contract and 2) provide the Nets with more salary than what they pay Pierce. So if Pierce gets $9 million, the Nets have to get back players who make more than that total. So J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes would satisfy the hard cap needs, but Redick and Reggie Bullock would not.

The Bulls, assuming they amnesty Carlos Boozer, would be able to sign Pierce outright. So would the Mavericks, who are, once again, out of the mix for big free agents.

Will Jason Kidd's departure hurt the Nets? Doesn't seem too.  As Stefan Bondy writes, it "seems to be about the money, and the Nets can pay him more than anybody else." And there have been hints in both Billy King's statements to the media and a couple of tweets that Pierce would be happy to return to Brooklyn. As Marc J. Spears tweeted two days ago...

How soon might we know?  Ask LeBron and Melo.