This has been expected for a while — even the Washington Wizards admitted this was coming — but on Saturday Paul Pierce made it official, he is becoming a free agent.
Pierce retweeted this from the Players Tribune.
Pierce will turn 38 next season, but his “old man at the Y” crafty game still gets the job done — he averaged 11.9 points a game and shot 38.9 percent from three. He has thrived more as a small four the last few seasons.
Teams are going to be lined up to land him.
The Wizards want to bring him back, to start. Here is what GM Ernie Grunfeld told J. Michael at CSNWashington.com.
“We want Paul back obviously. I think he had a good year here,” said Grunfeld on Friday after the team introduced first-round draft pick Kelly Oubre at Verizon Center. “He enjoyed his teammates. He enjoyed the city. He enjoyed the environment in the city.
“He’s going to be a free agent. It’s his call but if you ask me if we want him back — absolutely.”
However, the front runners to land Pierce, if you ask around the league, are the Los Angeles Clippers. They are looking for a new starting three (they traded Matt Barnes, but want to bring Lance Stephenson off the bench) and someone with playoff experience to help them over the hump in the West. Plus they are coached by Pierce’s old friend Doc Rivers.
The Celtics are interested as well, trying to pitch Pierce and Kevin Love on coming to Boston (well, for Pierce back to Boston).
Of course, money will play a factor. The Wizards can offer up to $5.5 million to Pierce (the max raise they can give under the CBA), and other teams will need to be at least in that ballpark or higher.
Now that Kevin Love is opting out of his contract, the free agency courting process begins. The Cavs are still the frontrunner to re-sign him — the ability to play with LeBron James and compete for a title every year is probably too much to pass up. But plenty of other teams will make their pitches, not least of all the Celtics, who have been linked to Love for some time. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski has some interesting new details on the pitch the Celtics are planning to make to Love, which involves the potential return of Paul Pierce to Boston.
There’s a lot going on here. Putting aside the idea of Pierce returning to Boston, which is its own discussion, it’s still difficult to see how this scenario the Celtics are pitching is more appealing than the situation Love already has in Cleveland. Robin Lopez, if he were to sign in Boston, is pretty much the ideal big man to pair with Love, a rim-protecting rebounding machine who doesn’t need the ball and can cover up a lot of Love’s defensive deficiencies. But you know who else is an ideal rim protector and offensive cleanup man to pair with Love? Timofey Mozgov.
Phoenix is more of a long-shot, but he’d be a good fit there, too. They took a step back last year after the loss of Channing Frye, and Love can give them a better version of that same skill set.
What Love does in free agency will come down to how much he values being the No. 1 option on a team versus playing on a contender. If winning is the most important objective, you don’t walk away from playing with the best player in the world, especially in a weak Eastern Conference where you’re more or less guaranteed to make the Eastern Conference Finals at a minimum every year — and probably the Finals. But the Cavs will never be Love’s team, and if he wants that, the Celtics would be a better option. The Celtics have plenty of assets and cap space to chase other players to put around him, as well as a nice young core with Marcus Smart and Jared Sullinger. And if playing with Kelly Olynyk is a problem, Olynyk won’t be difficult to move. It’s not unthinkable that this happens.
Still, the Cavs should be considered the frontrunner to keep Love unless something crazy happens.
The Clippers tried to trade for Wilson Chandler during the season.
With an even bigger need at small forward after trading Matt Barnes, they’re trying again.
Arash Markazi of ESPN:
The Clippers are also exploring trade options for Jamal Crawford, according to sources, and one possibility is trading Crawford and C.J. Wilcox, the team’s 2014 first round pick, to the Denver Nuggets for Wilson Chandler.
Maybe the Nuggets are more willing to trade Chandler than they were at the deadline, but I don’t think this would be enough.
I like where Doc Rivers’ head is, though.
Bringing Lance Stephenson off the bench is ideal. A 3-and-D player like Chandler would be a better fit around Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. If Stephenson is handling the ball off the bench, that makes Crawford somewhat superfluous.
Chandler isn’t the only option to create this roster figuration. Paul Pierce would also work.
Paul Pierce will play next season.
With that decision made, his next step is handling his his $5,543,725 player option.
Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post:
Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce has decided to play next season but is expected to bypass his $5.5 million player option, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.
This doesn’t preclude Pierce from returning to the Wizards. In fact, he can re-sign for a 20% raise from last season (to $5,543,725). Exercising his option would have meant just a 4.5% raise.
Pierce probably has the leverage to secure that bigger deal from Washington after his impressive season and playoff run. But the Wizards should be mindful of getting Otto Porter an expanded role.
More importantly, they’ll be wary of giving Pierce more than one year – with their primary goal preserving cap space for Kevin Durant in 2016.
That could open the door for the Clippers, who are interested in Pierce and have a big hole at small forward after trading Matt Barnes. They can pay just the taxpayer mid-level exception ($3,376,000 starting), but they’d probably hesitate less to offer multiple years (a second year at $3,527,920 and maybe even a third year at$3,679,840).
It’s unclear how much a longer contract appeals to Pierce, who turns 38 before the season. But the Clippers offer a starting job, a coach he knows in Doc Rivers and a spot in his native Los Angeles.
After the Wizards suffered what was a crushing Game 6 loss to the Hawks, one that eliminated them from the second round of the playoffs, Paul Pierce said he was unsure if he’d play basketball in the future.
The emotional toll of it all was becoming too much for Pierce, who had just completed his 17th NBA season. And even though he has a player option on a deal to stay in Washington for one more year, retirement was clearly something that was looking like a very real possibility.
But now that Pierce has had time to reflect, it appears as though he’s ready to return next season.
From Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post:
Paul Pierce has until the end of June to decide whether he will exercise his $5.5 million player option and return for a second season with the Washington Wizards.
Pierce candidly revealed he wasn’t sure about his basketball future minutes after he heaved a last-gasp three-pointer to extend the Wizards’ season a tick of a second too late. He indicated retiring was a possibility, but a month later Pierce is set on playing next season, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
The question becomes, where?
Pierce has been a great fit in Washington, a veteran voice alongside budding stars in John Wall and Bradley Beal who can still produce in the game’s biggest moments. But evidently, returning home to play in Los Angeles and reuniting with Doc Rivers to make a run with the Clippers is something Pierce is considering.
Pierce would likely need to take less money to sign in L.A., unless a two-year deal that was fully guaranteed exceeded his potential Wizards salary for next season. But even though they play in the more challenging Western Conference, it’s easy to argue that the Clippers have championship potential with the core of their roster, and adding someone like Pierce to the mix could be the piece that pushes them over the edge.