Paul Pierce talks about how he ended up with Wizards — he thinks they can reach the finals


It was the strangest, most unexpected move of the summer — Paul Pierce to the Washington Wizards.

We’re always going to picture Pierce as a Celtic, so any color any other than green seems strange, but he bolted Brooklyn (or, more accurately, they didn’t try to bring him back) and there were a number of teams interested in him.

But it was then Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell who sold Pierce on going to the nation’s capital. He’s a fit on paper, but he had to be convinced.

Pierce laid out how it went down speaking with David Aldridge of

“That’s when Sam Cassell gave me a call, shortly after Trevor Ariza signed with Houston. That kind of happened so fast. He signed, and Sam called me, and [asked] what I thought. We both were in Vegas at the time, talking on the phone. Then met him for lunch. Then met him again for dinner. It took some convincing, because I never really thought about Washington. It just wasn’t on my radar. But I started thinking about it, and everything he was telling me, based on what they did last year, the guys they have here, he talked about the culture, he talked about Coach [Randy Wittman], Ernie [Grunfeld, the GM], talked to him. And I started warming up to the idea. Pretty much that same day we talked, I started warming up. This team does have some potential, now that I think about it. They probably should have beat Indiana. Everybody thought they should have beat Indiana. I was like, they have one of the best backcourts in basketball. They’re lacking experience, a guy in the locker room and on the court that can help end games. I was like, I probably can fit in. After LeBron said he was going back to Cleveland, the dynamics of the Eastern Conference, with Indiana, I was like, this is a team that could be in the Eastern Conference finals, or possibly the Finals, based on what’s here. And adding me to some of the other veterans they added, I was like, why not?”

Cassell recruited Pierce then he bolted for the Clippers and Doc Rivers to be an assistant 0n the left coast.

Can the Wizards make the conference finals? Well, if a lot of things go their way. They are arguably the third best team in the East, something that will be true if John Wall and Bradley Beal continue to grow, and if Nene can just stay healthy. Add in the veteran presence of Pierce and there is a lot to like.

Heck, Pierce seems to be fitting in already.

But Pierce and his Wizards are not better than Cleveland (despite the Cavs flaws). If Derrick Rose is 90 percent of MVP Derrick Rose, Chicago is better than Washington, too.

Still, you can see what Pierce is thinking in making this choice. All he needs is things go perfectly.

Nikola Mirotic scores 17 points in preseason debut for Bulls (VIDEO)


The Bulls will always be about Derrick Rose, and keeping a watchful eye on how he reintegrates himself this preseason will likely be the priority for many of the team’s fans.

But the play of Nikola Mirotic in Chicago’s preseason opener on Monday may have been more inspiring.

Chicago has been known for its defense in recent years, but the offense has struggled at times, especially with Rose out of the lineup due to injury. But the addition of Mirotic, who finished with 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 22 minutes of action, should help there immensely.

Mirotic was inked to a three-year deal this summer, after being drafted by the Bulls back in 2011. He shined in Europe, where he won the Spanish League MVP in 2013 and shot 46 percent from three-point distance last season.

This nice collection of highlights from his first outing with the Bulls showcases some of what he should be able to provide in Chicago on a fairly consistent basis.

Derrick Rose looks like his old self in Bulls preseason debut (VIDEO)


CHICAGO—Derrick Rose made his long-awaited return to the United Center on Monday…sort of. It’s only a preseason game, but his first game in a Bulls uniform in almost a year was a welcome sight after two consecutive season-ending knee surgeries and a performance at the FIBA World Cup that was anything but memorable.

Even though it wasn’t a capacity crowd (that will come on Halloween, when the Bulls play their regular-season home opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers), the Chicago native drew immense applause when he was introduced pregame.

And when he got on the floor, he looked like the Derrick Rose of old. He was aggressive early, driving to the rim, hitting a three-pointer and finishing his first shift with nine points on 4-for-5 shooting in seven minutes.

Again, it’s only a preseason game, so it doesn’t mean that he’s automatically going to return to 2011 MVP form once the regular season kicks off. But he’s confident, he shows no signs of ill health, and he’s playing with no hesitation. That’s good news for Bulls fans and bad news for the rest of the league.

Preseason? Who cares? Paul Pierce, Joakim Noah get into shoving match


You’ve got to love Joakim Noah. And Paul Pierce. Meaningless preseason game? Doesn’t matter. They are not going to back down from confrontation.

Noah and Pierce got into a little shoving match during the Washington at Chicago preseason game in the United Center Monday night. It started when Pierce gave a hard foul to Jimmy Butler, then while the officials reviewed it to see if it was a flagrant foul Pierce kept talking to Butler, so Noah stepped in.

Not really much to it… but considering it’s preseason, it’s pretty feisty.

The best part is Tom Thibodeau’s annoyed expression as he has to get in the middle of this.

As a side note, Derrick Rose put up a quick 9 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the first quarter (which is where we are as of this posting. He looks like that time with Team USA to shake off the rust may have done some good.

Joakim Noah didn’t think Chicago would get Pau Gasol “because it’s freezing out here”


There are a lot of factors that go into a free agency decision. Money is the biggest one, obviously, but after that winning, lifestyle and weather play into it — how much of each depends on the player and the stage of his career.

Pau Gasol had a lot of options this past summer and Joakim Noah didn’t think they were going to land the Spaniard. But it wasn’t about the money, he told

“Because it’s freezing out here,” Noah said… “I think the last time he was here it was that polar, arctic thing. The polar vortex thing going on. It’s brutal.

“So when you’re used to the beach every day, to pick the polar vortex says a lot.”

What mattered to Gasol? Winning. He got a taste of it in Los Angeles and wanted to both get paid and go somewhere he saw a shot at a title. In Chicago those hopes rest on the knees of Derrick Rose, if he’s even 90 percent of his old self they are legit contenders. But those knees are a question mark.

If Gasol bet wrong, it’s going to be a cold winter in Chicago.