Entering his 17th NBA season, Paul Pierce (who turns 37 next week) is excited about what the future holds in Washington.
The newest Wizard thinks he can help push the young squad possibly into the championship round.
Pierce left the Brooklyn Nets after just one season, and says they’re now in cost-cutting mode.
Was Washington your first choice? I heard all summer you wanted to go home to L.A., to the Clippers.
Paul Pierce: “Obviously, this is my first time in free agency. I really didn’t know where I was going to end up. Truthfully, I thought I was going to end up back in Brooklyn, with Kevin [Garnett]. I told Kevin, if you’re not going to retire, then I probably will come back. But when Brooklyn didn’t give me an offer, it was like, I talked to him, and I kind of started looking at my options then. I thought I probably would end up with the Clippers with Doc [Rivers], but they wound up signing Spencer Hawes [and using the full mid-level exception] at the time. 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?”
Were you surprised that Brooklyn didn’t try harder to move you to the Clippers with a sign-and-trade, since that was the only way the Clippers could get you after they signed Hawes?
PP: “You know what, I didn’t know what to expect. Brooklyn’s been, or New Jersey, Brooklyn, they’re a franchise that’s going in a different direction, I think. They said they wanted to cut costs, they felt like they weren’t going to be a contender. Right now, they’re kind of in the middle right now. And I really didn’t want to be in the middle. I didn’t know if they wanted to do a sign-and-trade. I had to make my own destiny. I couldn’t put it in the faith of somebody else. And that’s when I was like, I’m coming here.”