I remember being all surprised when Paul Pierce signed with the Washington Wizards. Most people probably thought he would re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets or maybe he would return to Boston. Instead, he signed with a rising East power and it actually made all the sense in the world. We just never thought about it.
Pierce revealed why he went with the Wizards. Via David Aldridge of NBA.Com:
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?
Some of the people thought that the floundering Pacers would lose to the Atlanta Hawks in the FIRST ROUND. But, yeah, a lot of other people (like Pierce) thought the Pacers would fall to the Wizards. And with Trevor Ariza leaving, Pierce fills a void in the small forward position. Like Ariza, Pierce also gives them that championship experience except, of course, the former Celtic did it in a bigger role and was named 2008 Finals MVP.
In the end, it was a win-win for all parties involved. Especially since the East is as wide open as ever.
Pierce pic courtesy of Getty Images.