Per a report from the Washington Post, Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce announced recently that he intends to play next season – but that could be with the Wizards or the Los Angeles Clippers. With Doc Rivers, Pierce’s former coach with the Boston Celtics, manning the show in L.A., the familiarity could be enough to lure Pierce back to his home town. Pierce, 37, grew up in neighboring Oakland, Calif., and could return to play what could be his final season in front of friends and family. Pierce’s contributions to Washington were important in the team’s continued growth, but sophomore forward Otto Porter flashed the hidden potential that made him the No. 3 overall selection in 2012. With Porter expected to tackle a larger role with the club next season, should the Wizards even favor a potential Pierce return? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Green: Pierce was a playoff savior for the Wizards this past season, as he hit several big shots in the postseason for the team and nearly saved the day in their elimination game against Atlanta before his desperate three-pointer was waved off. His playoff moxie and veteran poise was a big help to the Wizards this past season and they should attempt to sway him to return to D.C. Porter’s emergence will only help preserve Pierce in what could be his swan season, but the team still had success with Pierce operating at power forward and helping spread the floor for John Wall and Bradley Beal so playing both forwards at the same time would be helping instead of hindering. It isn’t like the roster is stacked and it would be hard to fit Pierce into the lineup. There’s minutes to go around in Washington and the team should encourage his return.
Riley: Porter’s performance last season only serves as a hint that it’s time for Washington to go full steam ahead with their original plans of rebuilding through the draft. Washington believes it has a nice core of Wall, Beal and the emerging Porter, all of whom were drafted in recent seasons. There’s playing time aplenty to split minutes between Pierce and Porter—that’s not the issue. Pierce’s performance in the playoffs was thrilling if you were a Wizards fan but also should’ve been somewhat concerning. Washington’s future rests in the hands of Beal, Wall and Porter, yet it was Pierce with the ball in his hands during crunch time in a lot of the Wizards’ games last season. It’s time for the Wizards’ young focal point players to start taking those shots, and that won’t happen if Pierce returns. Washington is trying to develop its younger players while Pierce is chasing one last championship opportunity. It might be best if both parties split ways at this point.
Green: I don’t see a hindrance in the fact that Pierce hit several of the team’s bigger shots as much as I see a live blueprint for the players on what it takes to be great in clutch times. The fact that Wall and Bell were able to learn from Pierce on what it took to come up huge in those situations was big for them and it will definitely translate into their growth next year. Let’s not forget that entering next season Wall, Beal and Porter are each younger than 25, so it isn’t like they’re all at the age where the onus has to be put on their shoulders immediately if the team wants to compete. The core of this team is still young and there’s still plenty of things for them to learn. Another year of Pierce holding their hands through tough situations won’t derail their future. And eventually you can replace him with the likes of a superstar, perhaps Kevin Durant.
Riley: The future is now in the NBA. Every team goes into the season focused on winning that year and the quicker Washington can get their young three on the same page and hitting big shots, the further along the Wizards will be to really making some noise in the Eastern Conference. The core is young, but we’re talking about two players in Beal and Wall that have eight years combined experience in the NBA, while Porter will be entering his third year. The Golden State Warriors just reeled in a title with nine years’ experience between their two backcourt stars in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. And their biggest breakout player of the season, Draymond Green is only in his third year. So, it can be done, and Washington needs to follow suit. The Warriors re-established themselves by putting trust in their younger players and it paid off for them. Washington should be angling for the same position. So, if Pierce wants to relocate to Los Angeles then the Wizards would be wise to offer the least resistant as possible.