Updates from Thursday, July 17
The Washington Wizards confirmed Paul Pierce's arrival via the team's Twitter account on Thursday:
Longtime Boston Celtic Paul Pierce will very likely finish out his career as a member of the Washington Wizards after a one-year stop with the Brooklyn Nets last season. Pierce agreed to a two-year contract with the Wizards on Saturday, ending the flux of speculation about the 36-year-old's twilight seasons.
Obama , J Wall here I come— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) July 13, 2014
ESPN's Marc Stein had the report:
ESPN has learned that Pierce will sign a two-year deal with the Wizards at the mid-level exception with a player option entering Year 2— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 13, 2014
SportsCenter confirmed the financial end of the deal:
THIS JUST IN: Paul Pierce heading to Wizards. He agrees to 2-yr deal worth $11 million, with player option for Year 2. (via @ESPNSteinLine)— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 13, 2014
Tim Bontemps of the New York Post added more detail:
Nets had the chance to re-sign Pierce and passed, according to league sources. Would have cost them upwards of $20 million in luxury taxes.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) July 13, 2014
This deal comes shortly after the Wizards lost Trevor Ariza to the Houston Rockets (per USA Today's Sam Amick).
A 10-time All-Star in 15 seasons with Boston, Pierce spent last season with the Nets following a blockbuster draft-day trade. Pierce and Kevin Garnett were sent to Brooklyn in exchange for numerous future first-round picks and cap fodder in a move that was expected to make the Nets a formidable championship contender.
Pierce and Garnett both had intermittent success as Jason Kidd attempted to limit the wear and tear on their aging bodies, but the supporting cast failed to produce up to par. Deron Williams regressed from superstar to walking albatross with a career-worst season. Brook Lopez suffered a season-ending foot injury and underwent a risky procedure that could either revive or end his career.
The Nets started miserably as they failed to coalesce, calling Kidd's and general manager Billy King's job statuses into question. Though they recovered to make the playoffs, the championship dream was essentially dead on arrival.
Brooklyn defeated the Toronto Raptors in a seven-game thriller before being shellacked by the Miami Heat in Round 2. The playoff run featured many highs and lows, particularly for Pierce.
He was rendered inconsequential at certain points in both series, with Kidd benching him in crunch time for the hotter hand. He also hit a dagger in a Game 1 win against Toronto and blocked Kyle Lowry's potential game-winning shot in Game 7 to send the Nets to their untimely demise.
After the Heat finished Brooklyn in five games, Pierce indicated he had "one or two" years left in the tank but was unsure whether they'd come in Brooklyn.
"I haven't really put much thought into it," Pierce told reporters, via ESPN New York's Ohm Youngmisuk. "I put my whole focus into this season, it's my last year of the contract. I will sit back and talk to the family and see where my options are from there and go from there."
Pierce averaged a career-low 13.5 points and a near-career-low 4.6 rebounds in 2013-14. His per-minute averages were a little more promising, and Pierce understandably took fewer shots than ever with so many other players needing their looks. Although nowhere near the defensive stopper he was at his peak, the Nets allowed more than seven points less per 100 possessions with Pierce on the floor than when he sat, per NBA.com.
That number is somewhat misleading because Pierce played a significant amount of minutes with Garnett, still a defensive force at age 38. But Pierce is an excellent team defender in his own right and can be an asset in the right situations.
Finding those spots and not overextending Pierce will decide whether this deal makes sense or flops. If there was anything Kidd did well in his first season as an NBA coach, it was handling his locker room. Dropping Pierce below 30 minutes a game for the first time in his career and holding Garnett largely to a 20-minute nightly cap cannot be an easy conversation, so it speaks to Kidd's amicability that he was able to do it without friction.
Somehow, the Bargs trade wasn't the worst one made by a New York team that gave up three picks in the deal last summer.— Jared Dubin (@JADubin5) July 13, 2014
Next season, Pierce's minutes will probably be reduced even more. If he loses a step or two, Pierce may regress from above-average defender to liability. His old-man offensive game probably won't change much, but a roster can certainly benefit from his leadership and two-way skills.
With this deal, neither side is risking all that much. It's just going to be interesting to see how it pans out. Last season began Pierce's noticeable surrender to Father Time. Here's hoping next season won't see his skills fall off a cliff.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.