Paul Pierce's heart has been in Los Angeles, his hometown, for quite sometime. But he still follows the Wizards, who he helped lead to the East semifinals last season and came within a three-point shot that was waved off at the buzzer to force a Game 7.
"I had a lot of fun, truthfully, just being around the young guys and teaching them everyday, talking to them," said Pierce, who is here for the first time since leaving for Monday's game at Verizon Center with the L.A. Clippers. "This is one of my funnest years, even though it was for one year, I had a lot of fun being around these guys. They welcomed me with open arms. I embraced the city, they embraced me back. I really enjoyed my time here."
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Pierce is making his first start at power forward with Blake Griffin out with a leg injury. At 38, he had been coming off the bench for coach Doc Rivers.
Rivers, who coached Pierce with the Boston Celtics when they advanced to two NBA Finals and won a championship in 2008, made going home too tempting to resist.
"It was basically a family decision. Doc definitely made it easier, being able to have Doc there as a coach," Pierce said. "Being at home around my mother and having my kids be around their cousins and uncles and grandmas, especially at this point in my career where this could be the last year, who knows, re-evaluate after the season, just start finally getting them in a school system where they’re probably going to live. Also the opportunity, I looked at the team and I thought that we you know had a chance to win a championship with me and being around family. It was a combination of things. If it wasn’t for that, then I definitely would have been back here."
As a fellow NBA head coach, Scott Brooks understands what Tyronn Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers is going through. As his former teammate, Ramon Sessions knows how tough Lue is.
Both members of the Wizards shared their reactions after Monday's practice to the news Lue is stepping away from the Cavs to deal with a health issue. Both expressed hope Lue will not be out long as the NBA continues its trek towards the playoffs.
"All of our thoughts are with him," Brooks said. "You hope that it's nothing serious. Health is the most important [thing]. The game is secondary."
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"Prayers out to T-Lue," said Sessions, who played with Lue in Milwaukee. "It's one of those things where you've gotta take care of yourself at the end of the day. Him stepping away is the best thing."
Lue's illness has been a mystery to doctors, according to a statement he released on the Cavaliers' website. He has dealt with chest pains and other symptoms while also struggling to sleep. The hope is that having time off will allow him to get the rest he needs.
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Brooks knows firsthand how difficult it is to get sleep during the regular season as a coach.
"You just have to figure out ways to get your rest. Some days are better than others. Sometimes you think after a good win you can have a good night's rest or sometimes it's the opposite. It's just hard to get rest. You're traveling in different timezones. You are emotional after games. You eat late. There are a lot of factors that go into it. We don't have a set schedule every night. I have a good staff and I rely on them," he said.
Lue, 40, will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim. The Cavs happen to be in a tight playoff race with the Wizards and other teams in the Eastern Conference battling for position.
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On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, host Chase Hughes was joined by Bullets/Wizards legend Phil Chenier ahead of his jersey retirement set for this upcoming weekend on March 23.
Chenier looked back on his playing and broadcasting career and told great stories. He also shared some memories of the 1978 championship as the franchise gets ready to honor its 40th anniversary.
You can listen to the episode right here:
You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!