Paul Pierce hinted at retirement in the aftermath of the Wizards series-season loss to the Hawks on May 15. Then he went radio silent, skipping the media during exit interviews. From there came general reports about the Los Angeles native possibly, if not likely opting out of the final contract year with Washington for a shot with the Clippers.
FInally, Pierce resurfaced this week as a guest on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio. During his appearance on “The Players Tribune” show, the future Hall of Famer discussed when his decision might come - over the next few weeks, Pierce said - and how the season ended. Yes, disappointment lingers, but Pierce sounded rather optimistic about the Wizards.
“Man, it was a good run,” Pierce said. “We really have a really good young team, and a couple budding superstars. It was tough. It especially really hurt us when John [Wall] broke his hand. Even though he came back, that really kind of hurt our rhythm, because we [were] playing so well. We felt like we were the better team if we had stayed healthy, but we lost some heartbreaking games.
“You know how the playoffs are,” Pierce continued. “Every game is close, and it all came down to the end, but I’m happy with the way guys fought. Nobody expected us to beat the Raptors. I thought we were better than Atlanta. We fell up short, but I really like our team, I really like the young budding stars. And we’re definitely disappointed, and would have gave Cleveland probably a better challenge than Atlanta, I think, but it was tough.”
Parsing words time. As DC Sportsbog noted (also h/t for finding the interview), that's a lot of present-tense in those words, "we" and us. Seems positive, but who knows the truth, other than perhaps Pierce, of course.
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Pierce, 37, was then asked about how he's gearing up for big decisions coming up this summer. He must let the Wizards know about whether he'll play the final year of his contract ahead of the July 1 start to free agency.
It starts with a family trip to Mexico, Pierce noted, during which discussions about whether to continue his 17-year career will take place.
“These seasons, as you get older, they just are so long and draining," Pierce said. "This last playoffs really took a lot out of me, not only physically but emotionally, because I think I put so much into the game that it takes a piece of you. It’s really all got to do with how my mental state of mind’s gonna be this summer. Because I do feel like I can still play this game. I mean, I showed that this year, that I still have something left in the tank. But it’s just the mental part of getting ready in the summer and getting ready for a long year. Those are the things I’ve got to think about. My body is starting to finally heal. ...I'll probably know something in the next couple of weeks."
Later in the interview and perhaps another example of Pierce's fondness for the team, he explained the relationship with Washington's starry young backcourt tandem of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
“I didn’t know how much of a student of the game John was and Brad was,” Pierce said. “They really love the game, they watch it all the time, they watch college, they love the game of basketball. On the bus drives, on the airplane rides, that’s where we develop the chemistry: playing cards in the back of the bus, going out to dinners. We had times during the season where we had team dinners at least once a month; they [were] like they really didn’t do that too much, so we tried to implement those things and just form a good bond with them.
“And the good thing is, these guys know I’ve been in the NBA 17 years, so I’ve got a lot of stories to give them. And when I give them old stories, they want to know how was KG, how was all the former guys I played with. And they’d just sit around the locker room and we’d just talk about it, and I think right there develops the chemistry: the respect they have for me, but also the respect I have for them.”
The discussion veered into other topics including the NBA Finals (Pierce picked the Cavaliers) and playing against legends like Michael Jordan (on the Wizards) and Karl Malone. at the end, Pierce concluded with what's clearly becoming his signature phrase. "I called game."