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Will Pierce leave Wizards and go west? Rumors have resurfaced

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Will Pierce leave Wizards and go west? Rumors have resurfaced

Here we go again.

Rumors suggesting Paul Pierce to the Los Angeles Clippers have resurfaced. Like threats of the Purple Line becoming a possibility for Metro riders or a Guns & Roses reunion that involves Axl Rose and Slash, the idea that the Wizards forward could join the Clippers now surfaces every year.

The latest mention occurred Monday via NBA.com's David Aldridge, who examined needs and upcoming decisions facing teams next season. Aldridge wrote the following in the section on the Wizards:

The Wizards could stand pat if Pierce decides to return to D.C. next season rather than opt out of his deal, but many around the league believe Pierce will do just that and finish his career back home in Los Angeles with the Clippers. 

Pierce, 37, signed a two-year deal with the Wizards last summer with a player option for the 2015-16 season. As the year progressed, he expressed optimism about his season in Washington, both on and off the court.

Minutes after the Wizards heartbreaking series loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs earlier this month, Pierce's initial statements centered on debating whether he wanted to play anymore. There was no clear mention of joining the Clippers (or staying with the Wizards, for that matter).

Those were his last public words on the topic. The future Hall of Famer did not speak with media during breakdown day on May 19.

Free agency officially opens July 1. Presumably, Pierce would let the Wizards know whether he intends to opt into or out of his contract days before. As of last week, the organization hadn't heard anything specific.

None of this is to suggest that the idea of Pierce signing with the Clippers is without merit.

For starters, he grew up in Los Angeles. Doc Rivers, Pierce's former head coach with the Boston Celtics, holds the same position with the Western Conference power. The belief around the league last year had this marriage taking place. Ultimately, the Clippers spent their dowry dollars elsewhere and Pierce hooked up with the Wizards.

He'll make $5.5 million next season if he stays in Washington. Los Angeles might not have that kind of money available. 

Pierce isn't suiting up for anyone pro bono, but ultimately he's mostly after another ring. Arguably, his best bet between the two sides might be out West.

Los Angeles finished second in the tough Western Conference this season and led Houston 3-1 in the semifinal round before falling apart. Pierce's veteran swagger added to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin might be the missing piece.

Then again, the suspect Eastern Conference currently offers more hope for a title run. Maybe the Wizards get there this season with an extra second on the clock in Game 6 against the Hawks. Maybe they advance next season with Pierce plus progress from John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Surely, all of this is on Pierce's mind. Surely this won't be the last we hear of him possibly joining the Clippers. The train has left the station.  Welcome to the Jungle.

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The Wizards dominated Game 3 because everybody ate ... literally

The Wizards dominated Game 3 because everybody ate ... literally

The Wizards returned to Washington, D.C. on Friday down 0-2 to the Raptors in their best-of-seven 2018 NBA Playoffs first-round series

The team lost a close one in Game 1 and was run out of the building in Game 2. Game 3 was must-win, and the Wizards knew what needed to happen in order for them to secure the victory.

"Everybody eats." 

That's the phrase that has defined the Wizards throughout much of the season They are at their best when John Wall is making plays and feeding his teammates.

On Friday night, the Wizards beat the Raptors 122-103 to force at least a Game 5. Wall finished with 28 points and 14 assists.

Bradley Beal finally broke out of his slump for 28 points and  Marcin Gortat, Mike Scott and Kelly Oubre all chipped in with at least 10 points.

But the stat sheet wasn't the only place where everybody eats.

Here's Marcin Gortat from Game 3. 

But if pantomiming isn't your thing, here is Bradley Beal actually eating popcorn during Game 3.

So what did we learn in Game 3? Well, for starters: "Everybody Eats" is not just a motto, it is a way of life.

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

GORTAT DITCHES MOHAWK, TEAMMATES APPROVE

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM WILD GAME 3

BEAL GOT AN APOLOGY FROM SCOTT BROOKS

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With Playoff Beal back, the Wizards are revitalized in playoff series vs. Raptors

With Playoff Beal back, the Wizards are revitalized in playoff series vs. Raptors

The Toronto Raptors were only going to hold Bradley Beal down for so long. After two so-so games to begin the Wizards-Raptors playoff series, the All-Star shooting guard was bound to find his way offensively and that arrival came in a Game 3 win on Friday night.

Beal was brilliant and much more in line with what he's shown in the postseason throughout his career. Game 2 was his worst playoff game as an NBA player, he scored only nine points. Game 3 was one of his best on the postseason stage, or at least one of his most timely and important.

The Wizards needed more from Beal to give themsevles a chance in this series. An 0-3 deficit would have been a death sentence. His production is so key to their success that head coach Scott Brooks and point guard John Wall met with Beal in between Games 2 and 3 to figure out how to get him going.

Whether that was the catalyst or not, the results followed. Beal poured in 28 points in 10-for-19 shooting with four rebounds, four assists and three steals. He hit four threes, more than he had in the first two games combined.

Beal wasted no time to make an impact scoring the ball. His first points came on a quick burst to the basket where he stopped on a dime, turned around and banked it in. By the end of the first quarter, he had 12 points in 11 minutes.

“I just wanted to be aggressive, get shots that I wanted which is what they were going to force me to take," Beal said.

After Game 2, Brooks and Beal described how physical the Raptors were defending him. They were holding on to him and staying close, even when he wasn't moving off the ball.

Brooks saw a difference in how Beal responded to that in Game 3.

"Brad came out and was looking to go towards the basket and not just letting them hold him and going along with it. He didn’t want to dance with his opponent, he wanted to get away from them. That was a critical part of his success," Brooks said.

Beal's 28 points were as much as he scored in Games 1 and 2 together and just about what he averaged through four games against the Raptors during the regular season (28.8). By halftime of Game 3, Beal had 21 points on 8-for-11 from the field.

Beal hit two threes in the first quarter and another two in the second quarter. Several of those threes were set up by Wall, who used the meeting with Brooks and Beal to ask how he can set him up better as the point guard.

In Game 3, they were on the same page.

"I do think this man [John Wall] next to me, he creates and facilitates for the whole team and gets everybody easy shots," Beal said. "I talk to you guys all the time and I can’t tell you the last time I actually got a regular catch and shoot three just in a regular half court set. When he came back, I got like three or four off the bat."

What Beal did in Game 3 is what the Wizards are used to seeing from him this time of the year. Despite being only 24 years old, he has a strong track record in the playoffs.

Through 37 career postseason games, Beal is averaging 22.3 points, more than his career average of 18.7 in the regular season. In each of his previous three postseason runs, he has averaged more points during the playoffs than he did in the regular seasons leading up.

That production has earned him the nickname 'Playoff Beal' and when he goes off like he did in Game 3, good things usually happen. The Wizards are 10-6 in the playoffs during his career when he scores 25 points or more.

Wall also boasts impressive career numbers in the playoffs. When the Wizards have both of their stars playing at their best, they are hard to beat. With peak Beal on board, this series looks a lot different than it did not that long ago.

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

GORTAT DITCHES MOHAWK, TEAMMATES APPROVE

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM WILD GAME 3

BEAL GOT AN APOLOGY FROM SCOTT BROOKS

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