The truth is the Washington Wizards wanted Paul Pierce back. That didn't happen. Once the future Hall of Fame forward revealed he planned on joining the Los Angeles Clippers, the Wizards moved on.
The team added three veterans in the days after Pierce's decision. On Thursday afternoon, wing guard Gary Neal became the first of that trio officially confirmed by the team.
The Wizards have officially acquired Jared Dudley and are expected to announce the signing of swingman Alan Anderson in the coming days.
Maybe some of these players join a team that reached the Eastern Conference semifinals for a second straight year under coach Randy Wittman regardless of Pierce's decision. Then again, considering the small forward's playoff heroics - and the minutes he commands-, maybe they don't.
"You just have to move on. You can't dwell on it," Wittman said Thursday following the team's final mini-camp practice before heading to the Las Vegas Summer League.
Pierce, 37, agreed to a three-year, $10 million contract with the Clippers on July 1.
"If you're around long enough you're never surprised," Wittman said of Pierce's choice. "I think you can probably ask (Dallas Mavericks owner) Mark Cuban that."
"Disappointed a little but just because who Paul is and what he is, but he's at the end of his career," he said of Pierce, a Los Angeles native. "I know he's got his mom there and family there and he grew up there. I know what that was all about. I was able to play with hometown team at the end of my career. I know what the thought process is there."
The thought process this offseason involved adding more versatility and shooting options on the roster. Neal, Dudley and Anderson fill those needs.
"You have to be ready to move on with the next step and I think we've done a good job with that. Real excited with what we've been able to do, the additions. Hopefully we've got another piece we can maybe add as the summer moves on," Wittman said.
Neal, 30, made it clear why he was interested in Washington.
Terms were not disclosed, but the Baltimore native reportedly signed a 1-year, $2.1 million contract to join the Wizards after spending last season with a pair of non-playoff teams. The perimeter threat averaged 10.1 points with Charlotte and Minnesota.
"I think the biggest thing that stood out to me was getting back to a team with playoff expectations," Neal said during a conference call on Thursday. "For the teams that I had on my list, Washington was atop that list. Also, just having an opportunity to play with a pass-first, very good point guard in John Wall."
The 6-foot-4 Neal will serve as a backup for starter Bradley Beal, though Wittman said the two could join Wall in three-guard sets.