The words of coach Randy Wittman were short and to the point. "Yeah," he snapped quickly when asked about Paul Pierce remaining with the Wizards for the 2015-16 season. And his feeling about where the veteran small forward ends up aren't unique.
CSNwashington.com has spoken with several people with knowledge of the situation in the past week, and the Wizards actually expect Pierce, who could still opt out for a bigger payday, to remain here:
- Pierce was paid $5.5 million at the veteran mid-level exception last season. He could exercise his player option to void the second year of the deal with the Wizards and re-sign at 120% (an extra $1.1 million) under CBA rules for a raise. That's more than the salary-cap strapped Los Angeles Clippers, his strongest suitor, will be able to offer.
- Nothing has changed with the core roster players. Pierce came to Washington because of John Wall and Bradley Beal, and their play in this past postseason didn't dissuade him in any way. Wall averaged a double-double after coming back with a broken left wrist vs. the Atlanta Hawks. Beal was the leading scorer who also locked down DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors) and Kyle Korver (Hawks) on the defensive end.
- There's no plan to recruit Pierce to stay because he doesn't want or need that affirmation. However, the Wizards have paid repeated "homage" to the soon-to-be 38-year-old and given him the respect he craves.
- They took 6-7 small forward Kelly Oubre, who they acknowledge is a few years away from realizing his actual potential, in the first round of Thursday's draft. Otto Porter is the other small forward on the roster and has earned time. Oubre probably won't play much right away. If they expect Pierce to remain, trading up to get Oubre makes even more sense.
- The path to the NBA Finals is a lot easier in the Eastern Conference. Will the Hawks be that good again? Probably not. Will the Cleveland Cavaliers make another run with LeBron James? Probably. But that's a lot more doable than the murderer's row out West with the champion Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies.
Pierce will give the Wizards an official answer as early as Tuesday, a few days before the free-agent signing period opens July 1. He has said this will be his final NBA season.
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