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Paul Pierce, Alan Anderson look back on brief time with Wizards

Paul Pierce, Alan Anderson look back on brief time with Wizards

The time Paul Pierce spent in D.C. was short, but his impact on and off the court was significant when the Wizards made a near-magical run in the Eastern Conference playoffs two seasons ago.

The time Alan Anderson spent in D.C. was short, and his impact on the court was minimal as Pierce's replacement in that follow-up disaster of a .500 season.

"There's a lot of moments that stand out for me," Pierce, 39, who'll be retiring after 19 years with the Los Angeles Clippers, said of his 2014-15 season in Washington. "Otto Porter, knowing I had an influence on him. Bradley Beal. John Wall. There's a lot of things I remember off the court just having a relationship with them... I keep up with them even today to see how they're doing. I talk to a few of the guys. Of course a lot of people are going to remember the things we provided in the playoffs."

The Wizards won 46 games that year and advanced to the semifinals only to lose in six games to the Atlanta Hawks. They'd swept the heavily favored Toronto Raptors in the first round, stole home-court advantage from the No. 1 seed Hawks but Wall broke his hand/wrist in the opener. That changed the series, keeping him out three games. 

For Anderson, who was signed after Pierce walked in free agency to play for his hometown team and the coach he won a championship with, it was not a glorious time. 

Pierce was gone the moment his three-pointer in Game 6 to force overtime vs. Atlanta was waved off because it came after the buzzer. Anderson longed for a second chance after he appeared in just 13 games of a season that left the Wizards outside of the postseason.

Anderson, 34, is now a role player for the Clippers, who the Wizards defeated 117-110 on Sunday for their biggest win in a 12-15 season. Pierce is his teammate. Neither played in that game. 

During Las Vegas Summer League, Anderson was working out to rehabilitate his troublesome left ankle and the Wizards visited him. The ankle required two surgeries in five months and the first came after his 2014-15 season with the Brooklyn Nets to remove bone spurs. A fragment, however, was mistakenly left behind and, according to league sources to CSNmidatlantic.com at the time, that caused a tendon to fray. 

"Personally, it was," Anderson said about re-signing with the Wizards being a priority as a result. "For them it wasn't. Whatever the reason that's fine. It's a job. It's a business." 

[RELATED: Beal continues to prove worthy of $128 million max contract]

Anderson has averaged 11.3 minutes in the seven games that he has appeared in for the Clippers, and 2.4 points on shooting 40% from three-point range. There were other options on the table for Anderson, who made $4 million when he signed for one year in Washington and now plays for the $1.3 million veteran minimum in Los Angeles.

"It wasn't that easy," Anderson said of playing at a discount. "I turned down some good money from other teams. Not as high caliber teams but teams I would've played a lot more and made a lot more money. Coming off the two ankle surgeries I did, you want to make sure this year you're not rushing into everything. With an explososive team we have I figured I was going to fit in. I came here with the mind-set be ready, be patient."

Though a lot of the pieces are different with the Wizards, some bad habits remain. For every win over the likes of the Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pitons, there are losses to the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers with obscene points allowed.

As much as injuries contributed to 41-41 and the firing of then-coach Randy Wittman last season, the yo-yo effect has been there under new coach Scott Brooks. The Wizards have a thinner bench to begin with and injuries to Ian Mahinmi (right knee) and Jason Smith (right hamstring) have forced an undrafted rookie in Daniel Ochefu into action.

"We win four or five games. We lose four or five games. We win some big games, we lose to teams we shouldn't lose to," Anderson said in explaining last season. "You can't do that. Injuries or not.

"The rhyme or reason (for that) is your mind-set and your approach. You can't approach a Philly as a Philly. You approach them as if they're Cleveland or Golden State. That just goes with maturity."

Mind-set falls on the backcourt of Wall and Beal, both in their mid-20s, who have been playing at an All-Star level. On Monday, Beal missed a game-winning three-point shot to the Indiana Pacers, but he has strung together a career-high seven consecutive games with 20 points or more. Wall is averaging a double-double again.

They're in sync like never before. The duo may have "disliked" each other on the court– in Wall's own words – at times, but they've clearly moved past that. Anderson has been there for flareups with every team he has played with and it's many. He has played in Charlotte, Toronto and Brooklyn, too. He also has spent time playing professionally in Italy, Russia, Croatia, Israel and Spain. 

"Brothers always have a conflict with each other," Anderson said. "They just got to learn how to get past it. However they do that is on them. You're going to have bickering with every team. That actually builds the team."

Pierce only was complimentary of what he saw then and what he has seen since from the Wizards' backcourt, which could make the All-Star Game together for the first time. 

"I thought those guys got along pretty well" he said. "When you're losing and things aren't going your way, then little things get brought up. Sometimes that happens. I've been a victim of that in the past when playing with losing teams. That's all part of it."

[RELATED: Takeaways from Wizards' last-second loss to Pacers]

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The case for Davis Bertans to make the NBA's three-point contest

The case for Davis Bertans to make the NBA's three-point contest

Since acquiring Davis Bertans from the Spurs in exchange for the rights to Aaron White, the Wizards have unlocked the sharpshooter's full offensive potential. 

In San Antonio, Bertans was known more as a spot-up, floor-stretching power forward. Now? He's one of the most feared snipers in the NBA with his ability to come off screens, get his shot off quickly and drill threes from just about anywhere on the court. 

Bertans should without a doubt be invited to compete in the NBA's three-point contest at All-Star weekend. Jordan McRae is leading the campaign charge and the Wizards recently started a campaign to get him there as well. 

So as we await word on whether Bertans will be invited or not, let's lay out his claim as one of the most prolific three-point shooters in the league and how he stacks up against everyone else. 

By the numbers

Bertans is shooting 42.4 percent on 8.7 three-point attempts per game, which is absurd efficiency at that volume. 

Of the 14 players that take at least eight threes per game, nobody is shooting at a higher clip than Bertans.

He's also second in the league in three-point makes per game (3.7), trailing only James Harden. For players who make at least three triples per game, Bertans has the third-highest shooting percentage on his looks. 

If that's not enough, Bertans leads the NBA in catch-and-shoot makes from deep this season (3.2). The three-point contest closer resembles catch-and-shoot opportunities rather than shooting threes off the dribble. If Bertans were to compete in such a setting, he'd feel right at home. 

Supreme confidence

Confidence is one of the most crucial traits of a great shooter, and Bertans has no shortage of self-assurance.

He could be 0-for-7 from three and 2-of-10 from the field, but that wouldn't stop Bertans from taking a 30-footer with the game on the line. 

Speaking of 30-footers, Bertans is more than comfortable launching shots from several feet beyond the three-point line. If he ends up shooting in the three-point contest, I wouldn't be surprised if he wanted to move the ball racks back a few feet just for kicks. 

After a game in which he made six threes against the Hornets, Bertans was asked if there was a three he felt was too deep for him to take. His response?

"I haven't found that yet."

The competition

Last year there were 10 participants in the three-point contest at All-Star weekend. With Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant hurt this season, you have arguably the three best snipers in the NBA all sidelined with serious injuries. 

Without those three, I'm not sure there are five shooters in the league better than Bertans, let alone 10. 

As of now, there have been three reported invites to the contest. Luka Doncic (32.7 3P%), Trae Young (37.3) and Duncan Robinson (42.9), though it's not yet clear if those players will accept. 

Bertans is in line for a nice payday this summer based on his play so far this year, but his recognition around the league shouldn't stop there. 

All you need to do is watch a Wizards game when Bertans hits a few threes in a row and look at how the defense reacts to him. They abandon their entire gameplan to run Bertans off the three-point line. 

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Wizards' three-point defense continues to stand out as a major weakness

Wizards' three-point defense continues to stand out as a major weakness

With the 30th-ranked defense in the NBA, the Wizards have more than one issue on that end of the floor, but lately what has stood out most is a familiar problem.

Three-point defense remains a major weakness for the Wizards, who have had trouble guarding the perimeter going back to last season. It killed them in their overtime loss to the Heat on Wednesday night, as Miami made 17 threes and shot 51.5 percent on their 33 attempts. 

We can focus on Bradley Beal's late-game misses, or the free throw shot disparity. But the biggest reason the Wizards lost to the Heat was their inability to prevent three-point shots.

Even the guys everyone knows can shoot found little resistance. Tyler Herro made 7-of-9 from long range, Duncan Robinson hit 4-of-7 and Kelly Olynyk went 2-for-3.

If your goal is to stop the Heat, who are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA, from making them, you circle those names at the top of the scouting report. The Wizards knew it was coming and still couldn't stop it.

This came two games after the Toronto Raptors made 22 threes against the Wizards, the third-most ever allowed in their franchise history. And on the season, the Wizards currently allow the ninth-highest three-point percentage (36.9) and the sixth-most threes made (12.3) on average.

Last season it was also an issue, as they gave up the fifth-highest three-point percentage (34.1). Much of their personnel is different, yet the same problems persist.

The Wizards may not be able to do much about it this season, barring major changes at the trade deadline. They are only going to be so good at stopping threes with Isaiah Thomas as their starting point guard. Backup Ish Smith, though much more mobile than Thomas, is also at a size disadvantage.

They are simply going to be limited by the way their roster is constructed. In the front office's defense, they had to change a lot last offseason and couldn't fix it all. They made the Wizards younger, more financially flexible and a more efficient offensive team. But they didn't do much to fix the defense and, in fact, it has gotten worse by almost every measure.

Defense will clearly be a major priority going into this summer, if their current pace continues. There will, however, be no easy fix for their three-point defense.

They will need to get a more defensive-minded point guard, assuming Thomas doesn't come back. Maybe John Wall can help their cause when he returns. He is a former All-Defensive selection with the size and length to be a good three-point defender. But he hasn't exactly been consistent in that department throughout his career.

These days, three-point defense is about much more than guards. Teams can roll out lineups with five players who can stretch the floor. The Wizards will need to add big men to their rotation who are nimble enough to man the perimeter.

Perhaps the best way the Wizards can plug some holes in their three-point defense is by their young forwards learning how to be more disruptive. Their two most recent first round picks, Troy Brown Jr. and Rui Hachimura, each have plus wingspans and have flashed solid defensive instincts. The Wizards need them to be able to step out and alter outside shots.

It will be a challenge for general manager Tommy Sheppard and the Wizards front office as they go into this summer trying to take the roster to another level. When healthy, the team has shown they can score. But they don't play defense anywhere close to good enough to be a winning team.

What they have to do is figure out a way to infuse the team with capable defenders without sacrificing much in the way of their offense. They won't be able to cure all of their ills overnight, but they could start on the perimeter.

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