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Paul Pierce on Deron Williams' Game 4 outburst: 'It's great'


Paul Pierce on Deron Williams' Game 4 outburst: 'It's great'

Now that it's the postseason, Paul Pierce is watching more basketball and that's especially true for the Atlanta Hawks-Brooklyn Nets series that's tied at 2. Pierce's one season in Brooklyn was miserable last year and he recently was critical of the lack of fire and commitment by point guard Deron Williams. He didn't hide from his comments made earlier this month which he believes were constructively critical.

"I watch more now than I can in the regular season. You like to look at those games and kind of scout knowing that one of these teams is a team that you're going to play. I'm watching closely," Pierce said before addressing Williams, who had 35 points in a Game 4 overtime victory vs. Atlanta on Monday. "I think it's great. I know that's what he's capable of. That's probably why I said a lot of things I said because I know what Deron Williams is capable of. The player you saw last night, that's what you expect out of him. It's all a mind-set. You got to go out there and will yourself every night, I believe."

Pierce has taken to this inspirational thing. He's largely credited for giving the Wizards an attitude and edge that resulted in a four-game sweep of the Toronto Raptors, the first time that has happened in franchise history. Pierce attended Game 7 of the Washington Capitals' Game 7 win vs. the New York Islanders on Monday, too. He had one of the best seats at Verizon Center and is relishing his role as the spirit of D.C. 

"I got some coaching because I never sat that close before so they said when a player comes close to the window you're supposed to hit the window. So I was doing as the Romans do," he said. "When you play for a city you become part of it. You become one with the fans. You always run into all the other sports players. I always see those guys in there in the weight room or in passing. It's easy to support."

Pierce trolled rap artist Drake, the Raptors' "global ambassador," on social media after his team was eliminated Sunday. Before the series began, Pierce said the Raptors lacked the "it" factor even though they were the higher seed with an All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.

"I just look at it as good banter," he said. "A lot of this stuff I don't pre-think it. It just comes out naturally."

Then, he resorted to third-person speak.

"Paul Pierce is going to be who Paul Pierce is going to be," Paul Pierce said. "I'm going to be myself. It wasn't like they said come in here and be a hype man, be a leader. I'm being myself. If it helps our team, if it hurts our team, I'm just trying to be myself and see how it goes. That's all it is. I'm a vocal person. I speak up. I tell the guys how I feel. I'm emotional. That's just me being me -- truthfully."

RELATED: [Nets bond over Pierce's criticism]

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: KZ Okpala

School: Stanford
Position: Forward
Age: 20
Height: 6-10
Weight: 210
Wingspan: 7-2
Max vertical: 37 in.

2018/19 stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 46.3 FG% (5.9/12.7), 36.8 3PT% (1.1/3.0), 67.1 FT%

Player comparison: Kyle Kuzma, Gerald Green

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 25th, NBADraft.net 23rd, Bleacher Report 27th, Sports Illustrated 29th, Ringer 41st

5 things to know:

*Okpala is a tall, lanky wing who loves to drive from the perimeter to the rim. He made the All-Pac-12 team this past season after improving his scoring average from 10.0 points as a freshman to 16.8 points as a sophomore. He also increased his rebounds per game average from 3.7 to 5.7.

*He is arguably one of the most athletic players in this class. At 6-foot-10 in shoes, he has great size for a wing player and measured at the NBA combine with a 7-2 wingspan. He also has an impressive vertical leap of 37 inches which would be good even for a point guard. He is also fast in the open court. Teams will be enticed with his ceiling on both ends of the floor.

*Okpala scored a lot in college but has a raw offensive game. He isn't fully there as a ball-handler and has an improving, but still inconsistent outside shot. The fact he made a leap from his freshman to sophomore year as a three-point shooter was a very good sign. His 36.8 three-point percentage on three attempts per game is encouraging but does not offer any guarantees that he can stretch the floor at the next level. His 67.1 free throw percentage doesn't help his cause.

*He is just the third player from Stanford to leave for the NBA before his junior season, joining the Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, who were first round picks in 2010.

*Okpala is the son of two Nigerian immigrants. He had a 4.4 GPA in high school.

Fit with Wizards: Okpala would fill a need for the Wizards in that he is a forward and they don't have many of those under contract for next season. He would also give them a young player with high upside, something they currently lack.

But Okpala also seems to offer decent bust potential. Ever since Kevin Durant came into the league, there have been a lot of players like Okpala to come along, ones that are tall enough to play inside but prefer to work on the perimeter.

Sometimes that can work, like with Giannis Antetokounmpo or Brandon Ingram (sort of). But for every success story, there seem to be a lot of guys like Perry Jones and Thon Maker.

Okpala seems very much like boom or bust, and the Wizards may not be able to afford taking a chance like that.

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Neil Olshey signs extension with Trail Blazers, off the table for Wizards job

Neil Olshey signs extension with Trail Blazers, off the table for Wizards job

After Tim Connelly decided to re-join the Nuggets rather than take the Wizards' vacant front-office position, Washington has been forced back to the drawing board.

The Wizards have interviewed Thunder assistant general manager Troy Weaver, former Hawks general manager Danny Ferry and Wizards interim team president Tommy Sheppard.

In addition to those names, NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig reported the team could have interest in Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. 

That option was eliminated Friday when Olshey signed an extension to remain with Portland. 

With Connelly and Olshey off the table, there are fewer high-profile candidates left for the Wizards to consider as replacements for Ernie Grunfeld. 

Standig noted that Warriors assistant general manager Larry Harris could also draw interest from Washington. 

The franchise is running out of time to find their new front-office leader with less than a month remaining before the NBA Draft.