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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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Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Blazers, as John Wall and Damian Lillard square off

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Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Blazers, as John Wall and Damian Lillard square off

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Dwight Howard and the Washington Wizards take on Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and the Portland Trail Blazers. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Schedule heats up

The Wizards really needed that one on Friday night. Though the Nets, even without Caris LeVert, aren't an easy out, the Wizards wanted to fully take advantage of a soft spot of their schedule. It's tough to lose to the Nets when you consider the road ahead.

The Wizards play seven straight games against teams at .500 or better. That includes a road game against the Raptors, who are tied for the league's best record. They also see the Rockets, the Pelicans twice and play at the Sixers. It all begins Sunday against the Blazers, who are tied for the fourth-best record in the NBA.

Rematch

Most of the Wizards' games this season have been lopsided one way or the other, and usually in the direction they would not prefer. But they have played a few close games and their most entertaining one happened to come against this same Blazers team.

The Wizards and Blazers went to overtime on Oct. 22 in Portland. The Wizards forced the extra period thanks to a three by Bradley Beal, and they won thanks to Otto Porter Jr. blocking Damian Lillard's shot in the closing seconds. 

The Wizards and Blazers have played some classics in recent years. Markieff Morris beat them with a game-winning three two years ago and last season Beal dropped 50 at the Moda Center. The matchup between both teams' star guards seems to bring the best out in everyone.

Howard vs. Nurkic

Much of the focus in this matchup is always on John Wall and Beal vs. Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but there will be a lot of action in the paint with Dwight Howard going up against Jusuf Nurkic. The Blazers are one of the best rebounding teams in the game and Nurkic, who pulls in 10.7 per game, is a big reason why. Nurkic also averages 15.5 points.

Howard is coming off his best game as a Wizard. He had 25 points and 17 rebounds against the Nets on Friday night. He was hurt when the teams first met in Portland.

Both are bruisers around the rim who don't stretch the floor with outside shots. It should be a physical battle on Sunday night.

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Former Wizard Jared Dudley: Time for a Wizards shake-up

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Former Wizard Jared Dudley: Time for a Wizards shake-up

Jared Dudley spent one season with the Washington Wizards. The core pieces on the current roster were there during that 2015-16 campaign. Based on that prior experience and a first-hand look Friday night, the Brooklyn Nets forward offered a candid assessment of the 5-10 squad. 

"I’m seeing a team that has been together too long,” Dudley told NBC Sports Washington following the Wizards’ 115-104 home loss. “They haven’t made progress, so it’s time to change things over there.”

John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter were teammates of Dudley for a full season. Markieff Morris joined the roster at the 2016 trade deadline. Washington failed to make the playoffs that season, but qualified in each of the next two and has reached the postseason in four of the five last years. 

The Wizards did not advance beyond the second round during any of those postseason appearances and lost in the first round last season after a 43-39 regular season. Following a 2-9 start, Washington won three in a row before falling to a scrappy Nets team that lost leading scorer Caris Levert earlier in the week to a gruesome ankle injury.

Dudley started and played 22 minutes in Brooklyn's win. The 12-year veteran's opinion on Washington included suggestions like extended use of a small-ball lineup. 

“I think (they have) good players, but sometimes, good players need different situations. For them, I think that it’s tough the way the league is changing. They play two bigs,” Dudley said about the combination of power forward Markieff Morris and center Dwight Howard. “In this day in age, Otto needs to play more four because he’s tall enough, more spacing.”

Facing a Brooklyn defense that leads the league in opponent mid-range shots, Washington often settled for such looks. The Wizards attempted a season-low 18 three-point attempts. 

The NBA rumor mill continually attempts to plot a new course for the Wizards. New York Times NBA insider Marc Stein reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves tried to “engage” Washington in trade talks for Jimmy Butler before shipping the All-Star guard to Philadelphia. “But the Wizards have kept Beal off limits amid their 4-9 start,” Stein reported earlier this week. “They would naturally prefer to trade the struggling Otto Porter, or perhaps even John Wall, but both possess hard-to-move contracts.”

Dudley sees the logic of moving at least one of those three players.

“I think they’ve had enough time, but they really haven’t (broken) through,” Dudley said. “I can see by the All-Star break or summer time one of these pieces moving. It’s going to be good for them. If it’s John, or Otto or Brad, one of them three, I think their next move is going to be good for both teams."