It's been almost three months since news broke that Paul Pierce would be signing with the Washington Wizards and since that point we've all been trying to understand how everything led to a future Hall of Famer like Pierce choosing to come to the Wizards. We've heard from Nets' GM Billy King on what led Pierce to leave Brooklyn and we know that former Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell played a big part in convincing Pierce to come to Washington, but we've never gotten to hear the full story from Pierce himself.
Thanks to a great interview from NBA.com's David Aldridge, now we have Pierce's side of the story:
Me [David Aldridge]: Was Washington your first choice? I heard all summer you wanted to go home to L.A., to the Clippers.
Paul Pierce: Obviously, this is my first time in free agency. I really didn't know where I was going to end up. Truthfully, I thought I was going to end up back in Brooklyn, with Kevin [Garnett]. I told Kevin, if you're not going to retire, then I probably will come back. But when Brooklyn didn't give me an offer, it was like, I talked to him, and I kind of started looking at my options then. I thought I probably would end up with the Clippers with Doc [Rivers], but they wound up signing Spencer Hawes [and using the full mid-level exception] at the time. That's when Sam Cassell gave me a call, shortly after Trevor Ariza signed with Houston. That kind of happened so fast. He signed, and Sam called me, and [asked] what I thought. We both were in Vegas at the time, talking on the phone. Then met him for lunch. Then met him again for dinner. It took some convincing, because I never really thought about Washington. It just wasn't on my radar. But I started thinking about it, and everything he was telling me, based on what they did last year, the guys they have here, he talked about the culture, he talked about Coach [Randy Wittman], Ernie [Grunfeld, the GM], talked to him. And I started warming up to the idea. Pretty much that same day we talked, I started warming up. This team does have some potential, now that I think about it. They probably should have beat Indiana. Everybody thought they should have beat Indiana. I was like, they have one of the best backcourts in basketball. They're lacking experience, a guy in the locker room and on the court that can help end games. I was like, I probably can fit in. After LeBron said he was going back to Cleveland, the dynamics of the Eastern Conference, with Indiana, I was like, this is a team that could be in the Eastern Conference finals, or possibly the Finals, based on what's here. And adding me to some of the other veterans they added, I was like, why not?
If you want to be really cynical, you can still make the case that the Wizards were Pierce's third option, after the Nets and Clippers, and you would probably be right. But at the same time, it certainly seems like Pierce isn't just coming to Washington for a cash grab. He sees a need that he can fill in order to lift the Wizards to the point where he believes they can be a serious contender for the Eastern Conference, if not the NBA Finals. At the end of the day, being the third-best choice still sounds a lot better than being the last resort.