WASHINGTON -- Paul Pierce may have only been here for a few short weeks, but he sure know how to make a big impression.
Days after a press conference in which Ernie Grunfeld and Randy Wittman gushed over what the 17-year veteran brings to the organization, the Wizards' players had plenty to say on Pierce's ability, his competitiveness, and his vocal manner.
Wizards forward Drew Gooden recalled meeting Pierce as a young man when Gooden was being recruited to play at Kansas in 1998:
"It was during the lockout and he was working out in Kansas. He had a fake Rolex that he was bragging about and I thought this guy was hilarious."
And now, they are teammates. Gooden senses this is a different kind of guy.
"He's got an edge to him," Gooden said. "He likes to compete. You can't stop a guy that can score over 20,000 points and a guy with that offensive skill."
Kevin Seraphin concisely summed what Pierce's brings, saying Pierce brings "leadership." While freely admitting that he didn't watch much of Pierce growing up, he has already noticed how vocal Pierce has been as they play pickup games and workout leading up to training camp.
Wizards Center Marcin Gortat reminded the media that he actually came really close to playing with Pierce in Boston, when the Polish big man thought he would be traded there at the deadline. Having the opportunity to play with Pierce now, Gortat said, "checked one off of his bucket list", as he gets to play with an NBA legend.
"It's a dream to play with a guy like Paul Pierce. It's an honor to play with this guy."
Gortat talked of how Pierce's work ethic and leadership have rubbed off on the Wizards:
"Everybody is following him like he's the head coach of this team. We came in, we played pickup games, the team that lost has to run suicides. He was the first guy that actually ran the suicide with the losers. He didn't have to say anything, the whole team stood up too, and started running. It was huge."
What will Bradley Beal take from his new teammate? "His cockiness, his arrogance and his confidence."
Of course with Pierce, a frequently mentioned topic was his well-known trash-talking. What exactly does Pierce say when he's on the court? Beal demurred.
''He's real explicit, so I can't do it.''
Pierce is also pushing the Wizards young backcourt to get to the free-line more, and convert more of their attempts, a real weakness of last year's team that we discussed here. Beal stated that Pierce was disappointed in Beal's (relative) low free throw percentages for such a good shooter and challenged he and John Wall to make them at an 85% clip. While that may not happen right away, there is no doubt that Pierce has the ears of the Wizards young stars.
"[He] can tell me whatever you want. I'm listening," Wall said. "He's making it more and more comfortable, making me want to say more. Listen to him now. He's making me work. Making me want to be great."
With regard to that fake Rolex, Pierce acknowledged that Gooden's account was probably true. But Pierce has come a long way since then, and the Wizards have as well. It will be part of the veteran's charge to ensure this franchise that has often lived on counterfeit hope now has a team that is The Truth, if you will.