Wizards Sign Paul Pierce
Former Finals MVP Inks 2-Year Deal
Stacy M. Brown | 7/23/2014, 3 p.m.
With the balance of power suddenly shifting in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, the Washington Wizards have seized upon an opportunity to elevate the franchise’s championship hopes.
Team officials announced the signing of 10-time All-Star Paul Pierce, who led the Boston Celtics to a title in 2008. Also, just two days after the July 12 Pierce signing, the Wizards also cut a deal with free-agent forward Kris Humphries, who signed a three-year contract.
“Welcome the Truth,” Washington’s star guard John Wall tweeted after learning of the Pierce acquisition. Pierce, 36, who friends call, “the Truth,” also tweeted about the signing. “President Obama and [John] Wall, here I come,” he said.
The signing of Humphries, 29, and Pierce, the former Finals MVP, comes shortly after the Wizards lost forward Trevor Ariza to the Houston Rockets. Perhaps more importantly, it comes after the four-time defending East champion Miami Heat lost LeBron James the game’s premiere player.
James, 29, decided to sign a two year contract with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. Also, the Chicago Bulls strengthened their already formidable lineup with the acquisition of big man Pau Gasol, who will now run the floor with former MVP Derrick Rose, Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah and outstanding power forward Taj Gibson.
The New York Knicks re-signed their star, Carmelo Anthony to a five-year deal after trading for standout point guard Jose Calderon.
“There’s no question about it, the Eastern Conference no longer belongs to the Miami Heat,” retired NBA superstar Charles Barkley said on Sirius Radio.
Several analysts and fans said James’ departure from Miami leaves the conference wide open.
“I think it definitely gives us a chance,” said Rolando Banks, a Wizards fan who said he attends about 15 games each year at the Verizon Center in Northwest. “We had a great season last year and with Pierce’s veteran leadership and his ability to be clutch, we should be considered among the favorites,” said Banks, who lives in Northeast.
Pierce, who also attracted interest from the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers and other teams, decided to join the Wizards primarily because the team possesses such young and proven talent as Wall, Bradley Beal and the recently re-signed Marcin Gortat.
“Who will argue with us that we have one of the best teams in the East,” Banks said. “What makes it all the more interesting is that I think people in the league are still sleeping on us so they’ll be surprised when we’re the last team standing next June.”
The Wizards went 44-38 last season and dispatched the Bulls in five games during the first round of the playoffs. They fell short in the Conference semifinals, losing to the Indiana Pacers.
Pierce averaged 13.5 points a game last season for the Brooklyn Nets, but over a career that’s spanned 16 years, Pierce has averaged more than 21 points per game and has made more than 45 percent of his shot attempts.
He’s just as deadly in the playoffs, averaging better than 20 points and six rebound and nearly four assists over his stellar career.