The Los Angeles Clippers will enter next season with improved championship hopes, due in part to Paul Pierce's decision to come play in his hometown. Pierce, of course, inked a three-year deal worth $10 million to join the Clips back in early July. While some had assumed Pierce was primarily deciding between joining the Clippers and returning to the Washington Wizards, Doc Rivers says that wasn't necessarily the case. LAC's head coach and general manager spoke of Pierce while attending a fundraiser in Boston last week (via ESPN.com):
"I'm really looking forward to him. You know, I think he wanted to go one of two places: One, he'd come back [to Boston], or he wanted to finish his career at home where he grew up."
We see players returning to finish their careers with their original teams fairly regularly, but the notion of Pierce rejoining the Celtics still comes as a bit of a surprise. Boston did qualify for the playoffs last season, but they're still in the midst of a pretty lengthy rebuild and don't exactly seem primed for any sort of legitimate contention any time soon.
Rivers also revealed that he chased Pierce when the veteran was a free agent last summer, but lost out to Washington because the Wizards were able to offer more money than the Clippers could:
"I wanted to smack him over that one," joked Rivers. "Of course we didn't have any money to give him. Washington had the midlevel; we offered the minimum. And I thought the minimum was a better deal, but he didn't. No, he did the right thing."
The common assumption has been that Pierce would slide into the Clippers' starting lineup after the departure of incumbent small forward Matt Barnes, but that may not be the case, either:
"I don't know how we're gonna do it with Paul," said Rivers. "Like, I don't even know if I'm gonna start him. It's gonna be interesting. I think it's gonna be great. I just don't know yet. We have a lot of [good] players, which is great."
If Pierce is relegated to reserve duty in an effort to save his legs for the postseason, that would likely mean either Lance Stephenson or Wesley Johnson would slide into the starting lineup. Pierce would seem the natural fit for the job, but we also know Rivers will be careful about limiting his minutes during the regular season. Rivers also hinted at the possibility of going small, with Piece at the four spot.