WASHINGTON — The Wizards don’t know whether Paul Pierce will return to Washington, become a free agent, or, after 17 seasons, call it a Hall of Fame career. That much they’ve at least publicly intimated.
Pierce may not know himself. “I don’t have too much more of these efforts left, if any,” the 37-year-old said, according to Todd Dybas, during the Wizards’ exit interviews with media.
The two-year, $10.84 million contract Pierce signed to play for the Wizards last summer is evenly dispersed, and holds a player option for the second year, meaning Pierce can do whatever he wants. The Wizards await patiently the answer to that $5.42 million question.
“We’re gonna sit down here in the next couple days,” coach Randy Wittman told The Junkies Wednesday morning. “I want him to get away, get with his family, get away from the game a little bit, first. You know, it’s such an emotional game, it’s such an emotional ending. So you’re going seven days a week for eight straight months and then all of a sudden it stops, and you’re done.”
“And so I don’t want him making an emotional decision,” he added. “I told him to take his time.”
The impact Pierce made on the Wizards’ roster is unmistakable; he challenged John Wall and Bradley Beal to be better than they had previously in the days leading up to Washington’s first-round playoff matchup against Toronto. Then the Wizards swept Toronto.
All year, Pierce led on and off the court, Wittman says, shepherding young players through the grind of an 82-game season on the way to 46 wins, the franchise’s best mark in 36 years.
“I can’t tell you one way or another what way he’s thinking,” Wittman said. “But whatever it is, he was a big boost for us. Not only some of the things that obviously he did for us on the floor, but also his mentorship for our young guys, and what he did for us in the locker room, what he did for us on the practice floor, and his professionalism is just something, as a coach, you can’t teach those things. He was a big bonus for us, so we’ll see as time goes on.”
Whenever Pierce does hang ’em up, no amount of time away will be enough to avoid the decision being an emotional one.