Since Doc Rivers took over as coach and G.M. of the Los Angeles Clippers, he hasn’t been shy about his nepotism. He’s brought on all sorts of relics and retreads from his various stops around the league (Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, Hedo Turkoglu, etc.). Now, it’s looking like he’ll reunite with one-third of the Big 3 era in Boston: Paul Pierce. Via NBA.com’s David Aldridge:
“As I reported as likely to happen a couple of weeks ago, Paul Pierce will opt out of his Wizards contract. The expectation among many around the league remains Pierce will wind up in L.A. with the Clippers.”
His aforementioned player option with the Wizards is worth about $5.5 million next season, which is about $2 million less than the cash-strapped Clippers can offer him with their mini mid-level exception. That must mean, despite the Wizards’ emergence as a legitimate threat in the far less grueling Eastern Conference, Pierce still thinks he has a better chance of winning another title in Los Angeles. It also doesn’t hurt that Pierce is originally from the area.
Exactly what his role might be, however, remains to be seen. After the Lance Stephenson trade last week, Rivers pointed to the possibility of bringing him off the bench, which would ostensibly clear the way for Pierce to be a starter. That would make sense given the vacancy left at small forward following the Matt Barnes trade.
Going into his 18th season, Pierce still appears to have a lot left in the tank, especially after a phenomenal game-winner in the playoffs last month (and another would-be game-winner that was ultimately waived off). We’re just not so sure that this is the type of short-term thinking that will set the Clippers up for future success, especially given the gamble they’re taking on Stephenson, who had a horrific season in Charlotte after being hailed as possibly a superstar-in-the-making during his final season in Indiana.
Perhaps the hope is that Pierce can help instill some discipline and maturity in Stephenson and help him slowly transition into a much larger role. Pierce is a relatively safe bet, given the tiny contract he’s likely to sign, but the Clippers still have much larger issues to contend with, such as whether they’ll be able to retain DeAndre Jordan once free agency begins on July 1.
There have been rumors about DJ growing weary of being a third fiddle, as well as whispers about a rift between him and Chris Paul, although Rivers has adamantly denied the latter of those. Still, the possibility of losing Jordan in free agency remains, and that’s a hit that Pierce and Stephenson just can’t help mitigate on their own.