City Sports Report

Paul Pierce provides leadership in Washington

Paul Pierce of the Washington Wizards (Photo by Lolita B)

By Jason Schott

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Paul Pierce made his return to Brooklyn on Saturday night, and his Washington Wizards beat his team last season, the Brooklyn Nets 99-90, making up for losing the first half of a home-and-home to Brooklyn, 102-80, on Friday night.

The Wizards improved to 28-13, and Pierce has been a big part of it. He has averaged 12.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game this season. He received a nice ovation, with a lot of fans wearing his jersey at Barclays Center.

He joined the Wizards in the offseason, leaving the Nets after just one season after they did not want to match the Wizards’ two-year, $11-million offer. Negotiations between Nets General Manager Billy King and Pierce’s representatives did not go well and King hit a point where he just decided to let him go. Pierce also said that without Jason Kidd as head coach, the allure of playing for Brooklyn went down.

He said of playing in Brooklyn, “It was cool.  It’s always a good crowd here. It was fun playing against an old teammate of mine, Kevin (Garnett) back-to-back nights. There was a little laughter there, a little chitter chatter – it wasn’t much though.”

The Nets certainly miss Pierce, as they have stumbled to a 17-24 record. Bojan Bogdanovic has not been a worthy replacement at small forward, with averages of just 7.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 0.8 assists per game. He also is a horrible defender, and does not have the intangibles that Pierce does. Bogdanovic has been the primary starter at that position, but even Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins has shown he is not fully convinced since he started Sergey Karasev throughout December. The loss of Pierce, Andray Blatche, and Shaun Livingston due to cost-cutting measures has hurt the Nets and taken away a lot of the spunk Brooklyn became accustomed to from this team.

Pierce had 7 points on 2-for-9 shooting, including 2-for-6 behind the arc, 4 rebounds, and an assist in 26 minutes on Saturday night.

On the Wizards’ getting back to their standard of play Saturday night, Pierce said, “After the half we did a better job offensively. We were able to get stops and didn’t turn the ball over as much as we did the night before.”

On the difference in the second half of the game, in which they outscored the Nets 49-39, Pierce said, “It was our defense. When our defense is getting stops and we’re rebounding and we’re taking them out of their offense, we’re tough. Sometimes we don’t score well, but we can rely on our defense because we’re consistent in that area. Every night we rebound the ball and don’t turn it over, we’re a tough team to beat.”

On the first half of the season, Pierce said, “We are definitely a team on the rise. We’re still a work in progress. Where we are now is not where we want to be when the end of the season comes. We expect to be peaking, probably after the All-Star break, but I know we can get a whole lot better than we are today.”


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