10/22 02:44 CDT New-Look NBA: A player's perspective, Paul Pierce
New-Look NBA: A player's perspective, Paul Pierce
AP Basketball Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) --- The Associated Press will periodically look at the changing
landscape of the NBA during the upcoming season from three perspectives: A
player's viewpoint, from the bench, and from the front office. An interview
with veteran forward Paul Pierce of the Washington Wizards tips off the series:
When Paul Pierce watched the Washington Wizards in last season's playoffs, he
saw plenty of talent and potential.
He also saw some mistakes.
The Wizards needed something. Weeks later, he decided they needed ... him.
There have been more than 500 transactions involving NBA players since the San
Antonio Spurs ended last season hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Most of
those transactions were barely noticed, hardly creating a ripple in the
league's power structure. But others --- like Pierce signing with the Wizards
in July --- figure to have a significant impact on the 2014-15 season.
"That's the beauty of our game," Pierce said. "Any moment, one player can
change the whole landscape of your franchise."
NBA offseasons attract perhaps more attention now than some teams get in the
regular season. This summer, LeBron James went home to Cleveland, Kevin Love
got traded there to join him, Lance Stephenson moved to Charlotte, Chandler
Parsons headed to Dallas, Chris Bosh stayed put in Miami, and Carmelo Anthony
remained in New York. Already, there's a buzz about what the
blockbuster-in-waiting summer free-agent period of 2016 will look like.
Players hold more power now than ever. In Pierce's eyes, that's what sets the
NBA apart from other major U.S. pro leagues --- that one player can change a
And, thanks in large part to moves like the one he made, the NBA has a
different look on the court entering this season than it did when confetti came
down in San Antonio four months ago.
"People don't love the same teams winning all the time," Pierce said. "They
want to see other teams that weren't in the spotlight before get into the
spotlight. When you have constant landscape change, it brings great interest to
These days, it might as well be called the LeBron Rule.
James left Cleveland for Miami in 2010, the Heat went to four straight NBA
Finals, and the Cavaliers became bottom-feeders overnight. He left Miami and
returned to Cleveland this summer, and the Cavaliers are instantly the big
favorites to win an NBA championship.
Pierce isn't conceding anything to Cleveland. He's in Washington looking for a
He was part of a star-studded group that went to Brooklyn with eyes on a title,
but the Nets lost center Brook Lopez early in the year and never realized their
potential. Afterward, Pierce weighed his options --- stay in Brooklyn? Move to
his Los Angeles hometown to join the Clippers? --- before deciding he could be
the missing piece to Washington's championship puzzle.
He's convinced he made the right move.
After watching the Wizards last season, Pierce realized they were rushing
everything in the deciding minutes of second-round games against the Indiana
Pacers. They were outscored in the final three minutes in every game, something
Pierce chalked up to a relative lack of playoff experience.
That's what he brings to Washington.
"I think we have something here," Pierce said.
He's a Wizard now, though deep down, his Celtics roots are still there.
He spent 15 years in Boston, raised eyebrows when he showed up at Fenway Park
for Derek Jeter's final game last month wearing Celtics colors, still speaks
highly of that team and that city. But he says the days of seeing stars like
Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan spend their entire careers in one
place are just about over.
"You're going to see star players in different places and it's going to create
more balance, it's going to create interest from teams you normally, probably,
don't have interest from," Pierce said. "The landscape is constantly going to
change. I think people love that. They can't wait for the NBA Finals but they
can't wait for offseason moves, either."
His wife and three kids, ages 6, 3 and 1, are settled in Washington. He's
forged a bond with his new team, his new coach, the people around him.
"Already you see the potential, but you see the hunger," Pierce said. "Each and
every day. I'm usually always the first one to the gym, every team I've ever
played on, but since coming here you see a lot of the young guys, they're
getting here early, it's like they want to get better. It's like they want to
take the next step from a year ago of not just making the playoffs but doing
something really special."
At 37, Pierce has seen the NBA wildly transform, including the league's new
television deal, to be worth $24 billion over nine years.
"You're seeing so many changes," Pierce said. "I mean, the TV deal, you see
where that's going, into the billions. These TV companies are paying billions
because they know something, that a lot of these people around the world want
to see our game and want to continue to see more of it, more teams. So I think
we're really just scratching the surface."