The Los Angeles Clippers entered this offseason with two clear priorities — re-sign center DeAndre Jordan and add a veteran small forward. While the former still needs to be achieved, Doc Rivers has already locked up his top option for the latter need.
As reported by Yahoo's own Adrian Wojnarowski, the Clippers have agreed to terms on a three-year, $10-million deal (including a third-year team option) with veteran wing and Los Angeles native Paul Pierce, who played under Rivers for nine seasons from 2004 until 2013 as a member of the Boston Celtics. The two won a championship together in 2008, and they will certainly hope to match that achievement alongside stars Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Jordan, should he spurn the active pursuit of the Dallas Mavericks and others.
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If Jordan returns, then it's easy to see how Pierce fits into the Clippers' plans. While the team impressed in the postseason before an epic collapse against the Houston Rockets in the final three games of the conference semifinals, the Clippers lacked consistent outside shooting and dependable secondary scorers throughout their two playoff series. At roughly the same time, Pierce excelled for the Washington Wizards in their two playoff series, averaging 14.6 points on 48.5 percent shooting from the field and 52.4 percent from deep in 29.8 minutes per game with several clutch shots to tie or win games in key moments. Although he is set to turn 38 years old a few weeks before the start of next season, Pierce remains one of the most prolific crunch-time shooters in the sport.
Naturally, he will also have to contribute to the Clippers before the postseason. Given his age, there is some question as to how much Pierce can add over a full 82-game season. In 2014-15, he played 73 games for the Wizards while averaging 11.9 points (44.7 percent on field goals, 38.9 percent on threes) over 26.2 minutes per game with a 15.2 PER. Pierce's defense is not what it once was, either, and it would be prudent to expect him to dip a bit in all areas another year deeper into his Hall of Fame career. In many ways, the addition of Pierce both lessens and ramps up the pressure on late-June addition Lance Stephenson, who is now clearly a role player but must provide consistent defense and bench facilitation to ensure that the Clippers do not proceed with exploitable weaknesses. Stephenson could also take on a greater offensive role if Rivers ends up flipping veteran scorer Jamal Crawford for another big man.
Unlike many of Wednesday's deals, the terms of Pierce's contract are almost irrelevant to this analysis. Yes, three years is a long commitment to someone who will hit 40 before the final season, but Pierce could very well retire prior to 2017-18 and is earning a cut-rate salary for someone who can provide so much to a contender. The Truth has earned roughly $190 million in salary over his career — this opportunity is about proving that he remains a relevant figure int he NBA, not adding to his bank account.
The worry for the Clippers is that losing Jordan will seriously decrease the franchise's chances of competing for a title next spring. At the very least, adding Pierce reinforces the impression that Jordan's best shot at a championship involves staying at Staples Center. Whether that's enough to keep him remains to be seen.
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