Paul Pierce

NBA, ESPN Announce Details Of H-O-R-S-E Competition

As expected, Thunder guard Chris PaulHawks guard Trae Young, and Bulls guard Zach LaVine are among the players who will participate in the H-O-R-S-E competition being organized by the NBA, NBPA, and ESPN, per a press release.

According to the announcement, Jazz guard Mike Conley, former NBA stars Chauncey Billups and Paul Pierce, newly-elected Hall-of-Famer Tamika Catchings, and three-time WNBA All-Star Allie Quigley will fill out the eight-person field for the event.

The four quarterfinal matchups will air on Sunday evening (April 12), with Young facing Billups and Catchings facing Conley in group one, while LaVine goes up against Pierce and Paul squares off against Quigley in group two. The group one winners will face one another in the first semifinal next Thursday (April 16), with the group two winners competing in the second semifinal. The final will take place on the same night.

A coin toss will determine which player starts each matchup. Each player will be required to describe his or her shot attempt beforehand and dunking won’t be permitted. ESPN’s Mark Jones will serve as the event’s host, with each player attempting shots from his or her own home gym.

The event will raise more than $200K in support of coronavirus relief efforts.

And-Ones: BIG3, Pierce, Free Agency, VanVleet

With the BIG3 planning to hold a quarantined basketball tournament that will double as a ‘Big Brother’-style reality show, Chris Herring of FiveThirtyEight spoke to UCLA infectious disease epidemiologist Anne Rimoin to get a sense of whether the league’s plans are realistic. Dr. Rimoin is unconvinced that the BIG3’s testing process will be thorough enough and skeptical that the format of the event would be viable.

“Even if you test them (for COVID-19), they could be incubating for up to 14 days,” she said. “They would need to be in complete isolation, put in an isolation chamber — meaning no contact with anybody — for 14 days prior. They wouldn’t be allowed to have contact with anybody during that period, or while they’re playing. That’s the science of it. But I don’t see that happening. These people have families, friends. They might need to get groceries.”

Dr. Arthur Reingold told Herring that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health may also need to give the green light to the BIG3’s plan, so there will be hurdles for the league to overcome if it wants to hold its quarantined tournament.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Appearing on ESPN’s The Jump (video link), Paul Pierce claimed he was intrigued by the idea of playing in the BIG3’s tournament, given the rumored seven-figure prize and the fact that it may take place in Los Angeles. His former Celtics teammate and fellow ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins, meanwhile, argued that the tournament shouldn’t even take place.
  • In an in-depth Insider piece for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks previews the offseason questions facing all 30 NBA teams, breaking down each club’s needs, draft assets, cap situation, and free-agents-to-be.
  • Danny Leroux of The Athletic takes an early look at the free agent market for point guards this offseason. With no max-caliber players expected to be available, Leroux identifies Fred VanVleet and Mike Conley as the players most likely to do better than the mid-level. Of course, Conley has a $34.5MM early termination option for 2020/21, so he seems like a good bet to put off free agency for another year.

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Irving, Grousbeck, Baynes, Horford

Former Celtic Paul Pierce believes Jayson Tatum would reach his All-Star potential if he drove to the basket more often, as he told Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.

“For a guy with his athleticism, his skill set and his ball-handling, his height, he should be a guy that gets to the line at least six times a night and makes five out of six,” Pierce said. “That’ll take him from a 16-point scorer to a 20-point scorer, and he’ll be in the conversation for All-Star every year on a winning team.”

Pierce also believes Tatum won’t fully blossom until he’s relied upon as a primary scorer.

“Look at James Harden,” he said. “We didn’t know James Harden was going to be this until he went to Houston. He was the sixth man on OKC. Now he’s a perennial MVP and arguably the best player in the league.”

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Kyrie Irving’s decision in free agency could be decided by how the postseason plays out, Bulpett speculates in the same article. While events during the season have seemingly tilted the odds in favor of Irving signing elsewhere, that could change if the team makes a deep run, Bulpett adds.
  • Danny Ainge attributed a seemingly critical comment by Irving against the coaching staff as frustration after a loss. Charlotte’s Kemba Walker scored 36 points against Boston in a recent loss and Irving said they should have trapped Walker more often. Ainge’s response came on a radio interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich” and was relayed by Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston“I did hear (Irving’s comments). It’s not that uncommon,” the GM said. “Guys get frustrated, and maybe that was the first thing that came to his mind is, ‘We should have done something different with Kemba.'”
  • Owner Wyc Grousbeck believes the team can flip the switch during the postseason, he told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. Grousbeck admits the team has underachieved but still believes better days are ahead. “We have not played at an elite level this year,” Grousbeck said. “We have to admit that at the moment. We’re in fifth place in the East. It’d be great to take that step now, or we’ll try to take it next year if we have to. But what I’m seeing, with the playoffs around the corner, I’m going to go into the playoffs with good energy and optimism and seeing what happens.”
  • Pairing Al Horford and Aron Baynes can give the Celtics more toughness inside but it would only work against certain lineups, as coach Brad Stevens explains to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg“With their size and length, I think we have a different impact at the rim. But when you’re playing a team that’s super small and spread out, that’s tough to guard when you have a more traditional lineup.”

And-Ones: Pierce, Josh Smith, Morris Twins

After announcing his retirement from the NBA following the 2016/17 season, 10-time All-Star Paul Pierce has lined up a new job. According to a press release issued today by ESPN, Pierce is joining the network as a studio analyst for the upcoming season. The longtime NBA forward will appear regularly on ESPN’s NBA Countdown and The Jump.

“I always had fun doing guest coverage with ESPN, so it is exciting to officially join the teams at NBA Countdown and The Jump,” Pierce said in a statement. “I love hoops, my whole life has been about the game, so this feels like a natural evolution in my career and I can’t wait for the season to get started.”

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • As he continues to look for an NBA opportunity, veteran forward Josh Smith has caught on with Israeli team Maccabi Hunter Haifa for a three-game tour against NBA teams this October, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando details. Smith worked out for the Pelicans and has been linked to the Rockets this offseason, but hasn’t landed an NBA contract.
  • Closing arguments in the assault trial involving Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris are expected to be heard by jurors today, per an Associated Press report (link via USA Today). Depending on the outcome of the trial, the Wizards and Celtics forwards could face NBA discipline, not to mention possible jail time.
  • While not every player to change teams this offseason moved to a better situation, Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated identifies seven players whose new NBA homes should pay dividends. Kyrie Irving (Celtics), Paul George (Thunder), and Nick Young (Warriors) are among Spears’ picks.
  • After seeing how long it took for a number of restricted free agents to secure new contracts this offseason, a number of extension-eligible players may be more inclined to get deals done now, rather than taking their chances on the RFA market next summer, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (Insider link) writes in his latest breakdown of NBA roster moves. T.J. Warren of the Suns was the first player to complete such a deal this week.

Billy King Looks Back On Tenure With Nets

Former Nets GM Billy King, who is widely blamed for turning the organization into a perennial loser with no lottery picks, tells his side of the story in an interview with The Glue Guys, a Nets-themed podcast.

King touches on several controversial issues in the 45-minute session, including an effort to acquire Chris Paul, the failure to get Dwight Howard when he wanted to join the Nets and the ill-fated trade that sent three unprotected first-rounders to Boston for a package centered around veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

The highlights:

  • King tried to get Paul from New Orleans before dealing with Utah for Deron Williams. King believed he was making progress, but the deal went cold after Jeff Bowers was replaced as GM by Dell Demps. “At that time, I don’t think Dell wanted his first thing to be trading Chris Paul,” King said.
  • The Nets believed they were close to acquiring Howard from Orlando just before the 2012 trade deadline. “We went to bed as a staff — we left the office pretty late — we went to bed pretty much knowing that tomorrow we’re going to get Dwight,” King said. Magic GM Otis Smith had planned to finalize the deal the next morning, but King woke up to a text saying that Howard had elected to opt in for the following season. King reached out to Howard’s agent, who responded, “I don’t think he did,” and even Smith hadn’t heard the news when King called him. However, Smith returned the call an hour later and confirmed the news.
  • The Nets responded by trading their 2012 first-round pick to Portland in exchange for Gerald Wallace in an attempt to appease Williams and discourage him from opting out over the summer. The Blazers used that pick to draft Damian Lillard.
  • King reached out to the Celtics in 2013 because he thought he had a talented nucleus that needed veteran leadership and was interested in acquiring Pierce. Negotiations led to Garnett and Jason Terry being included and the package of picks going to Boston.
  • King made an offer to Pierce in the summer of 2014, but he got a better deal from Washington and the Nets decided not to match it. “Once that decision was made, I think it changed our thought process,” King said. “I think some of the players even thought, ‘What’s going on here? We were committed and now we’re not.” King added that he wouldn’t have made the deal with Boston if he knew he couldn’t keep Pierce longer than one season.

Atlantic Notes: Thomas, Crowder, Zeller

While the Celtics won’t struggle to replace the statistics that Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder posted, they’ll be hard-pressed to find a replacement for the toughness and temperament they brought to Boston, A. Sherrod Blakeley of CSN New England writes.

Both Thomas and Crowder took their careers to a new level in Boston, blossoming into substantial core pieces for the rejuvenated Celtics. Some of the franchise’s best moments from the past few seasons, Blakeley writes, can be attributed directly to the twosome.

That underdog mentality was and is a major component for any team looking to unseat LeBron James and Cleveland in the East. Now Thomas and Crowder will bring that tough, scrappy frame of mind with them to a Cavaliers squad that’s looking like an underdog itself — at least compared to the champions in Golden State.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Prior to signing Tyler Zeller this week, the Nets had just two players taller than 6’8″ on their roster, Brian Lewis of the New York Post notes.
  • The Raptors doubled down on a winning formula this summer but it may be for naught, Shaun Powell of NBA.com writes. Toronto’s core is intact, but what they could really benefit from is the development of some of their young assets.
  • Count former Celtics great Paul Pierce among those high on Jayson Tatum. The future Hall of Famer told A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England that the rookie, with his footwork and step-back, reminds him of himself toward the later stages of his career.

Celtics Notes: Ainge, Thomas, Rozier, Pierce

Celtics president Danny Ainge says the decision to include Isaiah Thomas in a package to get Kyrie Irving from Cleveland was “the toughest call I ever had to make,” relays Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Thomas shared his thoughts on the deal in an article this week for The Players Tribune, which Ainge called a “fabulous job.” As a former player, Ainge said he empathizes with the feelings of being sent from one organization to another.

Ainge refused to explain his motivation for the deal, but explained that he is always trying to improve the team. “It’s in everybody’s best interest that I don’t share all the reasons [for the trade],” he said. “But the bottom line is obviously I felt like it was the right thing for our franchise to do. But it’s a deep and complicated process. It’s not as simple as people think it is. … It’s not easy for these office people that become great friends with the players. There’s a reality that I see and that’s what makes any sort of trade challenging. But it’s just part of the world that we live in, but it’s got to be done. You’ve got to do what’s best for the franchise. The franchise is bigger than all of us. Bigger than one individual.”

There’s more out of Boston:

  • Terry Rozier wasn’t worried about being traded over the offseason, he told Adam Kaufman of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. Entering his third season with the Celtics, Rozier is among the most tenured players on the team following this summer’s roster shakeup. He said he concentrates on producing on the court and leaves the personnel decisions to the front office. “The guys up top, their job is to get the team together and our job is to play,” Rozier said. “I’m pretty sure Danny and all our organization who make the decisions will have us ready, put us in the right spot.”
  • Paul Pierce is ready to end his feud with Ray Allen, according to Adam Reisinger of ESPN. Pierce posted a photo on social media of himself and Allen, who are both serving as coaches for a celebrity basketball game in Shanghai, with a caption that read, “Time to get the band back together.” Allen has been an outcast with many of his former teammates since leaving Boston to sign with the Heat in 2012.

Eastern Notes: Wade, Bradley, LeVert, Pierce

A Dwyane Wade reunion with the Heat would create rotation and chemistry issues, Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel explains in his latest mailbag. A buyout agreement between Wade and the rebuilding Bulls is possible, though not close to happening. It’s widely assumed Wade would seriously consider returning to Miami but the Heat already have plenty of options at the guard spots, Winderman notes. Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters, who was re-signed this summer, are the starters and Tyler Johnson is being paid lavishly to be the main backup. Josh RichardsonRodney McGruder and Wayne Ellington are also viable rotation options and if Wade were to close out games, coach Erik Spoelstra would have a tough dilemma deciding which player loses those minutes, Winderman continues. In fact, the Heat brass and coaching staff may privately be wishing they’re not faced with the prospect of Wade getting bought out and looking to re-join them, Winderman adds.

In other items involving Eastern Conference teams:

  • Avery Bradley may be a newcomer to the Pistons’ locker room but coach Stan Van Gundy expects the shooting guard to be quickly embraced as a leader, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com reports. Bradley was traded by the Celtics in their efforts to clear cap space and sign free agent forward Gordon Hayward. Van Gundy wants Bradley’s toughness and defensive approach to rub off on his other players, Langlois adds. “What Avery’s really embracing is a chance to play a bigger role as a player and as a leader,” Van Gundy told Langlois. “That’s something that excites him.”
  • Nets guard Caris LeVert believes the club can make the playoffs with better health and this summer’s roster changes. “I feel like it’s really realistic,” Levert told Fred Kerber of the New York Post. “Last year, we were like top seven in the East when we had all our players healthy. Just building off that momentum with the pieces we’ve added — obviously we lost a great player in Brook [Lopez] — but I feel with the pieces we’ve added we’ll be in that conversation.”
  • Paul Pierce will have his No. 34 retired by the Celtics, team co-owner Steve Pagliuca informed Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe“It’s going to be fantastic,” Pagliuca said. “For our era, the most recent era, he embodied the Celtics’ leadership, the Celtics’ brand and was the MVP of the championship team.” Pierce’s 34 will be the 22nd number to hang in the rafters at TD Garden.

Paul Pierce Officially Retires As Celtic

Paul Pierce has signed a contract with the Celtics in order to officially retire as a member of the franchise, the team announced today in a press release. Within the release, Celtics governor Wyc Grousbeck said that he looks forward to seeing Pierce’s number “raised to the rafters of TD Garden.”Paul Pierce vertical

“It’s an honor to have this opportunity to once again call myself a Boston Celtic,” Pierce said in a statement. “The organization and city took me in and made me one of their own, and I couldn’t imagine ending my career any other way. I’m a Celtic for life.”

Pierce, who won a championship with the Celtics in 2008, announced last September that the 2016/17 season would be the last of his illustrious career. He was waived by the Clippers in late June for bookkeeping purposes after they reached an agreement with the Rockets on the blockbuster Chris Paul trade.

Pierce began his career in Boston in 1998 and remained there until 2013, when he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets during the offseason. He spent one season there and another with the Wizards before heading out West. He played two seasons with the Clippers and appeared in 25 regular-season and seven postseason games in his final campaign.

In 1,343 career games, the shoo-in Hall of Famer averaged 19.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 3.5 APG. He also appeared in 170 postseason games, finishing with a slash line of 18.7/5.8/3.4.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On The Chris Paul Trade

Chris Paul‘s departure from the Clippers today severed a relationship that began to fall apart when the team acquired Austin Rivers in 2015, according to a Facebook post from Michael Eaves of ESPN. Several Clippers believed Rivers brought an entitled attitude to the team because he is the son of coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers. Veterans didn’t think Austin Rivers tried hard enough to fit in, which created dissension in the locker room. Paul, in particular, thought that Austin Rivers got preferential treatment from his father.

The situation reportedly reached a breaking point prior to the trade deadline when the Knicks offered Carmelo Anthony and Sasha Vujacic to L.A. in exchange for Jamal Crawford, Paul Pierce and Austin Rivers. Doc Rivers blocked the deal, which led Paul to believe that coaching his son was more important than winning, with an unidentified league executive saying, “Chris despises Doc.”

There’s more fallout from today’s blockbuster trade:

  • The decision to opt in for the final year of his contract gives Paul more flexibility if he wants to team up with LeBron James next summer, Eaves notes in the same post. He mentions the Rockets, Lakers and possibly the Clippers, if Doc Rivers is gone, as potential destinations for that to happen. In the meantime, Paul can see how well his game meshes with James Harden‘s and gets a financial windfall because Texas doesn’t have a state income tax.
  • Austin Rivers denied on Twitter that he had anything to do with Paul’s desire to leave. “These false rumors are comedy…so fictional it’s actually amusing! People will say or do anything to get attention,” he posted. He concluded the message with “A lot of clowns out there,” using two clown emoji symbols.
  • The Clippers were concerned about the later years of Paul’s next contract, tweets David Aldridge of TNT. A five-year deal in excess of $200MM would have paid Paul nearly $45MM at age 37, and L.A. wasn’t willing to make that commitment.
  • Newly hired Clippers consultant Jerry West didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting with Paul, according to Chris Broussard of Fox Sports 1 (Twitter link).
  • The Rockets would have preferred to clear cap space by trading Ryan Anderson, but there wasn’t much of a market available, reports Zach Lowe of ESPN.com. Two teams that were interested asked for two first-round picks in exchange for taking the three years and $60MM left on Anderson’s contract.
  • Trading for Paul before July 1st will allow the Rockets to enter free agency over the salary cap, Lowe adds, giving them access to a full midlevel exception worth more than $8MM and a biannual exception topping $3MM.
  • The Rockets will continue to pursue other stars, but probably can’t offer Trevor Ariza in any deal, according to Lowe. Paul remains close with his former teammate in New Orleans, and the chance to reunite played a decision in Paul’s decision to pick Houston. The Clippers, Lowe relays, had made several attempts to obtain Ariza.
  • Rockets GM Daryl Morey credits Harden for making today’s trade happen. In a video posted by Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston, Morey says the Rockets now have the two best playmakers in the league.