Or he may not be ready.
Following the Washington Wizards’ Game 6 loss and second-round playoff exit at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks, a series and season that ended with Pierce getting off a potential overtime-forcing three late, the one we call Truth equivocated on whether or not he planned on returning next season.
Per NBA.com’s David Aldridge:
Paul Pierce says he's not sure at the moment if he'll return next yr. "A lot has to do with my family, talking to my wife, kids, my mother."
— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) May 16, 2015
This isn’t exactly a shocking answer. Pierce will be 38 when next season starts and already has 17 years worth of miles on his NBA treads. He was also being forced to reflect after a loss, one that couldn’t have been more gut-wrenching given the game-tying three that wasn’t. Those are moments when you’re caught up in the heat of battle. And this was a battle Pierce lost, so he was probably feeling deflated and exhausted.
Plus, head coach Randy Wittman expects him back.
From The Washington Post‘s Jorge Castillo:
“I’d love him back. I think he wants to be back. I don’t know, I won’t put words in his mouth, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t,” Wittman said. “I think what he saw with these guys and the heart this team has. Why wouldn’t you want to play the end of your career with a group like that?”
The Eastern Conference is still wide open, even after factoring in Paul George’s presumed return to full strength for the Indiana Pacers. The Wizards don’t have a ton of financial flexibility, but the individual developments of Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, and perhaps even John Wall, should be enough to keep them relevant. Wittman suddenly embracing the use of modern, floor-spacing lineups should also help them grow on the offensive end, making them an even bigger threat in a conference still light on contenders.
Tack on Pierce’s player option worth just over $5.5 million, and it would be downright surprising to see him walk away now, with a nice chunk of change on the table and a chance to compete for a second title still firmly within grasp.
More likely than anything, Pierce returns, playing a similar role to the one he assumed this year. Then, after next season, there’s a chance he could retire. Or, equally possible, he could do what Kevin Garnett is doing and return to the Boston Celtics for a year or two, and finish his career where he began.
Whatever happens, however his career concludes, it’s unlikely to end now.