“Why isn’t Paul Pierce playing stretch four?”
It was a question that many Washington Wizards fans had throughout the regular season.
After a successful stint at power forward with the Brooklyn Nets, most believed that Paul Pierce would continue to play some stretch four under Randy Wittman.
Of course, that rarely happened.
Ernie Grunfeld had acquired several big men (Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair) and re-signed a few others during the free agency period (Marcin Gortat, Kevin Seraphin and Drew Gooden). Given the situation, I’m assuming, Wittman was reluctant to play Pierce at the four spot.
Still, even though Washington had a number of bigs on the bench, Pierce had experienced most of his success in Brooklyn while playing power forward. Since the Wizards struggled offensively, playing Pierce at his best position only makes sense, right?
According to the man himself, Randy Wittman, he decided to play possum with the lineups a bit during the regular season, via CBS DC:
Wittman was asked in an interview with The Sports Junkies Thursday morning if he had indeed been playing possum with his lineups all regular season, with the plan all along being to unload Pierce as a 4 on whatever opponent the Wizards faced in the postseason.
“Well, I mean, a little,” Wittman answered. “But I didn’t want to, in the regular season, stretch Paul’s minutes up into the 30, 35, 36 point at this point in his career; I wanted to try to keep him around 26 to 28 minutes, you know, to keep him fresh for this time of year. And so, playing him at the 3 and 4 during 82 games is hard to do if you’re trying to manage his minutes like we were.”
Sorry Coach Witt, but I don’t buy it.
One of the Wizards’ goals this season was to secure home court advantage in the NBA Playoffs. Playing Paul Pierce more at the four spot probably would’ve helped them achieve that goal.
Wittman cited rest as a reason for not playing Pierce at the four, but he could’ve still played him at the position without upping his minutes.
I mean, Otto Porter has played well along side John Wall, Bradley Beal, Pierce and Nene/Gortat during the playoffs. Porter is someone who rarely played during the regular season. Was benching him until the playoffs a part of the plan, too? I don’t buy it.
Wittman had enough bigs to keep Pierce’s minutes low, while still playing him at the four spot in spurts.
Washington lost all three of their games against Toronto during the regular season. They struggled to defend their perimeter shooting and playing Paul Pierce at the four became necessary. So, Randy Wittman made the switch.
Quite frankly, I don’t believe Wittman had enough security to “play possum” during the regular season. The team began struggling mightily and his job could’ve became in jeopardy.
Playing Pierce at the four and Porter as the primary backup should’ve been the plan from the start.
I won’t credit Randy Wittman for playing possum, but I will give him credit for at least recognizing the need for the change during the most important part of the season.
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