NBA Saturday: Wizards Quietly Improving This Summer

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Wizards Quietly Improving This Summer

With the Cleveland Cavaliers garnering most of the attention this offseason with the return of LeBron James and expected acquisition of Kevin Love, many other teams are flying under the radar as they boost their rosters for the 2014-15 season.

The Washington Wizards have been making moves to continue their momentum from last postseason in which they eliminated the Chicago Bulls and reached Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Indiana Pacers. Now, they aim to push further up the standings. Their biggest signing came early in the offseason, inking Marcin Gortat to a five-year, $60 million contract. They also picked up the option on veteran point guard Andre Miller.

With its core in place the team has focused on its bench, which was a key component to a playoff push. The organization has added proven veterans who will be able to mentor the young stars and provide invaluable experience once they hit the postseason. Take a look at four players who will help the team during the regular season and deliver know how for 82 games and beyond.

Paul Pierce: 36, Entering 17th Season
Critics have been calling Pierce “old” for numerous seasons now. Over the course of his 16-year career, he has repeatedly silenced the naysayers by coming up big in high-pressure playoff situations. “He will be a good fit alongside our young, dynamic backcourt while his presence and leadership will make a difference for us both on and off the court,” said Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld. Pierce will turn 37 in October. While his days of playing 30-plus minutes a game may be coming to an end, the 2008 championship-winner will look to give the Wizards a spark in his new role. Besides, he’s not ready to hang up his sneakers yet.

Kris Humphries: 29, Entering 11th Season
Some power forwards prefer to play in the paint. Humphries, on the other hand, is eager to run in the Wizards’ system. “Sometimes when you just get in the right opportunity and the right organization and chance to get out and kind of play your style of basketball and it all works out, you kind of got to go for it,” Humphries said. The veteran power forward landed in Washington via a sign-and-trade with the Boston Celtics. He can play uptempo and brings versatility on offense, a draw for the Wizards. “His ability to run the floor, rebound and score from both inside and outside make him a good fit for our roster,” said Grunfeld.

Drew Gooden: 32, Entering 13th Season
Gooden joined the Wizards in March and bolstered their front court for the remainder of the season as Nene was sidelined. After just a few months with the team, they re-signed him in July. “The addition of Drew was a big part of our success late last season and we are excited to have him back with us,” said Grunfeld. “His skills will help to solidify our front court rotation and his experience will help us continue to grow as a team.” Gooden has played for 10 organizations during his career.

DeJuan Blair: 25, Entering 6th Season
Continuing to add to their collection of bigs, the Wizards acquired Blair from the Dallas Mavericks in a sign-and-trade. While Blair is only 25 years old, playing for the Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs has given him five years of playoff experience. He has a history of injuries, but when healthy, the Wizards will have a 6’7, 270-pound presence in the paint. Said Grunfeld, “His addition makes our bench even deeper and will allow us to be flexible with our lineups.”

Rondo with the Assist to Noel

There is often a bond between players who share the same alma mater. When Nerlens Noel was recovering from a torn ACL, former Kentucky Wildcat Rajon Rondo reached out during the process. Rondo also suffered the same injury and let him know he was there if he needed him.

“With all the support and love, certain guys, especially Rajon Rondo — he was definitely the biggest helper through this whole process, he actually gave me his phone number and told me I could hit him up whenever about it,” Nerlens told

“Being from Boston, watching him growing up, and he went through it and he came back as strong as possible, actually before me, so it gave me a lot of confidence, having his good faith.”

An added bonus for Noel: the Boston-area native grew up a fan of the Celtics and Rondo.