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Ted Leonsis says Paul Pierce ‘knows where he stands in our desires’

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Paul Pierce hasn’t spoken about his future since a non-committal radio interview, in which he referred to the Wizards in the first person but said he still doesn’t know if or where he’ll play next season.

But while Pierce decides whether to opt in or out of the second year of his deal with Washington, his owner isn’t being shy about his preference.

“You’ve got to give the guy credit,” Ted Leonsis said in an interview posted on his own Monumental Network. “He’s obviously been an all-world talent, but his spirit, his heart — he’s a warrior. Whatever his fate is, he’ll be a first ballot Hall of Famer. I hope he comes back. His deal is, he can say ‘I want to come back,’ and he would be welcomed with open arms. He might say ‘I don’t want to come back, I want to negotiate,’ and we would do that. He might say I want to go somewhere else. He’s earned that.

“And we love Paul Pierce,” Leonsis said. “He knows where he stands in our desires. But it’s up to him now, and there’s probably no one in the NBA right now in that part of their career that’s earned that freedom to do what he thinks is best for he and his family.”

Leonsis also talked at length about Pierce’s performance last postseason, when he (at least briefly) galvanized the Wizards into a team that seemed capable of a far deeper run.

“Paul Pierce brought to us perhaps more in the locker room than he even did on the floor,” Leonsis said. “He gave the guys confidence. It was ‘We can win, we can go deep, we can win a championship, we can compete with anybody.’ And when someone who’s a Hall of Fame player is authentically talking like that – it’s not chatter, it’s not inauthentic, it’s sincere and driven – it just uplifted everyone’s confidence.

“And then some of the big shots that he hit were remarkable,” Leonsis went on. “Probably one of my favorite moments in sports since I’ve owned the team was his bank shot at the buzzer, had the presence of mind to say…’I called game.’ I just thought that was a Hall of Fame quote. And it’s too bad the fairy tale ended one tenth of a second too short.”