Washington offered a one-year deal worth $6.6 million with a team option for the second year, but Pierce wanted two years guaranteed.
“I wasn’t shocked,” Wall said at Thomas and Mack Center as the Wizards’ summer league team played the Dallas Mavericks. “I kind of knew it, You can just kind of tell by somebody’s voice, either they’re leaving or going to retire.
“I think he really wanted to come back to D.C. and enjoyed it but I think he wanted a two-year deal or whatever so I knew it wasn’t going to work after that. And then have the opportunity to be back in L.A. with his family, staying in his own house and have an opportunity to reunite with Doc Rivers and Sam Cassell, I knew it was going to happen.”
With Pierce gone, the Wizards will need to fill voids both on and off the court. Off the floor, Wall, who will be 25 by the time the season starts, will be asked to shoulder more of the leadership burden.
“It’s all on me now. I feel like it is,” Wall said. “Going into my sixth year and having three great veterans in Trevor Ariza and Al Harrington and definitely Paul Pierce, those guys taught me to be a leader the best way you can be. And now I have to go in there from Day 1 and try to do what I got to do and do what those guys did in the past and lead my team.
“When I came in young I didn’t want to do it because everybody always was like, ‘Well, he’s the No. 1 pick. He thinks he’s all that.’ That’s how I felt. And just getting the respect. When I get the respect from a Hall of Famer in Paul Pierce, who tells me, ‘You got to be our leader, you’re our best player. We want you to do these types of things.’ Now I feel like I can say anything to anybody in a respectful way. Not trying to disrespect anybody and do it in a professional manner to make sure that our team is going to be the best it can be.”
As for in between the lines, the Wizards spent the free-agency period adding versatile pieces. They traded for Jared Dudley to play stretch-four, which Pierce would’ve manned for considerable minutes next season, signed Alan Anderson as a backup small forward, and added combo guard Gary Neal for a scoring punch off the bench.
“I think we added great pieces,” Wall said. “It’s tough losing a guy like Paul, a great veteran guy like that helped us in the locker room and helped us in those close games. But to add Alan Anderson, Jared Dudley, and Gary Neal, those guys can defend and make shots for us. And it makes our team a little deeper.”