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Paul Pierce 'definitely' playing next season

Paul Pierce is "definitely" ‎playing next season and plans to pass on his player option with the Washington Wizards that is valued at $5.54 million, a source told ESPN.com's Marc Stein.

The question is which team Pierce will play for. According to a report in The Washington Post, Pierce will either return to the Wizards or join the Los Angeles Clippers to be reunited with his former coach Doc Rivers.

The Clippers can acquire Pierce by offering him the taxpayer midlevel exception worth slightly less than $3.4 million. Washington will be able to offer Pierce a new deal starting in excess of $6 million once he opts out.

Pierce, a Los Angeles native, won the 2008 NBA title with the Celtics while Rivers was the coach.

Pierce, 37, proved during the postseason to be every bit the veteran leader the Wizards had hoped he would be.

He shot 52.4 percent from behind the arc during the playoffs and bumped his points-per-game average from 11.9 in the regular season to 14.6 for the postseason.

During Washington's second-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, Pierce was the Wizards' go-to player in the clutch. He hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in Game 3 and had what would have been the game-tying shot in Game 6 waved off after replays showed it left his hand just after the buzzer sounded.

In the first-round series against the Toronto Raptors, Pierce relished playing the villain and added a distinct level of confidence to the Wizards' play en route to a sweep of the higher-seeded Raptors.

Following the Wizards' playoff exit, the small forward had hedged whether or not he would return to the league for his 18th season.

"I don't even know if I am going to play basketball anymore. These seasons get harder and harder every year, every day," Pierce said. "Summers get even harder when you start getting back in shape. I'm 37 years old. I'm top two or three oldest in the league."

The Wizards have made it clear they want Pierce back and expressed how much better they have become because of him.

"He's a great leader, great mentor," point guard John Wall said following the team's series-ending Game 6 loss to the Hawks. "Just seeing his competitive drive and how hard he works, being the first and last guy here, never making excuses, that is something we can use.

"Just to see his footwork, his competitive drive, how he talked junk, how he wanted to make the big shots, how he had so much confidence, he has built that in us."

"Paul Pierce is a Hall-of-Fame player, and he brought so much to the Wizards this year -- on the court as well as off," Wizards owner Ted Leonsis wrote on his personal blog in June. "When people struggle to describe the 'It Factor,' all they need to do is look at Paul."

Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Ohm Youngmisuk contributed to this report.