“If you tell The Truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
– Mark Twain
Odds are, we will want to remember the NBA version of The Truth, even though for many teams, remembering means watching your team lose at the hands of one of his shots.
Lost in the overly dramatic Kobe Bryant retirement tour is that Paul Pierce is likely on the way out, too, after this season, hinted at in an emotional and possibly final game in Boston Wednesday night as his Los Angeles Clippers played the Celtics. Pierce noted that Boston has a place in his heart, never mind the fact that he’s played back in Beantown a handful of times since his departure after the 2012-13 season. It felt like the end, with those comments.
If it feels like the end, it usually is.
Pierce won’t ever get his due for the type of player he was, mostly because he played in an era more focused first on the aforementioned Bryant as the game’s premiere player and then during the rise of Lebron James. Pierce is, without question though, a Hall of Famer.
The stark reality of it all is that Pierce’s statistics have declined heavily over the last four years. His points per game average dipped from one point, to five points, to two points, to now around six points at 5.7 per game since averaging 19.4 per game his second to last season in Boston.
Pierce is one of the modern game’s great clutch shooters, marrying an ability to live for the dramatic with the arrogance to let you know he was good at it all at once. Pierce has never met a late-game shot he didn’t want to take, nor has he met a make in that moment he doesn’t feel comfortable reminding you about.
In a way, it’s a bit sad that the last few holes of Pierce’s career back nine have been so under-publicized. You’re talking about a guy who averaged at least 16.5 points per game his first 15 years in the league and over 25 per game five times during his prolific career. In 136 playoff games with the C’s, he averaged nearly 21 points per game.
Pierce got his pound of flesh during the 2007-08 season, winning what will likely end up being his only ring, but one is so much more than zero in a way that even four could never be more than one. Pierce was part of the Boston Celtics’ painful build-up from the ground up to NBA champions and contenders a few years after that.
All of it came during dynastic periods of the San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, and partially, the Los Angeles Lakers. The NBA has never been about parity, so if you can sneak a title in when the dominant teams of the era give you the shot, all the more impressive.
It’s hard to understand how Pierce will be remembered. Certainly, his scowl after making shots like you just force fed him congealed milk, occasional penchant for the overly dramatic when it comes to injuries, lack of fear will be near the top. You just get the feeling, though, that folks will overlook what a great player this was because of shinier objects in the rear view at the same time.
Pierce’s likely last game in Boston ended with him making a savvy defensive play on a driving Evan Turner trying to put the game away and a subsequent miss by Clippers’ teammate Jamal Crawford from deep. It would have been more fitting for Pierce to get the shot, but that’s not how sports goes.
One thing is for sure, however, with all due respect to Mr. Twain: sometimes, The Truth is worth remembering, whether you need to or not.