When the Nets traded for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett last summer, they claimed at their introductory press conference that they were the ‘supporting cast’ to Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez. Then, when Lopez went down for the season, every player needed to step up. As we also saw at that July press conference, Pierce seemed more than a little emotional to be holding a different uniform. It was unclear how engaged he was to become a Brooklyn Net. After all, his days as a Celtic will go down in NBA and Boston history.
As the season moved along and the Nets continued to struggle, doubt began to creep around the locker room, front office, and fan base. That's when we saw revitalization in Pierce’s game and his never-say-die attitude.
The same guy that could barely crack a smile at his press conference was evolving into a Brooklyn Net. He suddenly turned into what some could say, the ‘heart and soul’ of the team. Pounding his chest after every play, flaunting the "Brooklyn" lettering written across his black and white uniform, all of it in an attempt to get the crowd and team to rally behind his battle cries. To Pierce, it wasn’t about winning the Atlantic Division, or being the best in the East, it was about bringing a championship legacy to Brooklyn.
Of course, their attempt to get past the Heat and win a championship fell short. They lost in five games in the second round, and questions begin to linger about whether Pierce will give it another year in Brooklyn. His positive contributions this season were clearly undeniable.
Check out his numbers:
Minutes per game
True Shooting percentage
Win Shares per 48
His points per game average of 13.5 was the lowest of his career, including his rookie season when he averaged 16.5. Still, it doesn't seem like his game dropped off too much, but his career average before joining the Nets was near 37 minutes per game. This season's average of 28 made a big difference.
But, you could easily see how much better the Nets offense was with him on the floor:
PER 100 possessions: Pierce was rated 109 per 100 possessions, clearly being a positive factor for the offense. His highest PER in his career was during the 2010-2011 season at 116. Not much of a drop off.
Clutch: He's been infamous for being the 'go to guy' during crunch time. This past season, when the team's were separated by five or less points with under three minutes remaining, Pierce shot 7-17 (41%), while going 4-7 from three. An alarmingly notorious statistic of his clutch numbers was his 1-10 shooting from the free throw line with less than three minutes remaining.
Not too bad for an 'old guy', eh? Pierce shot 37% from three on the year, averaging about two made threes on five shot attempts per game. The 37% actually matches his career average from downtown. Overall, he shot a stellar 45% from the field, also hovering around his career average.
The red space above, which means below the league average, is only highlighted in the bottom right corner where he only attempted six shot altogether. He was also pretty solid at the line with an 83% average from the charity stripe. All of this combined for a true shooting percentage of 60% for the 36 year old veteran.
His numbers may have slightly dipped, but he doesn't seem 'done' just yet.
Favorite moment of the season:
Paul Pierce's series-winning block on Kyle Lowry! (Game 7, NBA Playoffs 2014)
Does it get any better than this? Game Seven, with the Nets' season on the line. They were lucky to even have the lead the way the Raptors came storming back in this game, and coming off a horrible turnover -- they had their backs against the wall in what could've been the most heartbreaking loss in Nets' history. The difference between a first round exit, or a trip to face the reigning NBA champs.
The Nets defense came with a hard double team from Kevin Garnett & Deron Williams, but Kyle Lowry fought his way through the two defenders, barely being freed up just to see Paul Pierce deny his shot as time expired. The relief around Nets' nation was at an all-time high, and the guys in black and white were praising Pierce and celebrating their first trip to the second round in [Brooklyn] Nets history.
The heart and soul of the team saved the day, again.
In the 2013-2014 season, Pierce made a little over $15 million. While he's an unrestricted free agent this off-season, the Nets hold his Bird Rights and can pay him anything they want up to the max. That's not going to happen, but right now, it's uncertain how much the Nets are willing to pay. Early thinking is that the bidding will start at around $8 million a year, for two years, with a possible partial guarantee in the second year After all, Pierce said he thinks he has "one, maybe two" years left.
He needs to?
Keep being the vocal leader. Whether he's in a Brooklyn Nets uniform, or not, as Pierce gets older, his athleticism is bound to diminish. But, he has an advantage over so many players in this league, and that's his veteran leadership. He was vocal through the good and bad times during the season, but mostly the bad. This is what he had to say after the poor 3-7 start to the season.
"As competitors, we're angry," Pierce said of the team after a long practice. "Nobody likes to lose. Everybody in this group that we're here with is very angry. Nobody's happy about losing."
Every team needs a guy like that. It reminds me of Gerald Wallace during the 2012-2013 season. Except, this is Paul Pierce saying it, not Gerald Wallace. Not to discredit Wallace, but the team didn't exactly rally behind his 'battle cries'.
In the Future...
It's tough to judge what Pierce is bound to do this upcoming season. Will he return to the Nets? Or, will he make rumors become a reality and join his old coach in Los Angeles with the Clippers? Either way, Pierce is the type of player to give it his all, no matter how old or hurt he is. He has that killer instinct and will do what ever it takes to win. It's safe to say if you're a Nets fan, you want Paul Pierce back in black.
Final Grade: B+