Ray Allen is gone, and I’m not sweating it one bit. Not going to waste any energy on a dude who didn’t want to be here in the first place. Instead, I’ll choose to talk about the player that hasn’t been on the radar since the playoffs ended – Paul Pierce. Since losing Game 7 in Miami all of the chatter has been about the draft, and then free agency, and now summer league. Pierce exited stage left and hasn’t been heard from since.
So it’s time to resurrect The Truth. Last season was the first with serious whispers that Pierce is done – he started the lockout-shortened season out of shape and injured, and his game was never really consistent. He would play an outstanding game and then follow that with a quiet performance the next, and through it all Pierce just didn’t seem like the same player that we’ve become accustomed to seeing.
And then the playoffs started. There was the bum left knee, and while Pierce didn’t make a big deal about it, the knee was clearly bothering him. Still, the critics countered that the knee had little to do with the sloppy, turnover-filled outings, or the ineffectual stretches of games where he didn’t seem to matter. But Pierce averaged 19.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Yeah, his turnovers were up a little, but his averages were in line with the previous four seasons during the Big Three Era.
Critics will then counter that his percentages – field goal and three-point - were down markedly, and that the dip was even more dramatic during the playoffs. That can’t be argued because it’s true. Pierce was clearly worn down by the end of the season, and pulling tough defensive assignments while dragging that bum knee around didn’t help matters any.
I’m not giving Pierce a pass. He’s clearly on the downside of a brilliant career. But I think he has one more good season in him, and having Jeff Green behind him on the depth chart should help to keep him fresh and (knock on wood) injury-free. And if that’s the case, then I expect the percentages and averages to flip-flop; Pierce should shoot a higher percentage while averaging fewer points, boards and assists.
And that’s a good thing, because that means Pierce is getting better looks, getting the rack more often, having his way with his defender.
So whatever you do, don’t sleep on Paul Pierce this season. Green is going to make a big difference.
And come playoff time, Pierce should be ready to do what he does best – finish games.