Paul Pierce was in the eye of the storm

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce: 75 G, 68 GS, 28.0 MPG, 13.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.15 SPG, 0.41 BPG, .451 FG% .373 3P%, .826 FT%, 16.81 PER, 6.6 EWA

grade-b-plusPaul Pierce is a rental. Let’s not forget that. Even if he sticks around Brooklyn for the rest of his career, he’s never really left Boston, not after he spent 16 seasons as the face of the Celtics. As Heat coach Erik Spoelstra put it, “there’s green under there.”

Like everyone else, it took a couple of months for Pierce to fit in comfortably with the Nets scheme. After dealing with a hand injury (and a glove), he turned his season around when he made the move to “power forward,” which sneakily meant he’d act as a third wing player in Brooklyn’s spread-out offense. The move did him good: power forwards don’t close out like wing players, and Pierce shot 39 percent from three-point range in 2014 on over four attempts per game. He hung around with bigger, stronger players without complaint.

He didn’t lead the team in any one statistic. He only stuck out for a handful of games. But somehow, Pierce was in the center of everything, whether he was joking about hitting clutch shots as an eight-month old or calling out teammates for their lack of effort. When Mario Chalmers tried to get in his head during crucial free throws in the first Nets-Heat game in November, Pierce fired back by saying “I’m gonna miss both of them.” If Garnett was the team’s aged monk, Pierce was its checks and balances: he kept things light in the locker room while still holding everyone accountable, himself included.

But toss his solid-if-unspectacular regular season aside. Because with the Nets season on the line in the first round, it was Paul Pierce’s performances that bookended the series, with a devastating array of crunch-time baskets sealing Game 1 and the most important block of the season coming as the last second ticked away in Game 7, a play immortalized above in GIFstory. If that’s the last we see of Paul Pierce in a Nets uniform, it was a year well spent.

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