There is a thing called “old man game,” and Paul Pierce is its master.
The 36-year-old can’t jump like he used to, nor can he attack the basket with youthful abandon. But like many NBA greats, The Truth has added nuances and shortcuts over time, finding new ways to beat his opponent as his body declines.
When Pierce arrived from Boston in the offseason alongside his veteran partner in crime Kevin Garnett, how he would fit the Nets’ system was a bit murky. The team already had Joe Johnson, a 6-feet-7 former All-Star known for creating his own shot.
Pierce struggled early in the season, along with most of his fellow Nets, and whether his time in Brooklyn would be a bust — he’s only under contract through the end of this season — became a very real question.
In the last two months, however, Pierce has shown why he was so successful for all those years up North, shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. This month, he is even averaging 1.8 steals per contest, proof that craftiness can be as effective as quickness. He also leads the team in sinking shots from downtown, hitting a staggering 47 percent from three-point range — proof that his eyesight is holding up.
But the most important thing Pierce gives this Nets team doesn’t show up in box scores — except when it does. His competitive drive and his ability to rise to the occasion gives Brooklyn an edge in big games that simply wasn’t there during the 2012–13 season. In three games (all wins) so far against the defending champion Miami Heat, Pierce has dropped 19, 23 and, most recently, a classic 29-point performance last week.
Before the season began, many thought Garnett would be the main source of intangibles like passion and leadership that the Nets sorely lacked last year, only to watch his impact muted by injuries and a drastic regression in his play. Thankfully, Pierce has been able to pick up the slack, and turn back the clock when it matters most. As the playoffs loom, Nets fans can breath a little easier with No. 34 doing what he does best.
Matt Spolar is a nearly 6-foot-1 journalist with a middling high school basketball career who is sure the Nets win thanks to team’s top-tier guards.