Post-game Reactions

The whispers around Paul Pierce’s future with the Celtics continue to surface in the fourth week of Boston’s offseason. Unconfirmed report after unconfirmed report has circled in, stating anything from Pierce’s house being on the market, to the team being “likely” to buy him out.

Locally, plenty of Celtics fans seem resigned to the fact that Pierce will be gone after an underwhelming effort in the C’s first round exit. Nationally, many are calling the career Celtic “washed up” after being left with the lasting image of Pierce playing the worst playoff series of his career against the Knicks.

These conclusions, especially the latter one, bother me. It’s amazing to me how short people’s memories can become when dealing with a small sample size and limited exposure to Pierce during the rest of the year.

Yes, Pierce was awful during the playoffs. It was the worst series of his career, by far. There are plenty of excuses I could give for his lackluster play (playing with a pinched nerve, 42 minutes per game, a poor offensive gameplan centered almost solely around him). There’s no defending how awful he was though. He has to take responsibility for the performance.

Luckily, I don’t need those excuses to defend Pierce as a player. Instead, I can point to the larger sample size, you know the 77 games of the regular season he played in with above-average career numbers. The guy who turned the C’s season around and carried his team back into the offseason when Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger went down in January.

Upon being left with a bitter taste from the Knicks’ series, people forgot about that version of Pierce. The Pierce that was still playing like he was 25 for more than half the season. That guy is not over the hill. He’s not even falling down the hill. Instead, he’s closer to the peak than the bottom.

With that in mind, I wanted to give everyone a little reminder about the Truth and note how he’s still one of the best small forwards and all-around players in the league.

This leads me to my follow-up question: why are people so ready to get rid of this guy?

Before we move forward, let me clarify a little bit. I understand why Pierce is on the trade market. He’s old, he’s an expiring contract, he still has value around the league (maybe?) and he’s going to be overpaid next season if the Celtics keep him. Oh, and the team wants to “build” for the future.

However, to me, the idea that the Celtics are going to buy him out or amnesty him is laughable. Trading him, just for the sake of dumping his salary for pennies on the dollar is also highly prohibitive in my book.

Why? Because even when you put sentimentality aside, Pierce means so much to this team on the floor.

Let’s walk through some of the evidence on this “over-the-hill” Pierce character.

35. That’s pretty old, but not THAT old in this day and age.

Pierce led the team in scoring last year, averaging 18.6 points per game, leading the Celtics. In case you were wondering, that was the 14th highest total in the entire NBA last season. He shot 43 percent from the field, just one percentage point below his career mark. His 38 percent shooting from downtown was above his career average.

Did you know Pierce had the best rebounding season of his career last season? No? Well, he did by far, grabbing 6.8 rebounds per 36 minutes. He was 2nd on the team overall on the glass, grabbing 6.3 rebounds per game and was on of the best defensive rebounding forwards in the ENTIRE NBA. For more on this, you can check out my TrueHoop piece on Pierce from March.

You may have heard about this somewhere, but the Celtics lost their All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo in the middle of the season. Without him, the team had no true point guard on the roster. That meant point duties had to go somewhere and they largely went to Pierce, who had an assist rate of 25.1 percent, another career-high at age 35. Ho-hum.

Pierce missed only four games this season, despite playing more than half the season with a pinched nerve in his neck. This kind of durability is more than the rule, rather than the exception for the Truth, as the small forward has only missed 25 games total over the past six seasons combined. Casual fan: Trade him for a guy who can stay on the floor. Like Eric Gordon!

Saying the Celtics were overly dependent on Pierce is probably an understatement. The 15-year veteran had a usage rate of 27.4, which was the 16th highest number in the entire league. During the Knicks’ series that number jumped to 30.1, which puts Pierce 5th overall amongst players in the postseason. It was also higher than a guy named LeBron James, in case you were wondering. The Captain carried a heavy load all year long offensively, and the extra weight added this postseason was too much for Pierce to carry. So…send him packing! This was all Pierce’s fault! Or was it the guy who was calling the plays’ fault? I lean towards the latter.

The Achilles’ heel of Pierce in the Knicks series, Pierce had a highly respectable 14.3 turnover rate, just a smidge above his career average. If Pierce returned to a role where he’s not a primary ballhandler, these will likely go down again. That’s assuming Danny Ainge signs another point guard, and based on his track record, we can’t count on Ainge to do that.

The Celtics’ are still at their best defensively with Pierce on the floor. Accordingly to mySynergysports, Pierce allowed just 0.79 points per possession this year. Comparatively, Jeff Green allowed 0.81 points per possession.

Three triple-doubles, and 12 double-double for the Captain this season. A PER of 19.1, which ranks him 40th in the entire NBA and fourth amongst small forwards behind LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant.

Do those look to you like someone who is over-the-hill? At the very least, they are borderline All-Star numbers, all done without the benefit of an All-Star point guard for half the season. Pierce isn’t a 15 million dollar a year player, but he’s worth closer to that money than you might think.

Some players shrink without their stars around them. Pierce’s play improved and that has to count for something. And despite this reality, some people in NBA circles think the Celtics should give this guy away in a pure salary dump or waive him outright? That would be the worst move of Danny Ainge’s tenure.

Is Pierce guaranteed to post these numbers again next year? Nope. He’s probably due for a decline, although an improved supporting cast, clean bill of health, and an offensive scheme that relies less on the Truth could improve his percentages.

I’d be willing to bet money he comes much closer to achieving his regular season numbers, than duplicating the dud-like effort that we saw from him against the Knicks in the first round. I’ll take this regular season sample size over those six games anyday of the week.

So I ask the question again: Why are people in such a hurry to get rid of this guy? To dump his salary? Want to trade some salary? Get rid of Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, or Brandon Bass. Don’t trade away the guy who did his job for you all season before running out of gas at the end.

Sentimentality aside, If the team wants to remain competitive in any way, fans should be fighting to keep Pierce around, instead of dumping the guy. What’s wrong with bringing the core back, and seeing what happens for half a season before the trade deadline?

If they flounder again, you can always blow it up in February. I don’t see the rush to deal Pierce this summer, especially when you consider the fact Kevin Garnett would probably be out the door with him. I can understand trading Pierce for legitimate good value. Anything less than that, Ainge should balk, for now anyway.

And that’s the God honest truth.

For additional reading on Pierce, check out my column on the facts and myths surrounding his option this summer from CelticsHub.

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Brian Robb

Brian Robb co-founded CelticsHub in 2009 and is the currently editor-in-chief. He is a producer and reporter at 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston and also contributes to Boston.com and Bleacher Report among other outlets.
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  • Ersatz

    Thank you.

    • boston bobby

      Great article Peirce had a great regular season and on many nights was the best player on the count. Peirce's playoff performance was an nasty mark on a great career and I will never be able to forget a player that had trouble not falling order. He had the look of a player that stayed too long. Doc likes piece starting his offence at the 3 point line playing off the dribble. Always thought the best part of Piece's game was closer to the basket. Would love to have had Piece posting up 17' from the basket and make a quick move power drive or fad-away. The boat is sinking and Peirce does not command good trade value let Piece finish his days hear and go down with the ship. The only good thing that can come out of Peirce leaving in Doc leaving. Can't do another year of the doc philosophy. I need to see basketball that involves fighting for rebounds, playing a defence that allow for better rebounding opportunities and a attack philosophy on offence.

  • Ersatz

    Seriously, why do fans want to trade away their best player?

    • dslack

      Excellent post, Brian. Entirely agree. A trade could at least be defensible, and maybe some team that wants to trim payroll will offer something truly valuable in return for Pierce. Waiving or amnestying him would be shameful and an obvious way for the owners to save money while (and by) hurting the team.

      • Yes, this was well-written. It's good to see Mr. Robb is putting in better effort with his presentations.

        I completely agree with what dslack says. However, isn't there a penalty for consistently being in the luxury tax zone? So while it appears Danny & Wyc are considering going the cheapskate route, could waiving or giving Pierce amnesty help land free agents and resign younger stars/good role players in future years?

        • GymRat

          To answer your question – nope.

          To be in the top free agent hunt you have to be tens of millions (or more) beneath the soft cap. The C's are well over the hard cap and removing PP's salary and even KG's wouldn't make a difference. With both salaries removed they would only be roughly $5 M beneath the cap and they can afford that with their bi-annual exemption without giving anything away.

          • Thanks. We should try one more window year then. Unless someone gives Danny a trade he can't refuse.

            However, no matter what happens, we will still lack both a center and a coach who isn't so eager to put midgets in like Baby and Bass at the five spot.

    • kg215

      Well 2nd best (Kevin Garnett) :). but yeah Pierce is still a really good player in this league. I wouldn't blame Doc for this either, losing Rondo hurt us a lot. Yeah Rondo doesn't directly take Pierce's minutes, but he was the best play maker and the only main play maker on our team. The captain was only supposed to do it in spurts but he had to do almost all of it by the end. Like Brian Robb said, it was overwhelming when you stacked the usage with the minutes at Pierce's age.

    • Jed P.

      Perhaps it isn't time to trade Pierce, but he's their third-best player at this point. It's amazing that people still have their head in the sand about Rondo after last year's playoffs and how lost the team looked without him in this year's playoffs.

  • ghoulbuns

    Thank you.

  • Jeff

    Damn straight.

  • Swissflix

    All these stats….and yet all i remember was a Pierce who did not once in six games drive to the basket like he used to. A player who was dependent entirely on the 3. I don't want to trade him but something has to change.

    • dslack

      A Pierce with a pinched nerve who played 50, 44, and 43 minutes in the last 3 games of the series, who didn't sit at all in the second half of any of the last 3 games. A Pierce who was tasked with a usage rate higher than LeBron's. I'm not sure that getting him off the team is what needs to change.

    • andy

      Did you read the article? He suggested many things which may indeed change, the reasons why, and how they may affect Pierce's season next year.

  • Kafel

    I agree, there is no reason to rush. Besides name a player that C's can get by trading Pierce and that will be better than truth – but trade that could really happen. I mean, rest of teams aren't stupid and won't give young star for great but old veteran.

  • KG1981

    Doc needs to use the dam bench! Shavlik Rabdolph was doing pretty good off the bench, wasnt used at all in the playoffs!

  • Vincent


  • Joey

    If Paul really wants to stay he should take a pay Cut, So the celtics can TRY to get some type of help. It would be an even bigger help if Kevin would take a pay cut too

    • Carl

      new CBA rules, you cant reconstruct contracts…but if so, I'm more than sure they would reconstruct their contracts for an piece

      • jman

        Totally agree but it can't happen with the rules in place. However, why lose the face of the franchise and again your best player. If anything, have him and Kg reduce their roles. Have Pierce play with the Kg minutes role. Even if ego is taking place, have him start but limit the minutes and put Green in place. But none of this shit or any of our thoughts will work unless Doc and his management will work with their players talents not the usual schemes that have been in place. All we need is a big. Look at those that the C's passes up this year and a lot of people wanted them to pass up. Martin was huge for Knicks and Anderson is huge for Miami at the moment. Even those sub-par bigs are playing good ball for their teamsfor the coaches are using them the correct way. Rebound rebound and score in the paint. That's it.I'd rather have Anderson than Bosh who's shooting 3 pointers. Anyhow, keep Pierce and limit his time and he'll be a much better player.

  • Loaycelticsfan

    Get rid of bass, crawford, and wilcox, actually use DJ White, who actually performed well in the few minutes he was given this season, use Shavlik Randolph more, do something about the T-Will situation, and when Rondo and Sully come back, they’ll be a better team.

    • Did

      Get rid of Bass? The guy stepped up in the playoffs (defensively) and has shown a work ethic that makes him a valuable member of the team. Agree that Wilcox should go, no sold on Crawford yet and Shavlik & DJ are decent roster guys to have around for the next few seasons. Remember when Sully is back neither will likely see the floor.

  • james patrick

    We had a beat up team going into the playoffs. He ran out of gas. No one wants to take the time to consider how hard he had to work to get his team there. I don't want Paul to leave. But I'd really love it if he does something classy like Dirk Norwinski and takes a pay cut in order to bring in more talent. At this point, it really should be about the championships. If it's about the money, then maybe he'd be better going to a team like the Clippers,being that final piece. I dunno. I hope he retires a Celtic though. But I don't like not having our team in the playoffs this time of year.

  • fabzzz

    Paul can't take a pay cut!!

    And I really hope no one in management has seriously considered buying him out. I also find it hard to believe we can't get a lot of value for him. There are a few contending teams that would like to have a guy like Pierce to compete for the title next year – The Pacers, Clippers, Thunder, Warriors, etc. And there's plenty of young talent in that crop, too. That's the kind of deal I'm in for. And, although I don't have an exact scenario in my head, it seems like a plausible enough trade.

    • kg215

      I am sure we can get some value if we really want, we don't have to flip him for garbage or a 2nd pick. But a lot of value is definitely not likely due to his age.

  • darthdoogh

    You took my mouth's words out. Good said. Pierce bleeds green. He deserves staying.

  • oldutican

    The problem is that their 2 best scorers play the same position. So if you could trade PP for a scoring guard and/or a reliable center, it would make sense.

  • i like pierce alot n i think he shud stay but play less minutes n hv a better performance than he did in the playoffs plus if he comes back then doc n kg come back too n wen rondo gets better we will watch the exiting c’s basketball tht we love

  • elroz

    It's JET, Crawford, D.J. White that they ought to move to save money.

  • Renzo

    Ok, but you're considering only regular season stats.
    Look at his playoffs stats for the last two seasons, mainly FG%.
    Pierce could stay only with less minutes and less money.
    Several allstars with similar age are doing the same around the league.
    That's the right way to respect him as a Celtic legend.

    • Renzo

      If the pay cut is not posible, he must leave until the end of his current contract and then go back to Boston for his final season as a great 6th man.

  • Pablo

    Great words… The captain must retire with a green jersey. It´s far from being terminated. When Rondo returns, things will be better.

  • Give me the Crown!

    The reason I want to trade Pierce is the team we have now is a first round exit team.
    Pierce makes this team to good, we need to get worse.
    Trade him while he's still good, get picks and upcoming players.

    • Cam

      Finally, someone that isn't a green-teamer that isn't still living in the last decade. To all of you: Pierce is done. He won't carry you to a championship. We need the cap space, we need the picks, we need players that will develop into something useful. If you really want this team to succeed, you will let him go. Let this team move on; get something for him while you can.

  • JP

    People are silly he still have some basketball left in him, he just got exposed because they didnt have a PG on floor In the Knicks series gid rid of some players or trade for a center. ..BIGGEST MISTAKE EVER LETTING PERKINS GO….

    • Anthony

      Perk's last 7 games in the playoffs were minuses on +/-. It wasn't that big a mistake considering JGreen was our leading scorer in the playoffs. It's actually a bigger mistake for OKC since they couldn't resign Harden since a good chunk of it went to Perk's extension.

  • stk

    Too many minutes for Pierce last year, but not too many years in his career. Green should take the lion’s share of the minutes and Pierce should be kept fresh. He earned that money and Celtics management agreed to pay it to him. It’s not as if there’s a free agent or a trade available that will upgrade the team. People over estimate the detriment of age. Look at the Spurs. Vets help in the clutch if there’s a big enough rotation to share the load…

  • Antoine Blanding

    I really hope they can find a way to keep The Truth. Because the truth is, without him, the Celtics don’t have a reliable closer. With Rondo back, Pierce can go back to his natural Small Forward position. He will be fresher without having to play Point Forward. He is still one if he best Small Forwards in the game today and I agree that he is worth closer to 15 million than other people think!!!!!

  • Steve_Z_Sox9

    Pierce was the team's most important and productive player this year and after asking so much of him and being forced to push him in the regular season, with all the injuries and the loss of Rondo, they asked even more of him in the playoffs, which was too much in the end. Shooting is so much based on legs and the with the minutes he put and responsibilities forced on him, what he did was impressive and not a sign of a failing Paul Pierce. That he held up physically was impressive on its own. Most in media and many on blogs have very superficial and shortsighted perspectives. Depth and perspective as you have given here is not the norm.

    Ainge understands all of this, so I don't think he will be affected by the playoff bottom line which was not really Pierce's fault in any individual sense and much more the result of unrealistic demands forced by the combined circumstances that the team could not be overcome. And with all that said, had there been two days rest between that last two games in the series with the Knicks, he and the Celtics may have been able to overcome all of their disadvantages at least against the Knicks.

  • DJ

    The reason is so then we can get fresh talent

    • Steve_Z_Sox9

      Fresh, but inferior talent just damages the future. The tangibles and intangibles Pierce brings are unlikely replaceable through trade and definitely not replaceable to the team's benefit through any other type of transaction. Knee jerk reaction wishes and hoping are just that (not real, helpful or happening) and fortunately Ainge understands that.

  • Ken

    All you have to look at is how well the Spurs are doing. Duncan 37, Ginobli 35 and I think T. Parker is 30 or 31. Werent they supposed to be washed up long time ago? They’re back in the Finals. If the Celtics have a better supporting cast. The Celtics should be back in the mix again.

    • Cam

      30 or even 31 isn't old at all.

  • donna

    Keep Paul he carried the team on his back when rondo went down. He earned his pay deserves to play his final year as a celtic

  • Yavette

    Pierce has always been an under rated in appreciated player…I never knew how under appreciated til this year, when The very fans he has played his heart out for wanted to kick him to the curb!!!! Which I find outrageous!!! It is good to see an article that knows his value and and actually appreciates him…

  • john

    Get real Celtics keep him then the same results, because of one factor injuries well surely follow him .
    Bet your ass on IT……

  • Paceman

    Thank god someone’s actually come and out put this into some perspective that even some of the less shall we say “well informed” on these blogs should still be able to rationalise. He will not and should not go unless it is for something of real value in return, and even then i still say keep him. He is the celtics and has been for a very long time now.
    What I’d like to know is, can we sign him an extension now for one more year at vet minimum dollars and then let him and KG retire together at end 2015? This would get us back around the cap in 2015 (tax relief) and then about $10 million under the next year when the rebuild can and should begin in ernest.
    Also, without everyone available and together for any meaningful length of time, we really don’t know how good this group could be. But we do need another big.

  • KG PP

    I just don't understand. You are upset with Ray for leaving because he was not Loyal to the Celtics(even though they were not loyal to him) BUT you are OK with Ainge buying out or trading Pierce who has been with the Celtics through thick and thin for ALL of his career. Who gave you a championship. Who played hurt. Who has carried this team on his back before KG and Ray came to Boston. Do i need to say more…IT MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL!!!!

  • Paul Pierce is the heart & soul of the Celtics!!if Rondo wouldn’t have went down they would be playing the Heat I the eastern conference finals..just like last year when we took them 2 seven games! Then Ainge gets rid of Perkins 4 practically nothing and we lose our big man and rebounds become a big problem..but what does Pierce do??He averages more boards more mins & all people see is that last Knick series where he wasn’t the truth..because its hard carrying a team for 82 games & in to the post season! when all of a sudden ur playing point & ur the focus of the offense..everyone get up off Pierce’s back & respect the all time leading scorer in Celtic’s history! the finals MVP..who brought a ring back 2 Boston!! #gogreen/keep Pierce!!!

  • hondo

    Piercebrady i thought havlicek is the celts all time leading scorer?

  • My bad hondo..Pierce is the #2 all time leading scorer behind Havlicek..but he did pass Larry Byrd..& if Ainge shows some respect & let’s Pierce finish out his career as an all time Celtic great/champion he will surpass Havlicek..Pierce has been carrying that team 4 yrs..until Garnett it was all on him..he deserves one more shot w/a healthy Rondo 2 see if they can make some noise in the east next year..he’s earned it..& if he doesn’t get his due it will show nothing but disrespect & it will be a travesty to see him end his career as ANYTHING but a life long Celtic great & champion!!!!