It didn't quite go down like that, and now we're left waiting for his decision as the Clippers find themselves done for the year in April.
"I don't have much basketball left--whether it'll be this year or another year," said Pierce before the season. It was clear to those watching throughout the season that the former Boston Celtics legend didn't have enough in the tank to do his brilliant career justice. He struggled throughout the year defensively and on the glass, often giving up intentional fouls when his man made a move, knowing he'd be beat. Pierce's redeeming quality last year for the Washington Wizards was his perimeter shooting, as he connected on 45% of his shots from the field and 39% from deep, averaging 12 points a night and 16 per 36 minutes. In the post-season, The Truth was back, making over half of his threes, including some timely shots to help the Wizards win playoff games.
This year, his shot left him, and it was sad to see. Pierce still attempted 242 threes, but he shot just 31% on them--worse than Austin Rivers, Jeff Green, Wesley Johnson, and Jamal Crawford. On his overall field goals, he shot only 36%, hurting the Clippers' offense all year long.
Paul Pierce still has two years and over seven million dollars remaining on his contract with the Clippers, but as he nears 200 million in career earnings (before endorsements), he's clearly not in it for the money. After the Clippers season ended last night, Pierce told reporters that he was still 50-50 on a retirement decision and that he didn't want to make an emotional decision.
I expect that Paul Pierce will take his time in the coming days (and perhaps weeks) to fully think through his decision, but it's clear that his days as an NBA rotation player have come to an end. He'd be turning 39 during the pre-season, which isn't an age where players tend to have comeback years. Does he want to ride the bench as a veteran leader? Can he handle not being on the court? Would he rather have a role like that on Doc Rivers' Clippers, or his beloved Boston Celtics?
If Pierce does decide to retire, it wouldn't shock me to see the Clippers and Celtics work together to let him go out in green. The Clippers could essentially trade Pierce into Boston's cap space for nothing, and he'd then retire, taking his contract off of the Celtics' books. It would cost Boston nothing and allow them to have a Celtics legend retire a Celtic, and create a $3.5 million trade exception for the Clippers to potentially use to find a replacement player.
Whatever happens in the coming weeks, let's honor Pierce's career, not letting his poor performance as a Clipper tarnish his legacy.