Key Clippers’ Stats:
· Signed a 3 year, $10 million contract on the first day of free agency in July 2015
· Played in 93 regular season games over two seasons, starting 45 of them
· In 16.2 minutes per game, averaged 5.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 0.9 assists per game, shooting 36.8% from the field, 31.6% from three (3.1 attempts per game), and 81% from the free throw line (0.8 attempts per game)
· Played in 12 playoff games, starting 1
· In 12.9 playoff minutes, averaged 2.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 0.7 assists on 33.3/33.3/40 shooting
· Was waived on June 28, 2017 to retire as a Celtic
In the summer of 2015, Paul Pierce was coming off a season where he had been a revelation for a young Wizards team trying to become a force in the playoffs. While they washed out in the 2nd round, Pierce’s leadership and advice was praised by everyone in the organization, and Wizards’ stars John Wall and Bradley Beal speak glowingly about him to this day. Even though his on-court production had dipped further from his season with the Nets, Pierce was still a competent basketball player. His insertion at the power forward position sparked the Wizards’ run towards the end of the season and in the playoffs, as he was able to stretch the floor with his shooting. Clippers’ fans expected they were getting a similar, if somewhat more limited player, in Los Angeles. Pierce would play some small forward, shift to power forward when Blake Griffin was out of the game, and be a force in the locker room. He was considered the answer to the Clippers’ long-time struggle to find a starting small forward.
From the moment Pierce stepped on the court in the preseason, something looked off. Namely, he appeared too slow to play at the NBA level anymore. Then the regular season started, and Pierce’s method of “playing himself into shape” didn’t seem to be helping. By January, Clippers’ fans were already calling for him to be benched. Those wishes were not answered until the playoffs, where Pierce started only one game, and played limited minutes. By then, the damage was done. It’s hard to know how many more games the Clippers might have won in 2016 if Luc Mbah a Moute or Wes Johnson had taken all of the ineffectual Pierce’s minutes, but it’s possible the difference could have propelled them to the 3 seed over the Thunder. Allow that to happen, and all of a sudden everything changes.
Pierce was so washed in 2016 that many thought he would retire over the summer. He was considering it, but decided to return once more—he wanted one last chance at a ring. This season, Doc barely played him from the beginning, letting Luc and Wes handle almost all of the small forward minutes. However, Pierce actually started getting more minutes towards the end of the season, the reverse of the previous year, and played quite a bit in the playoffs. Unfortunately, while his shooting numbers improved from his first year with the Clippers, Pierce was still completely unable to play defense or do anything else on the court. He rode off into the sunset with an incredible 21:30 minutes of playing time against the Jazz in Game 7. Clippers’ fans were tweeting until the very end in disgust and disbelief at the amount of time he received. And that’s the sad reality of Paul Pierce’s stint with the Clippers.
Both Clippers’ fans and Paul Pierce will probably try to forget his time with the team as soon as possible. For Pierce, it was a depressing end to a long and impressive Hall of Fame career. For Clippers’ fans, Pierce was the epitome of everything wrong with the Doc Rivers era—playing an established veteran with ties to Doc over younger players. There was nothing positive to take away from the union between Pierce and the Clips. The best moment of the two-year stretch was Pierce’s final game in Boston, where he received standing ovation after standing ovation until he came into the game… and hit a three pointer. It was a flawless send-off for Pierce in his true NBA home. It was also a perfect summary of his Clippers’ career—the only memorable (positive) occurrence was his connection to another team.