Is Paul Pierce headed back to where he grew up? A free agent after one season with the Brooklyn Nets, there is more than just one reason for the 16-year NBA veteran to find a new team, and the Los Angeles Clippers doesn’t seem like too bad of an option.
There’s the home town thing – Pierce grew up in California – first in Oakland and then in Inglewood. He played his high school basketball there, and actually grew up as a Lakers fan, something the media couldn’t stop talking about during the two finals series Pierce played in with the Celtics against the Lakers in 2008 and 2010.
There’s also Doc Rivers. Rivers was Pierce’s head coach in Boston for nine seasons, going to the playoffs seven times together including two Finals series and winning one NBA championship. When Rivers was looking to bail on the Celtics, Pierce started having thoughts of disloyalty as well, as the whole gang broke up with Ray Allen leaving a year earlier to Miami, Rivers becoming the head coach of the Clippers while Pierce took Kevin Garnett with him to Brooklyn. Rajon Rondo was left behind.
And maybe there’s the most important thing: Winning. The Brooklyn Nets probably peaked as a team with the current roster last season, making the conference semifinals. A year older with no cap space to make significant changes or any exciting draft picks coming in, the likelihood of doing anything more than last season isn’t great. Pierce, unless he has created a special bond with the city and the team, will probably be looking to play somewhere else.
Pierce averaged 13.5 points per game last season but played only 28.5 minutes a night. He started the postseason well against the Raptors but all season long suffered from inconsistency on both ends of the floor, and was profoundly overwhelmed by the Miami Heat and LeBron James in the conference semifinals, showing his age in a very clear and evident way.
The Clippers see themselves as contenders. They have a squad with young players and veterans – stars in their prime, and a head coach with a championship pedigree. It’s hard to say what Pierce’s money demands will be after making $15 million last season, but if championships is his main concern, he’ll probably settle for a lot less.