BOSTON — Paul Pierce is a first ballot Hall of Famer, an NBA champion and a Finals MVP award winner who played at a superstar level for a long time.
But at age 38, the veteran forward now is a role player, and an important one, for a Los Angeles Clippers team hoping to break through in a tough Western Conference.
“He gives us leadership, he gives us truth. Instead of me using my voice, I can use Paul’s voice and that’s been really nice for me,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday before him and Pierce played against their former Boston Celtics team at TD Garden.
“This is a different team (than Boston), this is a younger team, a team that’s trying to get over the hump and Paul has been really good.”
The Clippers have never reached the conference finals since their inception in 1970-71, so adding a veteran with Pierce’s playoff pedigree as a free agent in the offseason was a huge upgrade for them. Pierce is the only player on the roster with a championship ring and has career playoff averages of 20 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
“Paul’s been great,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said Wednesday morning. “He’s given me an opportunity to be quiet a lot of times because Paul’s always talking. It’s been fun having another veteran like that, that extra voice in the locker room, and just the confidence that comes with Paul.”
That confidence will come in handy when the playoffs commence. The Clippers are holding down the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference and probably won’t have too much trouble keeping it. Securing the fourth seed could present a difficult challenge in Round 2, though, as the Golden State Warriors probably will be waiting for L.A. as the top seed.
Pierce isn’t making a substantial impact for L.A. right now. His 5.7 points per game is the lowest average of his career, and he’s only playing 17.6 minutes per contest.
But the Clippers realize this journey is a marathon, not a sprint, and Rivers must keep Pierce healthy and well-rested for the playoffs. After all, that’s why they signed him, to win in the playoffs and give L.A. another closer in crunch time.
Rivers admitted coaching Pierce as a role player is an ongoing process, but he’s happy with the results so far.
“I think what’s harder for me with Paul is trying to figure out the right amount of minutes,” Rivers said. “We’re doing the Kevin Garnett thing with the minutes, even more so with Paul. He’s been great, though, he tells me ‘tomorrow I need a day off’ and things like that. But we still haven’t figured out the right amount of minutes for him. He’s been fantastic for us.”
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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