LOS ANGELES — It still feels a little strange to see Paul Pierce in a uniform that isn’t green and white. It was Brooklyn black last season, Washington red, white and blue this season, but it still makes you double-take every once in a while.
We’re going to be doing double takes for at least another season after this one. The 37-year-old forward has a player option for $5.5 million next season. Even if he doesn’t pick that up it will be to test the free agent market (he’s not likely to make more than that, he’d just be seeking the security of a longer deal).
Doc Rivers is good with that. He coached Pierce in Boston and said PP’s game is not going to get old.
“We were talking about him early, and Ralph (Lawler, Clipper broadcaster) was saying ‘He’s gone back to the youth fountain.’ No he hasn’t, he’s playing the same way he was 10 years ago,” Rivers said Friday night before his Clippers easily handled Pierce and the Wizards. “That’s why he’s so good. Paul’s never used his athleticism, that’s been his secret to me. He uses timing, and he outsmarts people. He uses his angles; he uses fundamentals.
“I said years ago Paul can play forever; he can play until he decides he doesn’t want to play because he’ll always be effective. I watched him in our gym this summer, playing with all these young guys in a pickup game, and he dominated the game. These guys are going a thousand miles an hour and here comes Paul. It’s just funny to watch. I’ve seen it up close, and obviously I’m watching it from afar now.”
For the Wizards, Pierce spaces the floor more with threes — he’s taking more shots from beyond the arc per 36 minutes than he ever has in his career, and he’s hitting 40 percent of them.
“He takes them when he’s ready to take them,” Rivers said of Pierce from deep. “It’s rare that you’re going to see someone rush him into doing anything. He’ll take a shot when he’s good and ready. That’s how you almost feel with him, and that’s what makes him so good.”
Pierce has seen his numbers dip a little the past couple seasons, 12.8 points per game this season, mostly because he’s taken on less of the offensive load and been more of a role player. In Washington it is John Wall with the ball in his hands most of the time, Pierce plays off him and picks his spots. He’s still effective most nights.
“He’ll have his occasional ‘old night’ — that’s what we used to call it in Boston. But he has more good ones than those,” Rivers said.
Not a lot of perimeter players can be effective at age 40. Pierce might be the exception. And we may get to see it.