A narrative that’s always been written about Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce is about what a talented scorer he is, one of the best in the NBA. That’s been true for his entire career, but he’s seen a dip in his production this season. Pierce is averaging 18.5 points per game, the third-lowest averaged of his 15-year career, and is having his least-efficient shooting season since the 2003-2004 season, posting a field-goal percentage of just 42.2 percent. Even with his shooting troubles, Pierce has still been the unequivocal leader of the Celtics.
When it was announced that Rajon Rondo was going to miss the rest of the season with his ACL injury, many Celtics fans and talking heads gave up hope on this Boston team. Rondo was arguably their best player and many people agreed that it was Rondo’s team. However, it seems that Pierce still had something to say about that.
Since Rondo has been out with the injury, Pierce has shown just how powerful his leadership abilities are. He’s rallied his teammates to share the ball and play as a unit, which has translated into wins, even without Rondo on the floor. More than just his verbal leadership, he’s set the example for how this team has played as well.
While Boston still had Rondo on the floor, Pierce averaged 18.8 points, 3.8 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game. At 35 years old, he was more looking for his shot and not doing much else to contribute on the floor. But as he’s stepped back up as the leader of this team, his numbers have reflected that. More aptly stated, his numbers have reflected this new team-concept that the Celtics have.
In the games after the injury sidelined Rondo, Pierce has averaged 17.8 points, 6.5 assists and 8.3 boards per game. Sure, his points per game have gone down slightly, but he’s playing into and leading this new scheme that Boston is thriving under. He’s distributing and sharing the basketball and exerting every bit of energy that his aging body can muster. It’s impressive and it’s certainly admirable.
Coming into this year, it kind of seemed like it might be almost a solemn farewell tour for Pierce. However, after being dealt a tricky hand, Pierce has shown that he’s still got life in the NBA, not just as an aging guy clinging to his prime, but as a leader of a playoff-team and a game-changer.