“It’s a dream come true, just to be able to come home finally.”
After 15 seasons as the face of the Boston Celtics, a sojourn to the Brooklyn Nets and a quick visit to Washington D.C., Paul Pierce has come home to finish his career with the Los Angeles Clippers — and it couldn’t be a more fitting close to The Truth’s impressive career. On the move home, Pierce told ESPN:
“I grew up a Laker fan, and after playing for all the Boston Celtics teams and the history [between them and the Lakers], there’s no way I can go home and be a Laker. So this is the next best choice. And it’s always been a dream to play in front of my family and friends.”
Playing on a true title contending team and under the tutelage of Doc Rivers once again, Pierce is the recipient of an incredibly rare opportunity. We often watch our favorite athletes finish their careers in unceremonious fashion. Whether it was watching Shaquille O’Neal finish his career as “The Big Shamrock” in Boston or MLB great Mike Piazza spending the final two seasons of his illustrious catching career in San Diego and Oakland, it’s incredibly rare that a player gets to leave the game on his terms.
That’s now what Pierce gets to do, in front of his family and friends, very close to where he grew up and all while playing for a second championship ring under the coach who was manning the controls when he won his first and only in Boston. In an increasingly changing landscape that puts less emphasis on human emotion and a greater strength on viewing these human beings as assets instead of people, Pierce gets to go home and finish his career on a team that needs him to push it over the top. That has to be an incredible feeling.
Make no mistake, the Clippers will need what Pierce can provide on the floor. Los Angeles has been attempting to fill its small-forward spot for far too long, and Pierce has shown that his old man YMCA game translates across time as he marches forward toward the finish line. A career 37.1 percent shooter from behind the three-point line, Pierce has been above 38 percent in two of his last three seasons, including a 38.9 percent mark on 4.2 attempts per game during his one-and-done season with the Wizards. No better than the fourth option in a loaded, high-octane Clippers’ offense, Pierce is going to play a role that he’s never done in his career — and it couldn’t be a better fit as PP moves deeper into his complementary role and inches closer to the finish line.
But as much as the Clippers will enjoy his abilities on the floor, it’s his presence in a volatile locker room that’ll be the most valuable. There are a number of unique and distinct personalities on this team — Rivers, Paul, Griffin, Jordan, Stephenson, Smith, Crawford and possibly Royce White if he winds up making the final roster — and Pierce will be critical to keeping the cohesion intact. As Pierce himself might say, “that’s why I’m here.”
Pierce, who could’ve made more money in a number of situations, including a return to the Wizards, instead left all of those options on the table to take less than $4 million annually with the Clippers. Pierce, who could’ve taken an easier path to winning on a team with a clearer road to the championship, opted to join Rivers once again — only this time on the other side of the country, 3,000 miles away from where their initial partnership started. Pierce, at 37, who has very little if anything left to prove in a league that washes players out long before they reach 35, got to make all of the decisions about his future this offseason — something that very few in a similar position have the opportunity to do.
With all of that on the line, we shouldn’t be surprised that Pierce chose to come home.
Originally drafted by a Celtics franchise that was known only as an enemy prior to his NBA career beginning, Pierce called Boston his home. You can have a place, a legacy and even multiple houses in a geographical location where you’ve spent a lot of time, but it’s never quite the same as being home. There are certain comforts, emotions and a visceral connection to what’s around you.
I spent almost 10 years living in Massachusetts as a native of Los Angeles before getting the chance to come home again. Pierce spent 15 years in Boston and two additional years on the East Coast before he got to make the same trip. No matter how much time one spends away from where they call home, you never forget where you come from, and it’s very hard — if not impossible — to recreate that very specific set of emotions in a foreign environment.
Now, as Pierce writes the final chapter in his book, he’ll get to do it from the comfort of his hometown Los Angeles, where he’ll trade in the Dunkin’ Donuts for Starbucks, the burger joints for In-N-Out and his past history for current glory.
Coming home at any age is a cool story.