Today is the day that the trade sending Paul Pierce to the Nets becomes official and it will go down just the way the rest of Paul Pierce's career has gone. He will not get quite the respect he deserves, and the Truth will rise to the top anyway.
Nine teams passed up on Pierce when he came into the league on draft night and that has set the tone for the story line of his career.
Pierce has never truly been considered a Top 5 player in the NBA in any given season he has played. Players like Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Gilbert Arenas, Ray Allen, Allen Iverson, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, etc. were all "better" than him at some point in their careers when Top 5 discussions would come up. Turns out, Pierce outlasted, outplayed, and outmatched all these guys and should have always been in the discussion with the likes of Kobe, Tim, Dirk, and KG instead of being put behind the group mentioned above.
In a time of Pierce's career when many try to claim that he was struggling with maturity issues, Pierce was leading a team with a flawed star in Antoine Walker and a bunch of spare parts to the second round and to conference finals, while many of the player above struggled to get into the playoffs, let alone win a first round playoff series. People tend to forget what Pierce did early on in his career with so little support and a coaching carousel. All they remember is the initial growing pains he had with Doc, the technical against Indiana and the subsequent press conference, and the Team USA performance all of which came after his early success.
Pierce was never asked to participate in Team USA again. I watched those games. Pierce was the only guy who showed up and played with heart in that tourney, and that includes George Karl as the coach. Just like the rest of Pierce's career, it was easy for people to dismiss him and not ask him back. Pierce played on.
Even as Celtics fans, we tend to give KG and Doc the credit for making the Celtics winners again. But Pierce has always been there, and did as much as either to give the Celtics that winning culture again. He knew when to step up and he knew when to stand down. It was Pierce that went shot for shot with Lebron James, it was Pierce that covered Kobe when we needed him most, it was Pierce that was the Finals MVP.
As Celtics fans, many still refuse to put Pierce in the Top 10 all time Celtics. Pierce is in the Top 10 in every statistical category that matters for the Celtics. He is without a doubt, one of the best Celtics of all time.
In the end, Pierce went out the way he came in. Doc unceremoniously took him out his last game as a Celtic at an odd point in the game so the crowd did not get a chance to giving him a standing ovation the last time he wore green. With the drama of Doc leaving for LA, the hope of a new era with the hiring of Brad Stevens, and him being thrown in on a KG trade to Brooklyn, his exit almost seems like an afterthought.
Credit Danny Ainge for making what should be a painful end of era seem more like an exciting new begging, but Pierce deserves our emotions.
Pierce's game would never be described as pretty or flashy. He just does what he needs to do at a high and consistent level and wins basketball games. He was never scare of the moment, and always accepted responsibility. His career as a Celtic was the same way, and maybe that's why he does not get the credit he deserves. He just did what he needed to do at a high and consistent level, every step of the way throughout his career, and while everyone was overlooking him, he became one of the all time greats to ever play the game. That is the undeniable Truth.