Paul Pierce may have played his last basketball game. If he did, he went out in an oddly appropriate way, hitting 3 game winning shots in a row, except that the last two really weren't.
The first game winner reminded everyone of how clutch Paul Pierce is and all the amazing success he's had (including a Finals MVP). The second one looked like a game winner, except the Hawks snagged a loose ball and snuck in a game winner of their own. How many times did it look like the Celtics had the Heat or the Lakers down for the count, only to see them roar back and steal the game or series? The final one was just barely too late, the fingertips still on the ball as the final buzzer sounded. For all of Pierce's greatness, sometimes it just wasn't enough to get his team over the top.
Pierce has another year left on his contract that would pay him $6M to play with the Wizards. He's obviously got enough gas in the tank to be a difference maker. For all their youth and talent, the Wizards still relied on him to be the finisher in this series. If he wants to keep playing, he'll have plenty of options. He might even be able to get more than that $6M on the open market. Then again, it isn't just about his ability or the money anymore.
"It affects not only you, but the people around you," Pierce said. "Days like this, you go home and you’re around your family, you don’t feel like talking to them or doing anything because of what the game does. It takes a bit out of you. You go home, and it’s not a good day. It affects the people around you. It’s tough. People think you just play basketball, go home and your body is sore. No. Mentally, the people around you, it affects. I know I’ll go home and won’t have any words for my wife or my mom. Probably the only thing that can through to me right now is my kids. They bring me joy." Pierce’s eyes reddened as he spoke. And yet, in another breath, he left the door to return ajar. "It’s probably going to be the hardest thing I ever have to do, is put the game down," Pierce said. "But I know that time is coming one day."
Whatever Pierce does, nobody will begrudge him for it. He will leave this game on his own terms and hopefully no regrets.
If and when he leaves he'll have plenty of options in his post-playing career. He's talked openly about returning to the Celtics in some capacity. Either as an assistant coach, or assistant GM, or whatever. I'm pretty sure he could show up at Waltham and they'd give him some blank business cards with his name on it and allow him to fill in whatever role he wants.
Of course the networks would also pay big money to get that swagger on a microphone and behind an analyst desk. He'd be a natural and perhaps a breath of fresh air on the airwaves. That winning smile and (for lack of a better word) truthful tongue would get him far in the business.
But he's still got the option of playing another year (or more!) and extending his legacy even more. It might not even be about that any more either. The man simply loves to play. He's a gym rat that has never been able to relax or get away from the game for too long over the summers before getting the itch to play again. My guess is that he'll be back for one more run, but you never know.
Regardless, it has been fun to see him taste some of that glory in the playoffs again. I wish he was still with the Celtics (logistics aside) so I could keep enjoying seeing him play for us. But whatever he wants to do with his career and life is alright with me. Much love and respect to The Truth.