Posts tagged with Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce, Cole Aldrich join L.A. Clippers to chase a championship

Los Angeles Clipper, head coach Doc Rivers, center, poses team players, from left, Branden Dawson, 22, DeAndre Jordan, 6, Austin Rivers, 25, Josh Smith, 5, Cole Aldrich, 45, Paul Pierce, 34, and Wesley Johnson, 33, far right, at at a news conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. The Clippers managed to keep DeAndre Jordan after he changed his mind about his verbal commitment to Dallas Mavericks. They offered everything he wanted, including a fresh start and a bigger offensive role. When Jordan thought about it a little more, the craziest free-agent recruitment story in recent NBA history ended with him back on the Los Angeles Clippers. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Los Angeles Clipper, head coach Doc Rivers, center, poses team players, from left, Branden Dawson, 22, DeAndre Jordan, 6, Austin Rivers, 25, Josh Smith, 5, Cole Aldrich, 45, Paul Pierce, 34, and Wesley Johnson, 33, far right, at at a news conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. The Clippers managed to keep DeAndre Jordan after he changed his mind about his verbal commitment to Dallas Mavericks. They offered everything he wanted, including a fresh start and a bigger offensive role. When Jordan thought about it a little more, the craziest free-agent recruitment story in recent NBA history ended with him back on the Los Angeles Clippers. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

With 17 NBA seasons, 1,250 regular-season games and 158 playoff contests in his rear-view mirror, veteran Paul Pierce only had one thing in mind when he hit free agency this summer: getting back to the NBA Finals.

Pierce, Boston’s 2008 Finals MVP, reunited with former Celtics coach Doc Rivers and made his first public appearance as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers at a Tuesday press conference in L.A.

“This is probably the last ride of my career,” said Pierce, a first-team All-American at Kansas in 1998. “I think this is where I’m going to end it, so I’m going to go all in. And if we can win a championship here for the Clippers, this will be everything for me.”

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At 37 (Pierce will turn 38 before the season begins), “The Truth” realizes he only has so much basketball left in those legs — even if his new contact is for three years and reportedly $10 million.

“I see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said the aging small forward, who opted out of his contract with Washington to head west. “I want another opportunity to win a championship. I thought just being here would be a great fit.”

Pierce was only one of seven Clippers players at the Q & A. While the 10-time all-star and almost-Maverick DeAndre Jordan dominated the press conference, L.A.’s new backup center Cole Aldrich got a little mic time, too.

The former KU big man spent his fourth and fifth seasons with the Knicks, a team that had the Eastern Conference’s worst record (17-65) in 2014-15.

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“You know, going from New York last year, where we struggled, to being on a contending team, it's going to be awesome,” the 6-foot-11 Aldrich said. “You've got a bunch of guys that are going to come in every day and work hard and have fun doing it. And that's the biggest thing is we're a family.”

Joining the Clippers has to feel even more like home for Pierce, and not just because he grew up in nearby Inglewood, California.

“I played with Doc longer than any coach I ever played for in my career,” Pierce said, referencing their nine seasons together in Boston. “Definitely comfortable being around him, being with him. So that really helps out, especially when you go into a new situation, being around things you’re comfortable with.”

Content to play either as a small forward or an undersized stretch-power forward (as he did for the Wizards in the playoffs) with L.A., Pierce anticipates Rivers limiting his minutes throughout the season and even keeping him out of some games in order to keep the team’s elder statesmen feeling a little younger when the postseason comes.

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The NBA’s fifth-leading active scorer (25,899 career points) knows the Clippers don’t need him to be an offensive focal point, considering L.A. has all-stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and Jordan serving as its big three. Pierce simply wants to be a veteran voice in the locker room and do whatever Rivers asks of him.

“I feel I can just be that,” Pierce said. “Kind of like a glue guy.”

That might be just what the Clippers need, after falling apart in the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs, despite a 3-1 lead over Houston (and a sizable second-half lead in a closeout Game 6). Pierce told NBA.com’s Ian Thomsen he watched that collapse closely, because he knew at the time he would either be playing for L.A. or D.C. next season.

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"No way — if I was in that locker room — I would have allowed that to happen,'' Pierce said. "You picture yourself being that voice or being that guy on the court that can help in those situations. I think I fill a pretty big need for them.''

The Clippers have never even reached a conference final, let alone the NBA Finals. But with Paul, Griffin, Jordan, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Lance Stephenson and L.A.’s other role players, Pierce thinks his new team has all the pieces it needs.

"There are five or six teams that can win it all,” Pierce said, “and it boils down to how you come together and whoever is the healthiest.''


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.


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Paul Pierce, Thomas Robinson, other Jayhawks hit free agent market

When the clock strikes midnight and June turns to July, NBA free agent season officially begins.

With the 2015 draft out of the way, teams can begin attempting to plug the last — or many — holes on their rosters by offering millions of dollars to the players whose previous contracts just expired.

While national attention turns to the rumors and meetings surrounding LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Loves and other marquee names, the coming days and weeks will determine the professional futures of some former Kansas stars, too.

Here is a look at seven Jayhawks in play as free agency begins.

Paul Pierce | Washington | F | age: 37

Washington Wizards' Paul Pierce, walks away after a confrontation with Atlanta Hawks' DeMarre Carroll, not pictured, in the third quarter of Game 5 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Washington Wizards' Paul Pierce, walks away after a confrontation with Atlanta Hawks' DeMarre Carroll, not pictured, in the third quarter of Game 5 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Pierce might be on his fourth team in four seasons by the time the summer signing frenzy finishes. Now a 17-year league veteran, the former Boston Celtic and one-year Brooklyn Net surprised many last summer by signing on with Washington.

Though the Wizards, who made it to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs as Pierce averaged 14.6 points and 4.2 rebounds this past spring, didn’t expect him to opt out of his deal this summer, the veteran forward decided to give himself some options as he nears retirement.

While D.C. remains a legit candidate to re-sign him, the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston both are reportedly interested in adding the 2008 NBA Finals MVP, who won a title with the Celtics, while playing for now-Clippers coach Doc Rivers.

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In a piece from The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg, Wizards coach Randy Wittman remained positive about keeping Pierce in the fold.

“End-of-the-year meetings, talking to him here after the season, I think he was really pleased with the situation that he walked into here, what he was able to help with this team, the future of this team and where we’re headed,” the coach said. “I think those are all great positives. I feel very positive that we’re going to be able to have him back in the fold next year.”

Yahoo’s Kelly Dwyer, however, thinks Pierce will chase another title with Rivers, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Clippers.

Thomas Robinson | Philadelphia | PF | age: 24

Philadelphia 76ers' Thomas Robinson in action during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia 76ers' Thomas Robinson in action during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Three years removed from Sacramento taking him with the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Robinson likely will join his fifth NBA franchise this summer. The athletic, raw 24-year-old post player experienced a crazy couple days in February, when Portland traded him to Denver, the Nuggets promptly waived him, Brooklyn planned to sign him and Philadelphia snagged him off waivers before he could become an in-season free agent.

The New York Post’s Tim Bontemps reported Brooklyn, who planned to sign Robinson if he cleared waivers, will target him in free agency.

“He could provide energy and rebounding as a low-cost reserve big, an area where the Nets could use help,” Bontemps wrote.

The decision is all Robinson’s, though. Other suitors could emerge, and he’ll likely take the deal that is best for his financial future.

Upon landing with the 76ers, Robinson averaged 8.8 points and 7.7 rebounds in 18.5 minutes a game.

Cole Aldrich | New York | C | age: 26

New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich (45) dunks the ball in front of Orlando Magic's Elfrid Payton (4) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Orlando, Fla. New York won 80-79. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich (45) dunks the ball in front of Orlando Magic's Elfrid Payton (4) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Orlando, Fla. New York won 80-79. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

While the Knicks figure to actively recruit some bigger available names, Newsday reports Aldrich is one of the Knicks’ own free agents who is likely to return.

Aldrich told the Journal-World a couple weeks ago he didn’t yet know what kind of deals would come his way.

“It’s just nice to get out there again,” he said. “It’s another summer to get better, and that’s all that matters.”

As a young, inexpensive big man coming off a career year (5.5 points and 5.5 rebounds), Aldrich shouldn’t have any trouble finding steady work.

Darrell Arthur | Denver | PF | age: 27

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, left, is stopped as he tries to drive to the basket for a shot by Toronto Raptors guards Greivis Vasquez, center, of Venezuela, and Terrence Ross in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, left, is stopped as he tries to drive to the basket for a shot by Toronto Raptors guards Greivis Vasquez, center, of Venezuela, and Terrence Ross in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A 6-foot-9 backup big man, Arthur won’t create a lot of buzz, but The Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg put the former KU standout on his list of “sleeper” free agents. Some advanced stats, cited by The Post, reveal Arthur’s worth:

“The Denver Nuggets were 9.6 points per 100 possessions better defensively this season with Arthur in the lineup,” Greenberg wrote, “ and he held opponents to 0.9 points per play when he was called on to defend in the post.”

CBSSports.com’s Matt Moore ranked Arthur as the 37th-best available free agent, ahead of Pierce (40th).

Drew Gooden | Washington | PF | age: 33

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) reacts after a play in the first half of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series against the Toronto Raptors, Sunday, April 26, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) reacts after a play in the first half of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series against the Toronto Raptors, Sunday, April 26, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Gooden has stuck around the league for 13 seasons, so he must be doing something right. The veteran big man reinvented his game to remain relevant and served Washington this past season as a stretch power forward.

Gooden averaged 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in the Wizards’ playoff run. According to The Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo, Gooden had a “we’ll see what happens” approach to his free agency.

“I feel like I was a component to help get to where we at right now,” Gooden said. “… Whether I am here or somewhere else, I will continue to get better and fill this role I have taken with the Wizards. I would love for it to be here but if it is not, this is a business and I can swallow that pill, too.”

Jeff Withey | New Orleans | C | age: 25

Miami Heat forward James Ennis (32) goes to the basket as New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey (5) defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. The Pelicans won 105-91. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Miami Heat forward James Ennis (32) goes to the basket as New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey (5) defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. The Pelicans won 105-91. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

The Pelicans haven’t used Withey much (9.9 career minutes per game) in his two seasons of service, but that doesn’t mean they want to dump him in the offseason.

The Advocate reported New Orleans would extend a one-year, qualifying offer to Withey, a restricted free agent. If Withey doesn’t find an offer from another franchise for more money, the Pelicans will keep him for next season and he’ll become a true free agent — unrestricted — in 2016. They can retain him for $1.1 million next season in that scenario, or match any offer another team comes up with for the seldom used backup center (2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in 7.0 minutes this past season).

Xavier Henry | L.A. Lakers | G/F | age: 24

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, center, puts up a shot as Golden State Warriors center Ognjen Kuzmic, left, of Bosnia, and center Festus Ezeli, of Nigeria, defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. The Warriors won 136-115. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, center, puts up a shot as Golden State Warriors center Ognjen Kuzmic, left, of Bosnia, and center Festus Ezeli, of Nigeria, defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. The Warriors won 136-115. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Actually, Henry has been a free agent since last December. After a breakout fourth season in 2013-14 (10 points per game), the young swingman ruptured left achilles this past November, cutting his fifth season short. The Lakers then cut Henry in order to sign another former KU player, Tarik Black.

Henry’s history of injury problems might scare away some organizations, and no one will sign him until he’s back healthy and cleared by a team’s medical personnel. If he can get back healthy, though, and recapture the kind of play he displayed almost two years ago, Henry could emerge as a wild card addition that no one is mentioning at this juncture. Considering all the variables, the offseason uncertainty figures to stretch on for months for Henry.


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.


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Kansas only program to produce three different NBA Finals MVPs

Boston's Paul Pierce hoists the Larry O'Brien Trophy. The Celtics crushed the Lakers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday in Boston, and Pierce was named MVP after the game. Pierce played at Kansas University from 1995 to 1998.

Boston's Paul Pierce hoists the Larry O'Brien Trophy. The Celtics crushed the Lakers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday in Boston, and Pierce was named MVP after the game. Pierce played at Kansas University from 1995 to 1998.

In the annals of momentous NBA feats, nothing stands out quite like winning The Finals. Hoisting that Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy sets the all-time greats apart from their contemporaries, many of those who came before them and even players in the future.

Few professional basketball players can call themselves NBA champions, and fewer still can claim the title of Finals MVP. Michael Jordan earned that label six times in the 1990s to give him the most all-time (the award didn’t become official until 1969 — sorry, Bill Russell).

But did you know no college basketball program has produced more Finals MVPs than Kansas?

The NBA’s history account tweeted out that nugget Friday morning.

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Many on Twitter guessed North Carolina or UCLA were the only program to turn out three different Finals MVPs. (Check out the replies on the above Tweet for some entertaining answers.)

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However, Jayhawks Wilt Chamberlain (1972, Los Angeles Lakers), Jo Jo White (1976, Boston Celtics) and Paul Pierce (2008, Boston Celtics) made KU the winner of this category.

Wilt Chamberlain, named the most valuable player in the NBA playoffs, goes up to tap in a basket for the Los Angeles Lakers against the New York Knicks, May 8, 1972 in the Forum. At left is Dave DeBusschere of the Knicks and in foreground are Pat Riley and Leroy Ellis, right, of the Lakers. Los Angeles won, 114-100, to capture the first championship since the team moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis 12 years ago. (AP Photo/David Smith)

Wilt Chamberlain, named the most valuable player in the NBA playoffs, goes up to tap in a basket for the Los Angeles Lakers against the New York Knicks, May 8, 1972 in the Forum. At left is Dave DeBusschere of the Knicks and in foreground are Pat Riley and Leroy Ellis, right, of the Lakers. Los Angeles won, 114-100, to capture the first championship since the team moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis 12 years ago. (AP Photo/David Smith)

“Wilt the Stilt” won his second NBA championship in 1972, having led the Philadelphia 76ers to the promised land in 1967, before the Finals MVP award existed.

The 7-foot-2 legend averaged 14.7 points and 21.0 rebounds in the ’72 playoffs for the Lakers. Against the Knicks in the championship round, he had 12 points in a Game 1 loss before L.A. took the next four and he put up 23, 26, 12 and 24 to close it out.

Boston Celtics' Jo Jo White lays up a shot over Golden State Warriors' Rick Barry, in their National Basketball Association game at the Boston Garden, Feb. 29, 1976. Boston won the game 119 to 101. (AP Photo/J. Walter Green)

Boston Celtics' Jo Jo White lays up a shot over Golden State Warriors' Rick Barry, in their National Basketball Association game at the Boston Garden, Feb. 29, 1976. Boston won the game 119 to 101. (AP Photo/J. Walter Green)

White, a two-time NBA champion with Boston, picked up his Finals MVP honor in his second title run.

A 6-foot-3 guard from KU, White averaged 22.7 points and 5.4 assists in the 1976 playoffs. In a six-game Finals against Phoenix, White scored 33 in a two-point Game 5 victory and averaged 21.7 points for the series.

Boston's Kevin Garnett, left, Ray Allen, center, and Paul Pierce celebrate in the locker room. The Celtics clinched their 17th NBA title Tuesday in Boston.

Boston's Kevin Garnett, left, Ray Allen, center, and Paul Pierce celebrate in the locker room. The Celtics clinched their 17th NBA title Tuesday in Boston.

Teaming with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in Boston for the first time that season, Pierce won his only championship to date in 2008.

The 6-foot-7 small forward averaged 19.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.1 steals during the Celtics’ 2008 playoff run. Boston beat the Lakers in six games to win it all, capped by a 17-point/10-assist outing from Pierce that sealed it for the Celtics. “The Truth” averaged 21.8 points in those Finals, made 11 of 28 3-pointers and proved to be a critical play-maker, too, dishing out 6.3 assists per game.

If Pierce decides against retiring this offseason and returns for 2015-16, he could get back to The Finals for the first time since 2010.

But will Kansas be able to add to its list of Finals MVP-winners any time soon? Probably not. If any current Jayhawks in the NBA have a shot at one way down the road, it would be either Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid.

You can safely rule out Brandon Rush in these 2015 NBA Finals, as he’s yet to suit up against the Cavs.

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Paul Pierce would fit in nicely with Clippers next season

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts in the second half of Game 4 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Monday, May 11, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 106-101. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts in the second half of Game 4 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Monday, May 11, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 106-101. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Paul Pierce proved in the 2015 NBA Playoffs he’s still relevant in the league, even with 17 seasons of mileage on his veteran frame.

The 37-year-old small forward from Kansas scored 14.6 points per game and drilled 33 of his 63 3-pointers (52.4%) for Washington in the postseason before Atlanta eliminated the Wizards in the second round, leading Pierce to say his offseason plans would include contemplating retirement.

It turns out those within NBA circles, though, anticipate “The Truth” returning for Year No. 18 — and playing for a different organization.

David Aldridge reported on NBA.com “many around the league” think Pierce will finish his career in Los Angeles, with the Clippers. Though the former Boston star, who also spent one season with Brooklyn, signed a two-year deal with Washington this past summer, he can opt out of the contract and become a free agent again in July if he so chooses.

The Clippers make perfect sense as a potential destination for Pierce. He grew up in nearby Inglewood, California, and won the 2008 NBA championship with current L.A. coach Doc Rivers. Plus, with younger stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin carrying the Clippers, Rivers easily could use Pierce in a reduced role during the regular season — Washington used a similar approach — to save his legs for when they need them the most.

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) hugs coach Doc Rivers after the Celtics defeated the Detroit Pistons, 89-81, to win the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics advanced to the NBA finals with the victory Friday in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) hugs coach Doc Rivers after the Celtics defeated the Detroit Pistons, 89-81, to win the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics advanced to the NBA finals with the victory Friday in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Then again, if Pierce indeed becomes a free agent, who’s to say he wouldn’t join another franchise? Celtics guard Avery Bradley told 98.5 Sports Hub he would love to see his former Boston teammate back in Celtics green.

“To me, Paul is always going to be a Boston Celtic,” Bradley said. “The things that he’s been able to accomplish in his time here, it was just amazing. And I’m pretty sure all the Boston fans would love that, too.”

Boston, coached by Brad Stevens, surprised the league this past season by reaching the playoffs, despite trading away veterans Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo. The Celtics became one of the more competitive teams in the NBA the final three months of the season and won eight of their final 10 games to grab the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Pierce’s former franchise is trending upward, but the current roster wouldn’t contend for a title, even with the addition of No. 34. Boston would need to make a few more moves and bring in an all-star or two before Pierce could return knowing he had a chance to get back to the NBA Finals.

No road to the championship is easy, but for Pierce, returning to Washington or joining the Clippers would provide paths with fewer obstacles.

The Wizards came close to reaching the East finals this season, and his young teammates John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter all showed serious improvement. It’s easy to envision D.C. taking another step forward in 2016. But if Pierce stays in the East, he’ll have to go through his old rival, LeBron James, to reach The Finals.

The Clippers had Houston on the ropes and blew a huge lead in Game 6 of the second round before their season ended on the road, in Game 7, against the Rockets. Even though the West is loaded, L.A. has the star power of Paul and Griffin, who could propel the franchise to an unprecedented Finals appearance in 2016 — especially if the Clippers re-sign DeAndre Jordan and add some more complimentary pieces.

Ultimately, the lack of a supporting cast led to L.A.’s demise. Griffin and Paul had to carry the load so much, the fatigue caught up with them late in the Houston series. Pierce isn’t the same defender he was earlier in his career, so he wouldn’t be the perfect “3-and-D” wing for the Clippers. But he could lessen the offensive burden placed on the shoulders of Griffin and Paul, particularly late in games.

After so many seasons in Boston green, Pierce has become a bit of a hired gun late in his career. Why not make one last run at a championship with your old coach in your home town?

Paul Pierce's 3-point shot chart from the 2015 NBA Playoffs. (Via NBA.com/Stats)

Paul Pierce's 3-point shot chart from the 2015 NBA Playoffs. (Via NBA.com/Stats)

Truthfully, Pierce would look good in a Clippers uniform. With him camping out behind the 3-point line on one side of the court, and J.J. Redick doing the same on the opposite side, imagine the extra room Paul and Griffin (and Jordan?) would have to operate.

And if defenses decide to focus on L.A.’s stars, Pierce will be there licking his lips, waiting to deliver a crunch-time dagger.

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LeBron James credits old rival Paul Pierce with shaping his career

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, center, dunks as Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, and center Anderson Varejao of Brazil, right, watch during the second half of Game 4 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, May 9, 2010, in Boston. The Celtics won 97-87, tying the series at 2-2. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, center, dunks as Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, and center Anderson Varejao of Brazil, right, watch during the second half of Game 4 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, May 9, 2010, in Boston. The Celtics won 97-87, tying the series at 2-2. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Years from now, when basketball fans who have yet to be born learn of LeBron James or Paul Pierce by watching hologram highlight clips of their Hall-of-Fame careers, one small forward will inevitably be linked with the other.

The rivalry between Pierce and James took off in the 2008 NBA Playoffs. Ever since, their one-on-one battles have been a prominent storyline each time their two teams meet.

When Pierce, a 17-year veteran from Kansas, hinted at retiring upon Washington’s elimination from the playoffs this past week, Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Chris Haynes asked James about his old antagonist and their showdowns through the years.

Still in the hunt for this season’s championship with the Cavaliers, James told Cleveland.com Pierce actually helped shape his career.

"Obviously he gets a Cliff note or a couple notes in my book as far as guys that helped me get over the hump or kept me where I was at the time," James said. "I knew I had to become much better individually. He's one of those guys."

Playing with the Celtics and Nets, Pierce has faced James’ Cavaliers and Heat in five postseason series. “The Truth” prevailed in both 2008 and 2010, before James went to Miami and won titles in 2012 and 2013.

Now a four-time NBA MVP, James went toe-to-toe with Pierce in a second-round series in 2008 that featured a remarkable Game 7. James put up 45 points, but Pierce scored 41 and the Celtics won in Boston, on their way to an eventual championship.

In 2010, James played what many assumed would be his last game in a Cleveland uniform against Pierce’s Celtics. Cleveland lost in the second round to Boston before James headed south to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.

Once the Heat formed its own “Big Three” to counter Boston’s combination of Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the playoff showdowns started going James’ way. LeBron and company ended Pierce’s season in 2011, 2012 and 2014 (when Pierce and Garnett played in Brooklyn).

The adversaries could have met again in the Eastern Conference Finals beginning this week, but Pierce’s Wizards couldn’t extend their postseason lives past Game 6 vs. Atlanta — a series that ended with an overtime-forcing 3-pointer from Pierce getting waved off upon further review.

"[When] I first saw it and when he got the ball, I knew it was going in," James told Cleveland.com. "I just know how clutch Double-P is. I knew it was going in, but I didn't know if he got it off in time just because he had to make that extra move to get back behind the three-point line after [Kyle] Korver kind of stepped in front of him."

James, who has a 17-20 record vs. his rival in the regular season and a 17-13 record in the playoffs, knows first-hand what Pierce can do with the game on the line. In the 2012 East Finals, Pierce buried a clutch 3 to put Miami in a 3-2 series hole.

No one knows at this point whether the two adversaries will get another playoff showdown in 2016 to cap the old rivalry.

"I've been competing against him my whole career and our battles that we've had, our differences that we've had,” James told Cleveland.com. “But you know one thing about it, when you face him; you're going to always compete. I wish him the best in whatever he decides to do."

Visit basketball-reference.com for a detailed look at each head-to-head meeting between Pierce and James.

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Check out Boston.com’s Top 5 Pierce vs. James moments


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Paul Pierce contemplating retirement

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) waves to the crowd as he leaves the court after Game 6 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs Atlanta Hawks, Friday, May 15, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 94-91. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) waves to the crowd as he leaves the court after Game 6 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs Atlanta Hawks, Friday, May 15, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 94-91. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The NBA’s new Mr. Clutch, Paul Pierce, caught the basketball with time vanishing in the final seconds of Washington’s second-round elimination game Friday night and drained a contested, fade-away 3-pointer from the left corner.

The Verizon Center crowd exploded, and Pierce’s Wizards teammates congratulated him on sending Game 6 against Atlanta to overtime.

However, upon further review, the ball left the veteran’s fingertips a split-second too late. “The Truth” had not saved the day this time, and the Hawks advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The stunned 17-year veteran from Kansas left the court afflicted with the feeling he let his team down, and, as he told The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore, wondering about his future.

“Truthfully, what was going through my mind is, I don’t have too much of these efforts left, if any,” Pierce said. “These rides throughout the NBA season, throughout the playoffs, are very emotional. They take a lot out of not only your body, but your mind, your spirit.”

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Pierce averaged 14.6 points and drained 52.4% of his 3-pointers in the playoffs, but finished what proved to be the season finale with 4 points on 1-for-7 shooting (0-for-2 from downtown). No competitor of Pierce’s caliber would want to walk away from the game on that note, particularly after having a clutch shot waved off, but it’s an option the 2008 Finals MVP finds himself considering.

As Kilgore reported, Pierce has a player option for next season on his contract worth $6 million dollars. Will he take it, extend his late-career sting with the Wizards and play an 18th season?

“I don’t even know if I’m going to play basketball anymore,” Pierce told The Washington Post.

The veteran revealed the emotions of the season-ending loss in many of his post-game comments.

“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.”

Retirement is on the table for the future Hall of Famer now, and Pierce said calling it quits — whether it comes this offseason or down the road — will probably be the hardest thing he ever has to do.

“I’m never going to have no regrets, whether I hang it up now or later,” Pierce said. “I know that people who have been around me all these years know that Paul Pierce came every day, left it out there every day. I know I left everything out there.”


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Paul Pierce offers insight on crunch-time heroics

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce, in headband, celebrates with his teammates after Game 3 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Saturday, May 9, 2015, in Washington. The Wizards won 103-101. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce, in headband, celebrates with his teammates after Game 3 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Saturday, May 9, 2015, in Washington. The Wizards won 103-101. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

From the man who brought you, “This is why they brought me here.” …

Paul Pierce presents: “I called game.”

“The Truth” beat the buzzer — and Atlanta — Saturday night by banking in a contested game-winning jumper as time expired.

With the Hawks’ Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder defending Pierce, the 17-year veteran from Kansas got off as tough a crunch-time shot as you’ll find, and got the lucky bounce off the glass to give Washington a 2-1 lead in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

ESPN reporter Chris Broussard asked Pierce afterward if he called bank on the absurdly difficult winner. The cagy forward thought about it a second before answering with his one-liner, “I called game,” and walking away.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gT8PziyuIqc

Pierce, of course, made himself a household name with his playoff performances in Boston (see: his 2008 NBA Finals MVP award), before playing the past two seasons for Brooklyn and the Wizards.

None by ESPN Stats & Info

As much as trash-talking and bravado have become a part of Pierce’s NBA persona, he takes his role as a trusted clutch player seriously. He wrote about “Making the Big Shot” for The Players Tribune, a pro-athlete focused website for which he is a contributing editor.

“Whenever I’ve been put in a situation where the game is on the line and I know that the ball will be in my hands, I’ve always tried to visualize how I want everything to play out,” Pierce wrote. “Having a positive mindset helps me relax during high-pressure situations.

“Visualize. Execute.”

As many big moments as the 10-time all-star has played a part in through the years, Pierce singled out a regular-season game-winner from 2010 against New York as one of his most memorable.

The Celtics and Knicks had a nice little rivalry brewing, and New York’s fans didn’t mind constantly reminding Pierce about how little they thought of him.

“I remember that it was a tie game and we were in a timeout going over the play,” Pierce wrote for The Players Tribune. “All I could think about was breaking the heart of every Knicks fan in that building.”

Pierce said the play called in a last-second situation might ask him to do any number of things before the ball leaves his hands, but he finds ways to adjust when things inevitably break down and force him and his teammates to improvise.

“While I always picture the ball going in prior to the play, I don’t really know what I’m going to do beforehand to make that happen. Sports aren’t scripted,” Pierce pointed out. “The great players thrive on their instincts.”

Pierce continues to do that in Washington this postseason. The Wizards enter Monday’s Game 4 against the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, Atlanta, with a 6-1 playoff record. Washington’s elder statesman is averaging 15.6 points, and 4.0 rebounds, hitting 51.4% of his shot attempts and 52.1% of his 3-pointers now that the lights are brighter and each moment is bigger.

“Whenever I win a game in that fashion,” Pierce shared of clutch heroics, “I feel like I’m going to hyperventilate. My adrenaline is through the roof and my heart is beating out of my chest. It is the ultimate basketball high.”


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Paul Pierce loving life as a veteran in NBA Playoffs

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) shoots over Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) in the second half of Game 4 in the first round of the NBA basketball playoffs, Sunday, April 26, 2015, in Washington. The Wizards won 125-94 to complete the first sweep of a seven-game series in club history, and advancing them to the second-round. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) shoots over Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) in the second half of Game 4 in the first round of the NBA basketball playoffs, Sunday, April 26, 2015, in Washington. The Wizards won 125-94 to complete the first sweep of a seven-game series in club history, and advancing them to the second-round. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

There might not be many miles left on Paul Pierce’s NBA odometer.

So what’s a 17-year league veteran to do? Of late the former Kansas star has taken the route of soaking every ounce of enjoyment out of the playoffs and life in general.

First off, the 37-year-old can still take over for stretches on the court. With Pierce’s help, the Wizards (No. 5 seed in Eastern Conference) rolled through the first round by sweeping the Raptors (No. 4 seed) in four games.

Washington’s veteran leader averaged 15.5 points per game in the series, establishing a tone in Game 1. Pierce found his spots to take over, and shot 19-for-33 (57.6%) from the field in the sweep. He made four three-pointers in Games 1, 3 and 4, and shot 14-for-24 (58.3%) from deep against Toronto.

The most critical trifecta came late in Game 3, with Washington only up three points and the Raptors still feeling like they had a chance to steal a victory on the road. Pierce calmly drained a dagger from the left wing.

“You know my famous saying, ‘That’s why they brought me here,’” Pierce told ESPN after the game, referencing his on-court rant in last season’s playoffs against Toronto, when he played for Brooklyn. “You know, I just wait for opportunities. I really feed off John (Wall) and Bradley (Beal) and these guys that get me going.”

“The Truth” had to feel good about that hot start to the postseason, because after the Wizards moved on to the conference semifinals, he continued to troll the Raptors’ fan base.

None by Paul Pierce

Washington, which wrapped up its opening-round series Sunday, now has the luxury of waiting to see who will advance between No. 1 seed Atlanta and No. 8 Brooklyn. The series currently stands at 2-2.

While the Hawks and Nets continue beating each other up, Pierce and his teammates can let their bodies recover and bond as a team. Monday night, Pierce and a few of the Wizards had choice seats for the Capitals’ Game 7 against the Islanders. So, of course, the outspoken old man of the group got into it.


Afterward, Pierce dubbed himself the Capitals’ “hype man.”

All of this comes less than two weeks after the outspoken vet shared candid thoughts with ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan about some of his former teammates, including the Nets’ Deron Williams and former Celtic Ray Allen.

A reporter asked Pierce Tuesday about his approach these days, specifically on social media.

“I just look at it,” the veteran said in an interview posted at monumentalnetwork.com, “as good banter. That’s the word.”

“A lot of this stuff, I don’t pre-think it, man,” he added. You know, it just comes out naturally.”

“The Truth,” who became the Wizards’ hype man of sorts in his first season with the organization, summed up his personality and approach perfectly:

“Paul Pierce is just gonna be who Paul Pierce is gonna be. I’ll be myself. It wasn’t like they said, ‘Come in here and be a hype man or be a leader.’ I’m just being myself. If it helps our team, if it hurts our team, I’m just trying to be myself and see where that goes. I speak up. I tell the guys how I feel. I’m emotional. That’s just me being me, truthfully.”


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Veteran Paul Pierce turns it on for postseason opener

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce plays against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce plays against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

That Paul Pierce from the 2014-15 regular season — you know, the one that looked every day of 37 years old, with 17 seasons of NBA games continuing to break down his body. That was a hoax. A con man.

At least that’s what the former Kansas star would have us believe after scoring a game-high 20 points Saturday at Toronto, helping Washington take a 1-0 lead in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

On the court for his post-game interview with ESPN, the sideline reporter pointed out Pierce hadn’t scored that much since an 18-point effort at Utah on March 18 — a month earlier.

Sure enough, Pierce only scored in double figures twice in his final 10 games.

“I was resting, I was resting for this moment right here,” Pierce responded, with a grin.

Now that the playoffs have arrived, maybe the real Paul Pierce will keep making appearances. “The Truth” lives for this stage. He now has 3,027 career postseason points — moving past Lakers great James Worthy to take 22nd place on the all-time NBA Playoffs scoring list.

Pierce, who said he felt good entering the postseason because coach Randy Wittman didn’t push him too hard down the stretch, spent some time as Washington’s stretch-4 to give Toronto issues in what turned out to be a 93-86 overtime road win for the Wizards.

He took over the game and scored half of his points in the second quarter, as Washington battled a raucous crowd that has gown to despise Pierce in particular after he knocked the Raptors out of the playoffs last season, when he played for Brooklyn.

“I don’t mind playing the role of underdog, villain or whatever you want to call it. I was just trying to help my team win, try to give us a mental edge,” Pierce said in Michael Lee’s writeup for The Washington Post. “If that’s the role I’m going to play, I just got to embrace it. It’s not that I’m a bad guy. Everybody knows I’m a good guy. I mean, off the court.”

He evidently didn’t mind a Toronto tabloid poking fun at his age, either, because he posted a photo of the back page graphic on his Instagram account.

Lol

A photo posted by The Truth (@paulpierce) on

Lol by paulpierce

Pierce, who opened OT by draining a 3-pointer that have D.C. the lead for good, said afterward the Raptors are down and the Wizards have to take advantage.

“We’re going to try to get greedy,” Pierce said in Jorge Catillo’s Washington Post story. “We didn’t come up here to try to get one game. We came up to take it one game at a time. We got Game 1, and now we’re trying to get Game 2.”

While Pierce hit 7 of 10 shots, 4 of 7 from deep and secured four rebounds, his teammate Drew Gooden, another former KU star, hauled in 10 rebounds, scored 6 points off the bench and helped protect the rim.

None by NBA

It never hurts to have savvy veterans this time of year — especially ones who saved their legs for the playoffs.

“As a unit, we’ve been here before,” the 33-year-old Gooden told The Washington Post. “It’s nothing new to us. We know it can be done. We got that first one from them and now we got to taste a little bit of blood.”

Game 2 in Toronto is Tuesday night (7 p.m., NBA TV).


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Five Jayhawks chasing glory in playoffs

The 2014-15 regular season concluded this week in the NBA, marking the end of the road for the majority of former Kansas players in the league.

Cole Aldrich, Darell Arthur, Tarik Black, Ben McLemore, Marcus and Markieff Morris, Thomas Robinson and Andrew Wiggins? All of them already find themselves in offseason mode.

Even playoff regulars Mario Chalmers of Miami and Nick Collison of Oklahoma City are on the outside, looking in, after monumental injuries derailed their team’s seasons.

So when you start watching the 2015 NBA Playoffs, you’ll only find five Jayhawks playing on the 16 teams chasing a championship.

TORONTO VS. WASHINGTON

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) shoots against Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, March 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) shoots against Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, March 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

As you might have figured, Paul Pierce is the most prominent KU product in the hunt. Even at 37, “The Truth” still finds ways to make an impact on the floor. Now in his 17th season, Pierce averaged 11.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 0.6 steals in 26.2 minutes, and made 44.7% of his shots, 38.9% of his 3-pointers and 78.1% of his free throws.

Pierce proved last season as a member of the Brooklyn Nets he can still come through with game-winning plays during crunch time in the playoffs.

And he also became quite a villain in Toronto in the process.

None by SLAM Magazine

A pseudo first-round rematch — Pierce vs. the Raptors — should provide plenty of entertainment. Especially when you consider how competitive Pierce is and that he is getting closer to retirement.

The 2008 NBA Finals MVP spoke about the urgency of the postseason with The Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo. As a veteran leader on a team that features an explosive young backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal, Pierce’s responsibilities these days aren’t limited to play-making.

“I just try to get the guys to focus in on the task at hand. These are special moments,” Pierce told The Washington Post. “You got to take advantage of these moments. There’s nothing like playoff basketball. The intensity, the smell of the popcorn, the national televised games every night. This is where good players become great players, and you try to relish these moments and that’s what I’m trying to [instill] into these guys, that every moment counts.”

The Wizards, of course, have another veteran from Kansas: Drew Gooden. In his 13th season, the journeyman power forward comes off the bench for Washington and has provided two double-digit rebound games, as well as a pair of double-digit scoring efforts in April.

In D.C.’s last 10 games, Gooden has seen his minutes and production go up: 7.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists in 25.7 minutes.

Compare that with his season numbers: 5.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 16.9 minutes.

If Pierce and Gooden can find some of their youthful bounce inside those high-mileage legs, Washington might have a chance to advance to the next round.

MILWAUKEE VS. CHICAGO

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich directs his team against the Charlotte Hornets in an NBA basketball game Friday, March 13, 2015 in Charlotte, N.C. Charlotte won 101-91.(AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich directs his team against the Charlotte Hornets in an NBA basketball game Friday, March 13, 2015 in Charlotte, N.C. Charlotte won 101-91.(AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Another old man by NBA standards, 12th-year guard Kirk Hinrich has a chance to play a complimentary role for one of the Eastern Conference favorites, Chicago. That is assuming he is healthy enough to do so.

According to an ESPN.com report, Hinrich didn’t practice Friday and he was listed as uncertain for Saturday’s series opener, while recovering from a hyperextended right knee.

Hinrich, who plays alongside ultra-talented Bulls Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah, sat out the final two games of the regular season. He hasn’t played more than 20 minutes in a game since March 28.

If/when Hinrich plays, he’ll mainly be asked to facilitate and defend. He averaged just 5.7 points this season in 24.4 minutes a game, shot 37.3% from the field and made 34.5% of his 3-pointers. He hasn’t knocked down more than one 3-pointer in a game since Jan. 23.

GOLDEN STATE VS. NEW ORLEANS

Golden State Warriors' Brandon Rush, right, drives the ball against Charlotte Hornets' Kemba Walker during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. The Warriors won 112-87. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Golden State Warriors' Brandon Rush, right, drives the ball against Charlotte Hornets' Kemba Walker during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. The Warriors won 112-87. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Don’t hold your breath waiting to see former KU stars in this series.

Brandon Rush is lucky enough to play for the league’s best team, but Golden State — No. 1 in the Western Conference — doesn’t need to use him much when the Warriors have guys like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala.

Rush, who only played in 33 games this season, last played significant minutes (23) against Denver in mid-March and went scoreless. He didn’t play in five straight games before making brief appearances in three of the last four, highlighted by 5 points, 2 rebounds and 1 steal in 14 minutes in the finale.

The Warriors might advance far enough for Rush to be the last Jayhawk standing in the playoffs, but when you see him it will usually be on the bench cheering on one of the most entertaining teams in recent memory.

The Pelicans’ Jeff Withey finds himself in the same situation (except that his season figures to end much sooner, playing for No. 8 New Orleans).

The former Kansas pivot only played 7.0 minutes a game in the regular season, which ranked him next-to-last on the team. With big men Anthony Davis (an emerging superstar), Ryan Anderson, Dante Cunningham, Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca eating up all the minutes inside, Withey isn’t a part of the Pelicans’ game plan.

The lean 7-footer averaged 2.6 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.5 blocks this season while shooting 50% from the field.

In theory, he could get some run if New Orleans finds itself on the wrong end of a blowout. Withey last made a field goal on March 20, at Golden State. The Warriors won, 112-96, and he played 29 minutes, going for 14 points (5-for-9 shooting) and 8 rebounds.

Mostly, he should be ready to pose for any celebratory post-game photos quickly, having not expended much energy beforehand.


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