As a member of the Brooklyn Nets, former Boston Celtics top dog Paul Pierce will finally have some room to breathe. The 2012-13 Celtics used Pierce as the primary perimeter defender, ball handler and scorer, and the 35-year-old even became the initiator to the offense last season once point guard Rajon Rondo went down with a torn ACL.
In the end it was too much to ask for a veteran with not enough firepower around him. That won't be the case in Brooklyn, and Pierce told the Boston Globe's Gary Washburn he's fine with that:
"There will definitely be less pressure on me on this ball club than there was in Boston," Pierce said. "In Boston, I was the No. 1 primary option. Here we have so many options. We have young All-Stars on this team. My job is to be more of a glorified role player, as Doc [Rivers] used to always say, with the guys we have."
The Nets will pair Pierce with defensive stalwart Andrei Kirilenko at the small forward position, and they have playmaking talents in point guard Deron Williams and shooting guard Joe Johnson, allowing Pierce to operate without the ball. Add Kevin Garnett and All-Star center Brook Lopez to the mix, and there's more than enough support to lift the pressure from Pierce's shoulders.
Last season, Pierce averaged 18.6 points, 4.8 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game -- not too shabby of numbers for a grizzled NBA veteran. But there was clearly too much of a load on him. According to Basketball-Reference.com, his usage percentages during the last two seasons were 27 and 28 percent, the highest since Pierce's 2006-07 season, when he was 29 years old.
Pierce was beaten down in the Celtics' first-round series playoff loss to the New York Knicks. The younger Iman Shumpert tired Pierce into shooting just a 37-percent field goal conversion rate during the six-game series. Pierce averaged more than 42 minutes per game as coach Doc Rivers had little other choice but to play him heavy minutes.
Now in Brooklyn, those minutes are likely to decrease. But so will the pressure.