But as Pierce's statistics from the second half of the season last year with the Boston Celtics prove, the man known as "The Truth" still has what it takes to take over a game and prove to his critics that his career's best moments may not be as far behind him as so many suggest.
A tale of two half-seasons
Paul Pierce's season numbers prior to the All-Star break last year were significantly lower than his numbers after the break. His 3-point percentage was a dreadful 35.9 percent, and his field-goal percentage was the lowest it had been since 2003-2004. He really struggled in the month of January, when his field-goal percentage dropped below 40 percent and he hit only 28.9 percent of his 3-pointers for the month.
To make matters worse, All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo tore his ACL, putting even more pressure on veterans Pierce and Garnett to rise to the occasion to salvage what they could of the remainder of the season. Rather than giving into the pressure, Pierce did what he has done his entire career in Boston: He performed like a Hall of Famer should.
From the All-Star break until the end of the season, Pierce shot 48.5 percent from the field and made 42.5 percent of 3-pointers, averaging 18.8 points per game, 6.2 total rebounds and 5.6 assists. By comparison, Pierce shot 46.4 percent from the field, shot 39.2 percent from the 3-point line, tallied 5.1 rebounds, and posted 4.5 assists during the 2007-2008 championship season.
Has Pierce lost a step? Hardly. Pierce was performing at the top of his game despite playing without master-facilitator Rondo for the second half of the season.
The Brooklyn Nets should expect great things
There is no reason to believe that Pierce will be unable to carry over his success from after the All-Star break in 2012-2013 into this season. Pierce is going to be playing on a much stronger team than he did last year and has the benefit of being on the receiving end of passes from one of the league's best, Deron Williams.
One of the areas Pierce struggled in throughout last season was an inability to shoot a high percentage around the rim. Within 10 feet, he only managed to make 51.5 percent of his shots, the lowest percentage since 2003-2004; this was undoubtedly due to the absence of Rondo from the lineup. Since Rajon Rondo took over as the starting point guard in 2007, excluding last season, Pierce had averaged a season field-goal percentage within 10 feet of the basket of 58.2 percent, and you can expect him to come close to matching that figure again in Brooklyn in 2013-2014.
Is Pierce getting too old?
If Pierce is getting too old, too slow and is losing his shooting touch, it is very difficult to explain his exemplary numbers from after the All-Star break last season. Perhaps even more difficult to explain, however, is that Pierce actually performed better when he had less days of rest rather than more days off.
In 18 games played without any days of rest, Pierce averaged 21.2 points per game, 6.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists, and he shot 48.1 percent from the field, including 42 percent from the 3-point line. In 15 games with two days of rest, Pierce's numbers dropped in nearly every offensive category, managing only 16.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 41.7 percent from the field, making a lackluster 35.2 percent of 3-pointers. There are simply no statistical signs of aging. In fact, Pierce had one of his best statistical stretches of games in his career after the All-Star break in 2013.
Brooklyn Nets fans shouldn't listen to the critics. Paul Pierce is still "The Truth," and the Nets are in the best position they have been in a decade to compete for an NBA title.
Don't agree with me? Tell me why I am wrong on Twitter @TheNewRevere or by e-mail at THATcelticsguy@gmail.com.
Justin Haskins is a New England native and a freelance journalist. He has been obsessively following Boston professional sports for 10 years and has been published in numerous online publications and websites.
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- Paul Pierce
- Brooklyn Nets