Joe Posnanski can explain Paul Pierce a whole lot better than I can. (Sports Illustrated)
The thing about Pierce is that his game was changing throughout. His body was changing. He was no longer that springy kid who could summon heights whenever he needed them. He was no longer that uncertain young player who needed boos or disrespect to motivate him into brilliance. No, he had become this wizened basketball veteran. Jazz fans — not Utah Jazz, but real jazz — love to talk about the period of time when Charlie Parker went into seclusion (woodshedding, they call it) and came out playing sounds nobody had ever heard. Well, it’s like those dark years in Boston were Pierce’s woodshedding years. He collected a rolodex of moves, spins, fakes, stops that would get him open. He became this on-the-ball defender who would bump and pull and do all those annoying things that officials never seemed to see.
Then, of course, the Celtics added Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, they traded for Rajon Rondo, and the team fundamentally changed for the better. Pierce was the force of will for that Celtics championship team in 2008.
And now … he’s a Jedi. That’s all I think when I watch him. Pierce is nothing at all like that kid I watched play ball in Kansas. He barely jumps at all. He seems to be moving at glacial pace. He wears those high socks, and he has that weird facial hair that makes it look like he he was just about to finish shaving when he got a phone call, and he’s got the headband on, and except for the long shorts he looks like he walked out of 1974. He stops and pops, spins and ducks, pulls off that throw-out-the-arms move that makes referees call fouls. He gets to the lane without actually running by a defender. He gets free for open shots without a whole lot of effort. He plays tough defense without making a lot of steals or blocking a lot of shots. He hits shots with hands in his face and bodies blocking his chest.
Is there any way you can explain Paul Pierce any better than that? Pierce’s game isn’t pretty and — most times, at least — it isn’t very exciting. He slowly meanders into the lane, rarely dunks and shoots like he has to will every shot into the bucket.
There’s nothing that looks effortless about Pierce’s game, yet he manages to be incredibly economical and efficient. He does what he needs to do when he needs to do it and — with the notable exception of the final play of Game 4 against Orlando — Pierce almost always has the ability to create his own shot. He doesn’t seem too athletic and he very rarely seems extraordinary, but Paul Pierce does nothing but get the job done.
Jedi? Sounds about right.