Paul Pierce may not be the prolific scorer he once was, although averaging 18.6 points per game last season at 35-years old isn't too shabby. But he is the most important player on the Brooklyn Nets and the best NBA offseason acquisition for the 2013-14 season.
"The Truth" still tops D-12 and Iggy.
Paul Pierce may not outscore these two or even defend as well as they will this season, but what Pierce brings to the table is something that can't be objectively tracked, like offensive or defensive production.
Pierce fills a void for the Brooklyn Nets, who on paper are completely loaded. Pierce and right-hand man Kevin Garnett joined a roster already filled with talented players like Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson.
According to Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News, when asked what Brooklyn was missing after their Game 7 loss to a Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls, Nets point guard Williams answered: "Toughness."
Here are two videos of the Brooklyn PG describing his "soft" team from last year:
Toughness? Pierce has it.
In just his fifth game as a Net, Paul Pierce "sent a message" to the league about Brooklyn's new identity, according to Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News.
On a Miami Heat fast break, Pierce stepped directly in LeBron James's path to the basket, body checking the two-time champion, making sure LeBron wouldn't be rising up for a cocked-back one-handed jam surely to be seen on ESPN later that night.
Let's discuss a few things about this play.
First thing: Pierce knew what he was doing. He prepared himself for the impact of the 6'8", 250-pound beast by putting his arms to his chest before putting his body into LeBron's.
Second thing: This is a preseason game. This type of hard, "message-sending" foul usually isn't seen until the playoffs.
Third thing: The 6'8", 250-pound freak of nature, LeBron James, was the one bouncing off 6'7", 235-pound Paul Pierce, who is eight years older than LBJ. "The Truth" walks away stone-cold with an emotionless face, while LeBron does that weird flopping thing he does sometimes.
Looks like toughness to me.
Another missing element for the Brooklyn Nets: leadership.
In his New York Daily News article, written almost immediately after last season ended, Bondy described the Nets as "energy-challenged."
A team without energy is a team without a leader—someone who pumps energy into their team, gets their team going.
The point guard is the default leader for most teams. Although players like Tim Duncan or LeBron James can lead their teams from other positions, the point guard, also known as the floor general or the coach on the floor, traditionally leads the team.
The Nets' PG has been open about his disdain for the isolation-heavy Brooklyn offense from last season. It's hard to energize your team when your PG doesn't like the offense he's leading.
But Brooklyn has a new system and a new coach. However, the new coach, Jason Kidd, while an excellent player, is a first-time coach with little-to-no experience in the coaching world. With a new, inexperienced coach and a team looking for something or someone to fire them up, the Brooklyn Nets are in desperate need of some leadership.
Cue Paul Pierce with Kevin Garnett following, who combine for 33 years of league experience.
KG is the epitome of energy—albeit crazy energy; let's just call it intensity. Either way, the man is a catalyst for his team and has been described as one of the best teammates in NBA history by former teammate Keyon Dooling, as reported by Paul Flannery of WEEI.com.
Even as the best teammate in the NBA, Kevin Garnett isn't the best offseason acquisition. In fact, he wouldn't have even been acquired by any team if he and his longtime teammate Paul Pierce had been separated.
When the best teammate in NBA history would rather retire than play on a team without you, you're probably not a bad teammate, either. In fact, you're probably a pretty special player, teammate and leader.
That special leader is Paul Pierce.
Dwight is an experiment in Houston with fellow big man Omer Asik, and Mark Jackson will have some experimenting of his own to do at Golden State, with Iguodala possibly pushing Klay Thompson out of the starting lineup.
But Pierce is no experiment. He gives the Nets exactly what they need without even scoring a bucket, even though he'll help on that front, too.
He has never averaged single digits in his career and registered 12 double-doubles last year in his 15th season in the NBA.
The Brooklyn Nets completely upgraded an already pretty impressive team. They added Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko and Kevin Garnett, but no addition is quite as impressive without Paul Pierce. He has become the leader, the backbone and the new identity of the Nets.
Watch out, Eastern Conference. The Nets are the real deal with "The Truth" as their leader.