Boston will always be Paul Pierce’s NBA home, but now that The Truth is two years removed from the Celtics and apart from Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers, his true journey may begin.
Caine: Is it good to seek the past, Master Po? Does it not rob the present?
Master Po: If a man dwells on the past, then he robs the present. But if a man ignores the past, he may rob the future. The seeds of our destiny are nurtured by the roots of our past.
Were it anyone else, Paul Pierce’s decision to represent the Celtics for Derek Jeter Day, complete with a personalized C’s warmup jacket, would have seemed a bit gauche; a 30-something man clinging too strongly to his past at the expense of a still-relevant present.
Pierce is beyond caring about such things. To be honest, The Truth’s value as a player is also beyond the point when anyone else would worry that much about what he does either. (If, say, Kevin Durant went to a Nationals’ game in a Phil Chenier throwback, the Internet would have gone up in flames.)
No one made a big deal about Pierce’s jacket because over 15 years and more than 1,100 games, he became a proper Bostonian by choice, if not by birth. While still active, Pierce has ascended to the pantheon of former Hub heroes that includes the likes of Pedro Martinez and every ex-Patriot from 2001-07. That’s a remarkable set of circumstances, considering that he grew up in Inglewood in the shadow of the Fabulous Forum rooting for the hated Lakers.
There was, however, an inevitable expiration date ticking down his time there that had little to do with him personally. The Celtics needed to start over and it would have been awkward to go forward with their captain in a diminished role, to say nothing of the bounty of draft picks Danny Ainge was able to secure for him and Kevin Garnett. No one wanted to do it, but it had to be done.
Boston may be Pierce’s spiritual home, but his basketball career has begun to take on a nomadic quality. After an unsatisfying transition year in Brooklyn, many thought he would either re-up with KG or return to Los Angeles and play for Doc Rivers. Instead he landed in Washington with the up-and-coming Wizards.
This was a brilliant choice that marks an entirely new career path for one of the league’s timeless players. While advancing age has robbed him of some of his athleticism, Pierce’s skills remain sharp. That and his impeccable footwork will allow him to age gracefully. What this move really means is that Pierce is on his own again. He no longer seeks answers, for he understands the questions.
The match appears perfect on paper. Washington is coming off its best season in a decade and appear ready to take that proverbial next step with a mix of talented frontcourt veterans and the sublime backcourt duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Many a team has stumbled at this important juncture, felled by either misfortune or hubris. Pierce is the hedge against that fate, the quintessential missing element.
His days of long contracts are over, but the two-year deal he signed with the Wizards includes an out after one that will allow him to call his own shot. If he can avoid catastrophic injury, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Pierce continue traveling from town to town bringing enlightenment from the learned guidance of a true sage.
Pierce has taken to the District, but like so many others there, he’s a transient. His home will always be back in Boston where one day his jersey will be up there in the Garden rafters alongside Bird, Havlicek, Jones, et al. But for the next few years he is a man with no boundaries and fewer restrictions. He does not have to be who he was, only who he is now.