Clippers: Doc Rivers says Paul Pierce has always been underrated


Paul “The Truth” Pierce has been a scoring force in the NBA for well over a decade now. He never struck people as an elite athlete or a high-flying dunker, but he possessed the kind of shooting ability, footwork and supreme confidence to score at will. He was able to average 25.3 points per game by just his third season, and by his fourth he became an All-Star. It wasn’t long before his prolific scoring ability made it certain he would be long remembered in Boston Celtics history as a legend, and that was only guaranteed when he won a championship for them in 2008.

In his first 10 seasons, Pierce had already earned six All-Star appearances and a championship. How could he possibly be considered underrated? With five seasons averaging at least 25 points per game under his belt as well, how could anyone underrate the talent of Pierce?

According to his two-time head coach Doc Rivers, that’s been the case all along.

As has been reported by Robert Morales for the Los Angeles Daily News, Doc — who has coached Pierce with the Celtics and now the Los Angeles Clippers — thinks the future Hall of Fame small forward has been somewhat underrated his entire career:

"“I think he has been underrated his whole career, in a strange way,” said Rivers… “I even told that to him when I first took the job in Boston, that I underrated him. I knew prior that he was good. I just didn’t know he was that good. I never knew he was athletic.“When he plays, he just does nothing fast, so you don’t think that he’s quick. You don’t think he can jump, yet he can. He just chooses not to. He doesn’t have to. So when you coach him up close, you see how good he is. I think our fans here will appreciate him more, especially at this age.”"

The timing of Doc’s comments really couldn’t be any better. After the Clippers pulled off a miraculous preseason comeback against the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night, Pierce was in top-form again as a clutch shooting superstar. The Clippers somehow faced a 35 point deficit by the second quarter, and it wasn’t until each player pulled themselves together at both ends of the court that the team looked like they could comeback. The defense tightened and the offense started clicking, and the ridiculous lead slowly slipped out the hands of Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers.

In true Paul Pierce fashion, The Truth buried clutch shot after clutch shot in the fourth quarter to see that the Clippers could steal the win.

He finished the night with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, with 14 of those points and four three pointers coming in the fourth quarter. Three of those shots from beyond the arc came on three straight possessions, and Pierce singlehandedly made Staples Center erupt as the Clippers came within one point of the Blazers.

Because Pierce wouldn’t have it any other way.

As Doc said, Pierce never really plays fast. He takes his time, and moves with patience and an intelligent understanding of his opponents; rather than trying to bulldoze past them or through them like LeBron James. Whether Pierce is waiting for a perfect three point attempt or using his pivot foot to time a turnaround jumper to perfection, it’s his footwork and shooting that allows him to be successful.

Austin Rivers added a comment about Pierce’s footwork, saying that it’s so good you can’t even teach it:

"“You can’t teach his footwork. I ain’t never seen nobody have footwork … he’s probably one of the best footwork small forwards of all time. Seriously.”"

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Rivers couldn’t be more correct. The footwork of Pierce is one of the reasons why he’s been able to excel as a scorer for the last 17 years (even if his athleticism hasn’t been on LeBron or Kevin Durant’s level), and he’s been underrated because of it.

He’ll continue to deliver those shots for the Clippers throughout this season, whether it’s off the bench or in a starting role from time to time. The fourth quarter show he put on against the Trail Blazers proved what he can still do, and those shows won’t be ending just yet.

It doesn’t matter that he’s 38 and has limited athleticism.

It doesn’t matter because he’s Paul Pierce.

Next: The Clippers are poised for a magical season