Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
All hail Paul Pierce, the only player to rank in the top five in both seasons. The Celtics’ small forward ascended to the top in 2011-12, when he averaged 1.057 points per possession and shot 48 percent from the post. Pierce, 34, posted up a bit more often last season than in 2010-11, suggesting that he has discovered a weapon that will age well. He drew a free throw on 21 percent of his post-up possessions, the highest number in the sample. That old man game
You don’t think of post play with Paul Pierce, but that’s just because you always think about him as a slasher. His signature shot is a step back from the right elbow. Before Pierce’s name was even mentioned, you’d probably never even mention him if you were asked “who is the NBA’s most productive post scorer?”
Yet there he is. And honestly, when you think about Pierce’s game, he LOVES to get the ball with his back on the defender. Sure, sometimes that results in him getting pushed out to almost the 3-point line, but Pierce is built to take advantage of mismatches in the post.
First, he’s got a really wide frame. Non-Celtics fans like to call Pierce names because he’s not chiseled from granite like LeBron James, but if you see him with his shirt off, he’s pretty fit, and he’s got extremely wide shoulders… which he uses expertly. You know those slow, plodding drives to the hoop where he looks like he’s going half-speed yet he’s blowing by 25 year-olds? That’s him getting those wide shoulders past the defender and then using those shoulders to ward defenders off. He does the same thing in the post. He uses that frame to get space between the defender and the ball. If you’re on Pierce’s left shoulder and the ball is in his right hand, you can’t get to it to block the shot attempt without fouling unless you’re Dwight Howard.
Second, he’s got great footwork and body control. Paul Pierce might as well be dancing out there when he’s making his moves. When he figures out what the offense is giving him, he’s got the ability to set up a clean look with jab steps, spins, step-backs… he’s got it all. But a lot of guys can spin and do all that junk. On top of all that, Pierce can control his body and not drift too far left or right, or fade too far back, when he’s made that move.
Third, and most importantly, he’s got killer instincts. It’s that “scorer’s mentality” that everyone keeps talking about. I’ve heard more than one player say Paul Pierce has a way of getting you do to what he wants you to do. He not only knows the scouting report on you, he can see, and feel, how your playing him before you know how you’re playing him. In a league where everyone’s a freak of nature, split seconds gained this way are the difference between scoring and getting blocked. On top of that, he’s got a great feel for how he’s been scoring… which just means he knows when it’s time to unleash his other signature weapon: the up-fake.
We all love seeing it. The up-fake on the overzealous defender… the guy who has gotten burned a few times by the same move and has promised himself “this old man isn’t doing this to me again”… only to find himself airborne and helplessly crashing into Pierce’s huge shoulders as he draws the foul, absorbs the contact, and still gets a decent look at a shot. It’s as much Pierce as the step-back, and it’s all set up by his instincts and knowing exactly when to pull that off.
All these things have been huge parts of Pierce’s consistently amazing ability to score. As age saps some of the speed from his legs, it’s not a shock to see him spend more time pulling crafty moves out of his back pocket by taking guys into the post. It’s a willingness to adjust his game like that and still be productive, but just in a different way, that makes Pierce so great, and that might extend his career by a few years.
Also out there: Be sure to take a look at this fantastic piece by Rich Levine at CSNNE.com. It’s a look back at the 20 years since Bird retired, and it’s awesome. It deserves more than just a link. If you do nothing else today, click over and read that on your lunch break (… or any time. It’s Friday, we know you’re only pretending to work today)
The rest of the links: