How quickly can euphoria become heartbreak in the NBA? Paul Pierce knows.
Mere seconds after the Washington Wizards forward hit another last-second shot that would no doubt play on his Springfield highlight reel, the thrill and possibility gleaned from it vanished entirely, replaced by a sense of foreboding only a 17-year veteran could fully understand. Might his waved-off game-tying three-pointer been Pierce’s last NBA moment? He’s certainly considering that depressing prospect.
Here’s a wistful Pierce following his team’s season-ending loss via The Washington Post’s Michael Lee.
“Truthfully, what was going through my mind is, I don’t have too much of these efforts left, if any,” Pierce said. “These rides throughout the NBA season, throughout the playoffs, are very emotional. They take a lot out of not only your body, but your mind, your spirit.”
“It’s probably going to be the hardest thing I ever have to do, is put the game down,” Pierce said. “But I know that time is coming one day.”
That sure sounds like a guy giving serious thought to retirement.
It bears mentioning that Pierce signed a two-year deal with the Wizards last summer, the final season of which is a player option. He has the right to be a free agent come July, but every indication is that he’ll play 2015-2016 in Washington or hang it up altogether.
Pierce’s emotional post-game session with the media left both of those doors open. He clearly has the talent to play an impactful final season, even if it’s as a seldom-used reserve behind the suddenly burgeoning Otto Porter. The Wizards could use the 37 year-old’s incredible penchant for late-game shot-making, and the team’s playoff run – behind Bradley Beal’s encouraging play – should only make Pierce more confident about this group’s immediate future. Though Beal and John Wall made major leadership strides in 2014-2015, neither instills in teammates the belief or confidence of a player like Pierce, either.
The Truth has many days left as an influential NBA player, basically. It just simply might be time to use them for something else.
An athlete’s career is just a single chapter of life. Years pass. For Pierce and other veterans who face the same decision, there’s far more that goes into it than what fans comprehend on the surface – factors each of us consider when it’s time to start a new page.
“It affects not only you, but the people around you,” Pierce said. “Days like this, you go home and you’re around your family, you don’t feel like talking to them or doing anything because of what the game does. It takes a bit out of you. You go home, and it’s not a good day. It affects the people around you. It’s tough. People think you just play basketball, go home and your body is sore. No. Mentally, the people around you, it affects. I know I’ll go home and won’t have any words for my wife or my mom. Probably the only thing that can through to me right now is my kids. They bring me joy.”
No matter what Pierce decides about his playing future, his choice won’t be right or wrong. Grey area exists. He’ll long for days on the practice floor with teammates while vacationing with family, and long for days of vacationing with family while on the practice floor with teammates.
The public knows Pierce as a future Hall-of-Famer. His wife and kids know him as husband and father. And by so openly contemplating his immediate plans, it’s clear Pierce is every bit the family man he is the basketball player.
We selfishly hope he returns for one last go-round. But if The Truth chooses otherwise, we’ll still be happy for him, too.