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Thursday, December 19, 2013
Truth is, Pierce finding rhythm in new role

By Ohm Youngmisuk

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce torched the Wizards for 27 points on 10-for-12 shooting in Wednesday's Nets loss.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As of Thursday afternoon, Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd said he still hadn't sat down with his assistants to discuss whether to keep Paul Pierce in his new bench role.

But there probably really isn’t much to discuss in terms of making a switch. After seeing Pierce explode for 27 points on 10-for-12 shooting in Wednesday’s loss to the Wizards, it’s safe to say Kidd probably wants to keep his veteran scorer in the same role for now.

“We haven’t talked yet,” Kidd said after practice, before the Nets traveled to Philadelphia for Friday night's game against the 76ers. “We will talk later on.

“But, we like where Paul’s at right now.”

Kidd doesn’t want to mess with something that appears to be working. This stretch is the most comfortable Pierce has looked as a Net. Even though he is only five games into his return from a broken bone in his hand, Pierce looks like he is gaining steam. He is averaging 15.8 points in his past four games. But he’s really found his rhythm in the last five quarters.

Paul Pierce
Veteran Paul Pierce has responded well to coming off the Nets' bench.
Despite being well on the way to a 130-94 blowout win over the Sixers on Monday, Kidd kept Pierce on the floor in the fourth quarter of the rout. Pierce wanted to try to regain his shooting touch, and he buried three 3-pointers in the middle of some garbage time.

That carried over to Wednesday’s game against the Wizards.

“I am just starting to get things going after the start to the season,” Pierce said. “My hand is feeling good, my groin is feeling good, understanding the system and understanding my spots -- that is about it.”

Pierce insists he does not mind about coming off the bench for the first time to be the team’s sixth man, if that is what the Nets need.

“I mean, I don’t really care,” Pierce said. “I have adjusted. I have been a starter my whole career and I am making an adjustment as a player coming off the bench.

“You just have to watch the game, help the guys on the sideline, you get a chance to see and understand what is going on out there instead of starting out the game. It is definitely a mental adjustment and I think I am making that adjustment and figuring it all out with that role off the bench.”

It’s certainly been a season of change for Pierce. First he had to adapt to life as a Net after being a Celtic his entire career. He moved for the first time in his pro-basketball life and had to accept the trade mentally. Then he had to adjust to being on a new team with a new coach.

The Nets got off to a disappointing start as injuries hindered attempts to build team cohesion. Pierce was slowed by a couple of injuries of his own. When he came back from a broken hand, Pierce returned to a new role off the bench. In some ways, his transition to Brooklyn has been more difficult than Kevin Garnett's.

“We are both trying to figure out how to make this team better on both ends,” said Garnett, who has been trying to give his all despite playing limited minutes. “Not just coming in and being a voice but obviously trying to bring a physical presence to the game.

“[Pierce] was struggling there with a couple of injuries,” Garnett continued. “Obviously his hand, ‘Truth’ is not going to tell you what is going on with him [completely]. He is going to fight through a lot of things, that’s just how he is programmed. I feel like he is semi-healthy enough to be fresh, in these last couple of days [he] has gotten a rhythm. I think Jason leaving him in the Philly game has helped a lot with his rhythm and his timing.”

Pierce had his vintage game going against the Wizards. He was aggressive, hitting perimeter shots and driving hard to the basket. It’s exactly what the Nets need off the bench. Pierce not only provides a proven scorer, but he also is an experienced leader for the second unit.

It could have been easy for Pierce to become disenchanted with his new role at this stage of his career. He certainly did not come to Brooklyn envisioning a 9-16 start, filled with drama and seeing him in a sixth-man role for the first time.

“It is a new team, understanding new teammates, understanding what we are asking of him, being in one place for your whole career and then coming to make the adjustment, it can be tough,” Kidd said of Pierce’s adjustment. “But he is a professional. He is not going to complain. He wants to win.

“We’ve asked him to come off the bench and he has responded and been a true professional.”

Even though he had his best night as a Net against the Wizards, Pierce wasn’t in the mood to talk about his personal gain after the Nets lost a game they felt they should have won.

“It is easy to sit here and talk to you guys about what kind of night I had but the bottom line is I really don’t care,” Pierce said. “We lost the game and that is pretty much all that matters. We come out here and try to win as a team; it is not about how good Paul Pierce is feeling.”

Of course, if Pierce is feeling as good in his new role moving forward as he did against the Wizards, that will matter to the Nets. And Kidd likely won’t have much to discuss with his assistants about moving Pierce back to the starting lineup if that continues.