The end may have come for Paul Pierce, in a more disappointing fashion with the L.A Clippers' first-round playoff exit than last year's Game 6 heartbreaker in Round 2 with the Wizards.
Pierce, 38, appeared in five of six games in losing to the Portland Trail Blazers. He never played more than 17 minutes and never scored more than three points in any game. He never had more than two rebounds, one assist or one steal.
It's difficult to imagine the future Hall of Famer returning to the NBA, limping to the finish line along with the Clippers minus Chris Paul (hand) and Blake Griffin (quad). All those years of championship experience proved worthless. As always, Father Time wins and will remain undefeated.
According to CSNNW.com, this was Pierce's answer on whether or not he planned on returning for the second year of his deal with L.A.:
For each year the last couple of years, I’ve thought long and hard about walking away from the game. The process will continue this summer as I think long and hard, as I get older in age, talk to my family, see how my body feels. I don’t want to make an emotional decision right now, so I’ll sit down with my family and think about it. It’s just gotta hit you one day. You just never know. You don’t know. Right now, it’s 50/50. I’ll see how I feel when I wake up, if I feel like getting ready for next season. If I don’t feel that feeling, that fire’s not there, it’s going to be tough.
Pierce left the Wizards after one season, his last act being an improbable three-point shot that was a hair late and could've sent an East semifinal game with the Atlanta Hawks into overtime. It was a series in which the Wizards lost John Wall for three games with a broken left wrist and had a serious chance to upset the conference's No. 1 seed.
Those Wizards still got him deeper than the Clippers, who nabbed Pierce when he opted out of his deal and got the Los Angeles native to return home. The Clippers offered him an extra year of security and a better chance at a championship.
They had it in their grasp after a 53-win regular season, No. 4 seed and a winnable series with Portland. Then injuries, which contributed to the Wizards' 41-41 season, caused it all to crumble.
Pierce didn't play a major part in anything. His magic touch was gone as he was relegated to a spot starting role after full-time starting in Washington.
Would the Wizards have been any better on the court with him this season? That's doubtful with 6.1 points on 36% shooting and 2.7 rebounds. In the locker room? Definitely, where they frayed under the guidance of Randy Wittman who'd eventually be fired.
But it had long been time for John Wall to fly and Bradley Beal to try on those big shoes as leaders, and for Otto Porter to get his chance to start at small forward. Let them succeed or fail on their own, and by and large the latter applied to 2015-16, and figure out the next move.
Holding on to Pierce would've delayed the process in D.C. because he wasn't brought in as a long-term option. He filled the gap left by the departure of Trevor Ariza.
It was a necessary step for both. Pierce had a golden opportunity to play at home with his family, something that was important to him, with his old coach Doc Rivers with whom he won an NBA championship for the Boston Celtics in 2008.
The right decision was made by the Wizards to bring in Pierce and to accept his departure. It's on the core of who remains -- Wall, Beal, Porter and Marcin Gortat -- to apply what they've learned from their brief time with him.
If in 2016-17, if the narrative remains "this team misses the leadership of Paul Pierce," then their problems are far deeper than a Paul Pierce who now is a shell of himself.
After 10 All-Star Games, one Finals MVP and 26,316 points, his work is done. And take solace in the fact that if he never suits up for the Clippers again, the last real highlights of his career that will be referenced for eternity didn't come wearing that logo.
It came in a first-round sweep of the Toronto Raptors who he called out and then nailed to the wall with big shot after big shot after big shot. Then it came in a game-winning bank shot vs. the Hawks and finally a Hail Mary three-pointer that almost counted at Verizon Center to force a Game 7 -- all in a Wizards uniform.