Why We Watch: Paul Pierce, Fake-Out Artist

Paul Pierce has been toying with opponents and the game for nearly a decade and a half. He's so good at it that we barely notice anymore.
Share |

Here is how it goes: Paul Pierce gets the ball and squares shoulders that are broader than you’d think.  Arms that are less-defined than the NBA norm hang with ball in hand as he lowers his 6-7 frame. There is a look on his face that suggests maybe mild indigestion, or that his feet hurt. Then he flinches, head and shoulders and arms at once, and whoever has been tasked with defending him—a decade and a half’s worth of defenders, at this point in his NBA career—flinches with him. They bite, because they always bite.

And then, and this is the difficult part to explain, Pierce is somewhere else. It’s not that he got there quickly, so much, but he’s there, in the place that defender was supposed to protect, which was also the place that Paul Pierce wanted to be all along. That’s how it goes, and that is how it has gone for some time now.

The flinches and the fakes are not new to Pierce, or in basketball. Where LeBron James invents new moves—jabs and jukes and crab dribbles—Pierce’s are simple and familiar and, if you're feeling uncharitable or especially frank, old. They’ve been used by others, if not like this and seemingly not ever in the same way twice. He’s a puppet master, or a magician, or a master chef making a Michelin-star meal out of leftovers. Whatever you like. The league is full of players that make fans ask “how’d he do that?” after a move. In Pierce’s case, it’s not a rhetorical question.


Pierce's attacks of the basket are less “drives” and more “casual strolls." So after he gets past that first defender—which he does, always—it seems certain that he'll be stopped by the next. Same thing with the last man he beats, who's lining up a sure block against the old-looking guy moving at three-quarter speed towards the hoop. We all know how this ends, by now.

Pierce isn't as fast as the players defending him, for the most part. He can’t out-jump many either. This is what makes watching him beat those defenders so consistently, persistently fun: to see the ways he makes all that irrelevant, to watch how he’ll make them lean, or lurch, or jump, or sit flat-footed. That and watching him riffle through his mental Rolodex of moves—it would be a Rolodex; this is not a digital archive—for the next one.  

And so every Paul Pierce game is, in some way, an exercise in counter-punching for the last one, even for the last move. Has he hit a few shots in his man’s face? Then comes Pierce-patented move number one: up-fake, absorb contact, take a jumper. Has Pierce gotten to the rim a few too many times? Then get ready for Pierce-patented the second:  The step-back elbow jumper. Pierce passes wonderfully well, and moves without the ball as well as he ever has, but line up his every possession-with-intent across the course of a game and a protean narrative becomes clear. He is keeping track of everything.

And about that step-back: when Pierce does retire, the Celtics might as well carve that right elbow out of the parquet and raise that into the rafters along with Pierce’s number. Few players in NBA history have been associated with a single spot quite as Pierce has with this particular right angle. It was so when he was younger, leaner, faster. Even today, when the Celtics need a basket, you can see the defeat in the the opposing coach’s face as Pierce let’s it fly from that spot. It's his.

It is, appropriately, quite unspectacular as stylistic signatures go. There’s no Jordan-esque logo that can capture a mid-range, step-back jumper from the right elbow. It won't lower a casual fan's jaw, let alone drop it. As deadly as it has been over the years, it’s not something that would crack a highlight show. So, in that way and for this player, it's perfect.


More than four thousand men have played the game of basketball at the NBA level, and only 21 of them scored more points than Paul Pierce; 26 if you toss in the ABA scoring numbers. And yet it doesn't feel all that unjust that he remains the “other” guy in discussions of his generation’s greatest players and greatest scorers. Even now, after all this, he's fooling everyone.

For instance: he is currently the league’s 13th-leading scorer, and producing his second-highest scoring output in the Kevin Garnett era. I write about the Celtics as a living and an obsession, and even I need to remind myself of this sometimes.

Your eyes tell you that Pierce is not doing those things. Even as he backpedals and blows kisses to the Madison Square Garden crowd after yet another masterful one-man Broadway show, your eyes tell you he’s not shooting as well has he has in years past. He’s always looked slow, and on many nights now he looks slower still.  

So maybe this is foreshadowing, the moment when King Longshanks starts coughing in Braveheart. Sure, Pierce just torched the division leading Knicks, out-dueling MVP candidate Carmelo Anthony and seemingly reviving the Celtics season. Yes, he led a 33-9 third quarter charge against the Hawks, dropping 17 points in 12 vintage minutes. But he’s also the same guy who just a few games ago shot a combined 9-for-33 against the very young, and very fast, Warriors and Clippers. He’s the same guy who just went 3-for-15 from three-point range against the Bobcats and Hornets. The cough is only going to get worse.

And so the temptation is to start outlining the obituaries. At 35, it’s got to end soon, right? No athlete in the world has been able to break this mobius strip of a career cycle. Pierce is different, but there has to be a limit to that. Eventually, even the most finely tuned of bodies break down, and all the deceptive strength and speed and grace in his body notwithstanding, Pierce's is not the most finely tuned of bodies. Except.

Except Pierce wants you to believe that. He wants you to buy into that premise; he needs you to. He is begging you to start reminiscing about his younger days, how he grew into a man with the Celtics. He wants you to remember how wild those years with Antoine Walker were. He wants you to remember that ridiculous head wrap he put on to highlight the lack of calls he was getting against the Indiana Pacers during the 2005 Playoffs.

And as you sit there, head tilted up, remembering those 14-and-counting years of improbable, inexplicable grace, Pierce is by you. Again. You bit, because you always bite.

Illustration by Michael McGrath Jr. of Double Scribble.

Share |


This web journal site is really cool! How was it made ! elderly care in durham

Since a great many people are perusing Twitter, as a challenge, who their devotees, some are notwithstanding eager to purchase Twitter adherents for that reason as it were. get 10000 followers twitter free | coc gratis juwelen

Fortunately, a car cover are able to keep both these culprits from your automobile. Gender Bending

Because who knows, if we keep this modern trend of encouragement up, perhaps we will live to see a President Kowalczyk in the White House one day.2015 mustang car covers

The solon inbound links you soul the less complicated you gift occur it to discover a higher area in the look at engines. seo packages

I’m eager to find the valuable information and for me this is the right place to get the good stuff.

Awesome article, keep up the great working and congratulation for the appreciation of all the people to you.

Finally I’ve found your blog, awesome way of explaining each and everything really.
bookkeeper blacktown

Buy backlinks I was searching the blogs for a long time and that is good to know that I have found such blogs here. Great working! Keep it up! visit this site hurry !!! Dofollow Blog Comments

I'd highly recommend you choose those that are made from polyester and cotton.ford f-150 car cover

That's a nice place of you; we have been polishing off there.
my company

You hit realize out of the most other topics.

I really love your write-ups guys continue the good work.www.localdallaslocksmiths.com

It’s amazing to visit again n again coming to your blogs the superb effort is here.
car insurance michigan vs n carolina

niche relevant backlinks Thanks for a wonderful share. Your article has importations your hard work and experience you have got in This field. Brilliant reading .I love it. high trust flow backlinks dofollow

A very nice stuff this is what I was looking for!!
forskolin reviews

Really amazing! Your total focus on this topic is really appreciative, good work!
Emergency Tree Removal Service Dayton Ohio

This is very interesting, You're a very skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your great post. Also, I have shared your website in my social networks! biostar usb 3.0 driver

Awesome article! I want people to know just how good this information is in your article. It’s interesting, compelling content. Your views are much like my own concerning this subject. investigation

Really great post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge.Excellently written article, if only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place. Please keep it up! high trust flow

It can an excellent content articles and it's really very helpful for me personally. I discovered therefore various interesting products in your site especially. Its great article really high trust flow

Thanks meant for sharing this type of satisfying opinion, written piece is fastidious, that’s why I’ve read it completely.

online url opener

We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. Great work. Trust Flow

Your way to enlighten everything on this blog is actually pleasant, everyone manage to efficiently be familiar with it, Thanks a great deal. Panasonic ES-LA93-K/ESLA63-S Arc 4 review

An unbelievable blog. This blog will indisputably be definitely recommended to my friends as well. Incease page authority

I constantly emailed this site post page to all my friends, because if prefer to read it then my all friends will too. discount insurance rate

An unbelievable blog. This blog will indisputably be definitely recommended to my friends as well.
payroll advance loans

Highly vigorous blog, I liked that much. wood flooring raleigh

Keep the ball rolling you have done the great job here. hard armor

Hey nice post man! Thanks for incredible info.million dollar business secrets review

I want more and more articles and blogs please post soon such informative information. rodent removal port st lucie

Keep the balls rolling!! Nice posts you have given for us. independent living stuart fl

It’s amazing to visit again n again coming to your blogs the superb effort is here. stuart law firm

I essentially found your site page and foreseen that would say that I have really valued the experience of investigating your online journal sections. prom dresses

I’m reading the stuff of your site continuously n I have got really a lot of the things that’s very important. You have put the great effort here. bamboo odor absorber

Your way to enlighten everything on this blog is actually pleasant, everyone manage to efficiently be familiar with it, Thanks a great deal.Virtual Ceo Lifestyle

I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post. more info

Hey buddies, such a marvelous blog you have made I’m surprised to read such informative stufwww.easyonlinepaydayloan.com

Your way to enlighten everything on this blog is actually pleasant, everyone manage to efficiently be familiar with it, Thanks a great deal. Inbox blueprint bonus

i was simply skimming along and happened upon your web journal. simply needed to say great web journal and this article truly helped me. cccam server Europe

I’m trampled by your contents carry on the wonderful work.payday advance

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here Creative Life Now

This levy would be one thing that is very confusing to many people. Most people do not really understand this. You should already know. cannabis seeds legality

I constantly emailed this site post page to all my friends, because if prefer to read it then my all friends will too.

I foreseen that would thank you for this locales what kind of hypothesis do you require. what does heart burn feel like

I personally liked going through your solid points on this topic. Many thanks for creating such excellent material. This is excellent... Los Angeles DUI attorney

Great employment! You all do an incredible blog, and have some extraordinary substance. Keep doing awesome. horror movies

While the admin of the web site is working, no question soon it will likely be famous, due to its feature blogs.club flyers print

Your current tunes can be remarkable. You've got a number of quite accomplished musicians. My spouse and i would like anyone the top involving good results. Fort Lauderdale DUI attorney

I found that site very usefull and this survey is very cirious, I ' ve never seen a blog that demand a survey for this actions, very curious...club flyer design