With the start of training camp on the horizon, the Los Angeles Clippers roster is starting to take shape, as head coach Doc Rivers and Co. evaluate their team and determine exactly where everyone, including incoming veteran Paul Pierce, will fit going into the regular season.
Paul’s role with his new team could go in a few possible directions. Recently, Rivers revealed that The Truth could take on a number of roles, either as a starter, taking the place of Matt Barnes, who is now with the Memphis Grizzlies, or even as a sparkplug off the bench.
“I don’t know how we’re gonna do it with Paul,” said Rivers. “Like, I don’t even know if I’m gonna start him. It’s gonna be interesting. I think it’s gonna be great. I just don’t know yet. We have a lot of[good] players, which is great.”
The Clips start training camp on Sat., Sept. 26, and his role will begin to come clear once he is on the court with his new teammates. But while Paul’s spot is yet to be hammered out, Rivers knows No. 34 is capable of being relied upon whenever his number is called, and he’s anxious to see how he’ll fit into the rotation.
“Paul will be great. I don’t want to overuse him, I know that,” Rivers said. “I don’t even know how we’re going to use him yet. I’m going to play him at [power forward] a lot, but what I want him to be is healthy in the playoffs. So however we can figure that out, that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m really looking forward to it.”
With the depth the Clips possess up front with their new acquisitions, there’s a good chance we could see Doc utilize Pierce in multiple ways throughout the 2015-16 NBA season. Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith and Wes Johnson will also be in the rotation, so the combinations Rivers has to juggle will be plentiful. While keeping his minutes in check will be important to ensure the 37-year-old Pierce will be healthy for the duration of the season, expect the Truth to be ready to give it his all whenever the opportunity arises.
Doc has some newfound depth to work with and many players capable of contributing on the court, but when crunch time comes, expect Paul to be out there and looked up to as a veteran who knows what it takes to win in the playoffs and have a championship mentality, which is crucial to a team’s success in the clutch. With Paul’s familiarity with different positions, from the two-guard all the way to the power forward slot, Rivers has some options.
Some bloggers around Clipper Nation project that we could see Pierce enter the season as the team’s starting small forward as another possibility. Cameron Stewart, a Clippers blogger for FanSided, projects Paul to be utilized more from the corners instead of as a power forward we saw the Wizards utilize him in through stretches last season when they went with a small-ball lineup and also how he was utilized in his time in Boston earlier in his career.
“Pierce will find often find himself this season in a place he’s not been familiar with throughout his career, in the corners. As the main player for the Boston Celtics, Pierce found himself often located in the middle of the floor, where stars often get more room to create for others or for themselves,” Stewart writes.
Stewart also thinks Pierce will be a better fit than Barnes, as he has proved to be a more consistent scorer.
“Pierce being a better shooter than Barnes also will have an impact that goes beyond what will show up on any stat sheet. Having wings who can space the floor makes it more difficult for defenses to cheat over or double team. Pierce’s superior shooting will also allow more space for the rest of the offense to operate and we’ve learned through the last few years just how important spacing is to an offense,” wrote Stewart.
Stewart also emphasizes the importance of spacing in regard to the offense by drawing comparisons to how well the Golden State Warriors executed last year in their impressive championship run.
Kelly Dwyer, editor of the Ball Don’t Lie, pictures Pierce in more of a complementary role similar to how Washington used him last year, when he was limited to just 26 minutes a game. Dwyer notes that Pierce will be turning 38 in training camp, and even though coming off the bench as a reliable scorer could be viable option for No. 34, he wouldn’t be surprised if the lineup looks different as the season progresses regardless of whether or not Paul will be coming off the bench or be a starter on opening night.
“Pierce is a professional, and it’s important to remember that even if Rivers does sit him on opening night that these things aren’t set in stone. If you can shift starting lineups in a playoff series in June, you can certainly do it in season that you hope runs for eight months and a hundred-plus games,” Dwyer writes.
With many potential possibilities for Pierce’s role with his new team, it is important to remember that this is something Paul has grown accustomed to over the course of his Hall of Fame-caliber career. Pierce’s flexibility when it comes what positions he can man is a characteristic, to go along with many others, which makes him such a valuable asset to the teams he’s been a part of. No. 34’s versatility will be on full display as the Clipper lineup rounds out coming out of training camp and in the preseason.