BROOKLYN— Paul Pierce wrote another chapter in a Hall of Fame career book Saturday night in Barclays Center.
He passed Allen Iverson for 19th place on the NBA's career scoring list. In typical Pierce fashion, he underplayed the achievement, as he usually dismisses conversation about his individual accomplishments.
"It's just a tribute to my longevity, just being able to stay healthy, continue to work on my craft and playing with a lot of good teammates over the years," Pierce said.
All of that is true, of course. Pierce has remained remarkably injury free. And he has played alongside some great players, such as Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo.
What made this recent accomplishment noteworthy is that Pierce took this step while playing out of position.
With the season-ending injury to center Brook Lopez, coach Jason Kidd has resorted to a small-ball lineup, moving Pierce from small to power forward and inserting Shaun Livingston into the starting lineup alongside Deron Williams, giving the Nets two-headed snake at point guard.
If Kidd stays with this lineup for the majority of the season, the 6-7 Pierce will be at a height disadvantage on most nights. He will have to rely on his 15 years of experience, his subtle understanding of where to be on the court and his talent if this version of the Nets is going to succeed.
Thus far it has. The Nets have used the small lineup three times and won all three.
Pierce has averaged 16 points, 3.3 rebounds, four assists and has five blocks and four steals. He had 17 points, two boards, five assists, three blocks and one steal in Saturday night's 89-82 win over the Cavs.
"Paul has a very high basketball IQ, he understands when shots present themselves but also can put the ball on the floor and be a playmaker," Kidd said. "He was big for us, being able to find his teammates and also being able to knock down shots."
In this lineup, no player is more crucial to the Nets' success than Pierce. It is a burden that was not supposed to be placed on him. When the Nets acquired Pierce, Garnett and Jason Terry in the offseason from the Boston Celtics, he was supposed to complement Lopez, Williams and Joe Johnson.
But the team's struggles and the injury to Lopez have changed the landscape. The move to power forward is not the first time Pierce has willingly changed his role for betterment of this team.
In his first 1,102 games, Pierce didn't start just three games. In his 28 games in Brooklyn, he's already come off the bench seven times. This is has not gone underappreciated by his teammates.
"For a guy that has accomplished everything that he has, to be willing to do whatever it takes to win, tells you what kind of teammate he is," said rookie Mason Plumlee. "I'm sure there are some players with his resume' that might not be willing to sacrifice like that.''
There have been other examples of Pierce's commitment. He broke a bone in his hand on Nov. 29th and was supposed to be out 2-4 weeks. He was back in two weeks and wanted to return sooner than that but was held out by the training staff.
Pierce downplayed his quick return just as he downplayed his move to power forward.
"I just try to play team basketball; play within the system, take the opportunities in my newfound role at the 4," said Pierce, who now has 24,383 points. "That's all I'm trying to do, just trying to fill in, do what I can to help."