The Post Sports Live crew previews the Washington Wizards season, which opens Wednesday night against the Heat in Miami. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

There is nothing worse a future Hall of Famer can hear as his career winds down than a judging, arbitrary comment like, “He’s done.” Meaning, of course, his days as either an elite or even effective player are behind him.

So now that he is in Washington, it was time to come clean with Paul Pierce, to, say, tell The Truth, the whole truth.

After he badly missed several shots in a row at the end of a playoff game last April, some knee-jerk columnist who had followed his career sent out one of those social-media messages he wishes he could take back today.

“Paul Pierce needs the game more than it needs him right now,” I typed and tweeted.

“I appreciate you being honest about that, but it’s not that big a deal,” Pierce said as we sat in the players’ lounge at Verizon Center last week after practice. “I get it all the time. What you probably didn’t know and others who have basically said the same is, that’s what made me who I am.

The Washington Wizards have signed Paul Pierce to a two-year contract, providing veteran leadership to a young playoff team. Here's what you should know about the 10-time all-star and likely Hall of Famer. (Tom LeGro/The Washington Post)

“I was built on that. It’s nothing new to me. I was the 10th pick. I thought I should have been the second or first pick. People are like, ‘You’re not this, you’re not that.’

“You know what? I’m still here.”

Thirty-seven years strong, about to enter his 17th NBA season — playing four seasons longer than Magic Johnson or Larry Bird and two seasons more than Michael Jordan — Pierce is more than merely still here.

He is the single biggest offseason addition to the first Wizards playoff team in 35 years to win a second-round game, the single biggest reason why John Wall and Bradley Beal have a chance to take the franchise’s next logical step — to the Eastern Conference finals.

When Trevor Ariza balked at the same offer he received from Houston and was gone, one of the game’s greatest swingmen took his spot for at least the next two seasons.

He is not the best player in the world on a nightly basis anymore, a title Pierce unofficially held after being named the MVP of a 2008 NBA Finals in which he outdueled Kobe Bryant. He is not the scoring menace who in 2002 detonated for 46 of his 48 points in the second half of a game.

But witness him back down his defender and swish that soft jump shot on one possession. Swing the ball to him and see him spot up from deep behind the three-point line on the next. Just like that, the rhythm and release return. It’s all about moments now.

“I feel like you get me on that stage, big game, bright lights, I can still perform at a high level,” Pierce said. “Not as consistently as before. And I know I’m playing with better players that need the ball and I don’t have to do as much.

“But any given night on a big stage I feel like I can still be the best player on the court. And that’s with whoever is out there — Kobe, LeBron, Durant. Any given night.”

This leads to my main concerns about bringing Pierce, one of the game’s most clutch players of the past two decades, aboard in Washington:

How do Wall and Beal grow into that kind of big-shot maker if they have Pierce to do it for them? Will there be enough balls to go around the perimeter in crucial situations?

“When you can have another guy on the floor who can take the last shot, it makes that much harder on the floor for the team to defend it,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “Look, there’ll be times when he takes the last shot.”

This is a big part of the Pierce gamble. He controls his minutes, decides by feel at six or seven minutes into the game whether he needs a breather, when his turn-back-the-clock spurts are over, which Pierce hopes to communicate.

“The greatness of Paul right now is he knows where he is and where he is at right now,” Wittman added.

“It has to come by a feel for the game,” Pierce said. “Say if John is on fire or Beal is on fire. You probably want one of those guys to take it. If I’m fire, I don’t care about taking the shot. You know I’ll take it. I’ve been in those moments.

“I wouldn’t mind if they want to take those shots, though. I used to tell [Celtics teammate Rajon] Rondo, ‘You got to be ready to take those shots.’ I encourage that. These are the guys who are going to be here a lot longer than me. They’re the future. They got to get that down right now for us to get to that level.”

Championship level?

“Yep,” he said, flatly. “I’m looking at the East. Obviously everybody is favoring Cleveland and Chicago. They have some great pieces. But when I saw what this team did last year, the emergence of John and Bradley and everything, I think we have the most big-men depth in the league and can pretty much up match up with anyone. We have the best back court. Now we got experience.”

Having turned 37 on Oct. 13, Pierce has been durable for his age. In each of the past six seasons not shortened by a labor dispute, Pierce has played in at least 71 games. He also doesn’t play a high-impact, frenetic game.

“I’m going to pretty much listen to my body. The body can speak volumes to you — if you listen to it,” he said. “A lot of players at the end of the road don’t listen to it.

“If you look at my game, it was never about dunking on anybody or running up and down the floor,” he added. “It was based on my IQ, my footwork, my ability to shoot the ball. Be strong on the inside. You know, outsmart players.

“I’m sort of like a judo fighter. You know how they use your energy against you? That’s kind of what I do. I get them leaning one way, I go another way. I use their force against them. It’s hard to explain but it’s why I’m still effective.”

He’s not chasing a ring, because he already has one. He’s not chasing money, because he has saved and enabled his three children and wife to live a good life. Pierce is essentially here for two reasons.

He wants to help Wall, Beal, Nene and the crew feel what it’s like to have confetti coming down on the last night of the NBA season, which helps achieve his next goal: finishing his legacy as a player more than a decade after he was considered one of the game’s best swingmen with Kobe, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady.

“I’m striving to place my name in NBA history,” he said. “I’m trying to keep moving up the list. Whenever they say, ‘Where does Paul Pierce fit in with the great players of all time?’ I’ll say, ‘I’m one of the top three-point shooters and I’ve got a title.’ If I get another title, I’ll move up.”

Asked where he sees himself in league annals, Pierce added, “I feel like I’m one of the top 50.”

That’s about right. I would agree.

When you remember he is also the kid who snuck into the Forum in his home town of Inglewood, Calif., to once see Magic, Kareem and Worthy play, when you remember the time you first interviewed him in 2002, soon after he was stabbed in a Boston nightclub for no apparent reason and had to have emergency surgery, you feel even worse you thought he was done.

In hindsight, Paul Pierce does not need the game more than it needs him. He is right where he is supposed to be. He’s an all-time, old-school ’baller, showing the young bucks how it’s done before he knows he’s through — and not a season before then.