As the NBA season mercifully ends and the playoffs begin, life isn’t getting easier for Paul Pierce.

Pierce, the former NBA All-Star who has worked as an NBA analyst for ESPN since 2017, has been feeling the heat for the past week after proclaiming he had a better career than Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade.

“When I was 24 years old, you give me Shaq, when I was 25, give me LeBron, I’d be sitting on five or six championships, easy,” Piece, who won a single NBA championship with the Celtics in 2008, said on ESPN’s NBA Countdown last week. “I played 10 years with who? With who?”

Since then, Piece has been widely lambasted by many NBA fans and players, including Wade himself. Jalen Rose, his ESPN colleague, read off all the things Wade accomplished during his career that Piece didn’t. Yahoo’s weekly NBA show The Bounce got in on the act, displaying a graphic that hilariously compared the final games of Pierce and Wade.

Even fans in Brooklyn got in on the Pierce-bashing, chanting “Paul Pierce sucks!” Wednesday night during the Nets’ season-ending match-up with the Heat and the final game in Wade’s career (which ended with a triple-double).

Following last night’s game, NBA Countdown hosts Michelle Beadle and analysts Chauncey Billups mercilessly ripped Pierce while showing highlight’s from Wade’s final game.

“Paul did you have a triple double in your last game?” Billups mockingly asked Pierce. “You had a double triple. 2, 2, and 2.”

At one point, Billups attempted to point out this year’s NBA playoffs would be the first in many years that didn’t include Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, or Dirk Nowitzki, but was interrupted by Pierce, who inserted his own name into the list.

“Paul Pierce?” Billups asked? “You weren’t in the playoffs the last few years anyway.”

Pierce will be part of ESPN and ABC’s NBA pre-game and halftime shows throughout the playoffs, starting with the Sixers’ first-round match-up against the Nets on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

» READ MORE: The Nets’ youthful squad has pushed aside doubt. Next up: the Sixers.

ESPN paying Michael Smith a lot to do a little

Sixers star Joel Embiid (right) helped promote the launch of ESPN’s ‘SC6’ in May of 2017. Jemele Hill has since left ESPN, and the network doesn't appear to have a role for Michael Smith.
ESPN Images
Sixers star Joel Embiid (right) helped promote the launch of ESPN’s ‘SC6’ in May of 2017. Jemele Hill has since left ESPN, and the network doesn't appear to have a role for Michael Smith.

A little less than two years ago, ESPN’s Michael Smith was speaking to Sixers star Joel Embiid alongside Jemele Hill at the network’s upfronts, promoting the highly-touted SC6 rebranding of the 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter to advertisers.

Now, with Hill no longer working at the network and Kevin Negandhi and Sage Steele drawing better ratings at 6 p.m., Smith is in what the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand described as a “gold-plated purgatory."

Smith reportedly is being paid $2.5 million dollars a year by ESPN (which is reportedly looking to reduce salaries) to host a weekly ESPN Radio show on Sunday’s with Michael Eaves, make occasional appearances on shows like Highly Questionable and Around The Horn, and ... that’s about it. Smith reportedly has two years remaining on his contract.

Both Smith and ESPN declined to speak to Marchand for his story. Smith joined the network in 2004 as an NFL Insider, and quickly worked his way up through the ranks before ESPN pulled the plug on SC6 at the end of 2017. Smith hosted his last SportsCenter back in March 2018.

“Michael is a talented commentator and we greatly appreciate and value his contributions and creativity,” Norby Williamson, ESPN’s executive vice president and executive editor, studio production, said at the time. “We are in the process of discussing with him potential next ESPN assignments.”

Quick hits

• Despite a 15-1 loss to the Washington Nationals Wednesday night, the Phillies’ social media team brought some much-needed levity to fans on Twitter.

• The Athletic is launching about 20 new podcasts, and among them will be Starkville, hosted by former Philadelphia Inquirer writer Jayson Stark. The podcast will be co-hosted by Doug Glanville, who, like Stark, was let go by ESPN during the company’s layoffs in April 2017.

• TNT’s Charles Barkley told a great story about playing a game against Dirk Nowitzki the way only Barkley could.

• Like the Sixers shoes Ben Simmons wore to last night’s game? Too bad, there were only 10 of them made.