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|Celtics captain Paul Pierce, above, finally has the veteran talent he longed for.(Courtesy of NBA.com)|
He’s the reason everything came together. By the end of his career, he’s probably going to be considered for the Hall of Fame, and almost certainly will have his #34 retired by the C’s. There’s reason to believe that if he had been traded, killed, or not drafted, everything would’ve been drastically different. Paul Pierce, the Celtics captain, has affected the Celtics franchise dramatically over the last 10 seasons.
It’s safe to say that Paul Pierce is a big reason that Danny Ainge traded all of his chips for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Pierce was unhappy with how the rebuilding process was going; especially considering the C’s unluckily landed the No. 5 pick June’s NBA Draft. What happened between then and now is nothing short of miraculous. We can all thank Paul Pierce. If he wasn’t so vocal about his disappointment, the C’s would still be stuck in the same rut and wouldn’t even come close to being considered a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference.
Just imagine for a second that the Celtics don’t take Paul Pierce #10 in the 1998 draft. Rick Pitino, the C’s coach and GM at the time (YUCK) usually made terrible choices (Jerome Moiso, Kedrick Brown). Let’s just say he took Michael Doleac or Keon Clark…or even Bonzi Wells. I mean, we were one pick away from pairing Antoine Walker with BONZI WELLS. I can guarantee beyond a reasonable doubt that the Celtics would’ve never made it to the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals with Bonzi Wells and Antoine as the co-captains.
Bring yourself back to those 2002 playoffs. The energy inside the FleetCenter was just amazing, and the Celtics were good! No one can forget the greatest comeback in NBA Playoff history (the 21-point fourth quarter comeback in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals vs. New Jersey–Check out the four-part video on YouTube). Pierce, just 24 at the time, was the go-to player for the C’s. He single-handedly led that comeback against the Nets.
His return trip to the playoffs with a new team came in the 2004-05 season, when Pierce was 27. The C’s lost in seven games to the Indiana Pacers, and Pierce almost cost the series early by getting tossed in Game 6 with the Celtics down 3 games to 2. You may remember his post-game conference after the game, when he strapped first aid tape all around his head and chin to pretend he was hurt. The Truth took a lot of heat for that, but he’s grown up since then, enduring two very difficult seasons, the second of which culminating in a disastrous 24-58 campaign in 2006-2007.
The key question for Pierce this season is how well he can coexist with Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Who’s going to take the last shot with the game on the line? Will they rotate? Let’s say Pierce is annoited the primary shooter. If the Celtics need a 3 to tie or win, would Pierce take it or would Allen? How about if the C’s just need two points…does Pierce take a short jumper or does he look for KG? Many questions…and we won’t get the answers until the first few close games of the year.
Look for Pierce and his co-superstars to have a balanced offensive attack, as each player compliments each other so well. Pierce could be in for a dip in his usual scoring average, but his assists and perhaps rebounds may rise. His minutes could be down as well to protect him, and because there’s significant depth at his position.
No one is more motivated than Pierce, Allen, and KG to win an NBA title now. They were all on losing teams last season, and they all have never had a taste of the NBA Finals. Will this be the year their fortunes change?
Paul Pierce’s player projection for 2007-2008: