For once his courage and fightback has been noticed, even if burying Larry Bird’s number two spot on the Celtics all-time scoring list finally got people to stop and listen.
The idea of a 34-year old competing in this year’s All Star Game may seem a little repetitive, but even if Paul Pierce pinches the spot of say, Joe Johnson or Danny Granger, you can rest assured that he has more than earned it.
On Tuesday night in Boston, it took three quarters of nonsense before the deed was done. At times this season the Celtics have been criticized for not seizing their opportunities — or for allowing opponents an easy advantage offensively — but with so much on the line, Pierce stepped up and placed another footnote above his career.
“The crowd probably made me more nervous than anything” Pierce said after setting himself up for the inevitable John Havlicek discussions which wait.
“You could feel them gasping with every shot and them standing up with every shot. It just felt good to get that out of the way and continue to play”.
While the Celtics now continue to shake n’ bake opponents and carry themselves as perhaps the biggest threat in the Eastern conference, the time has come to evaluate which of Doc Rivers’ starting five deserve a singlet in Orlando – even if it’s only on the bench.
Me, I tend to agree with the angry Pats fans that now focus entirely on hoops and hockey, Pierce deserves a recognizable spot even if it means booting someone else out.
Aside from the injuries he’s checked off his health bill, things don’t look likely to take a drastic turn anytime soon. Obviously the Celtics could still miss the playoffs due to the lack of bench depth and other “I told you so’s” that come with an old team, but in terms of player performance, there’s no reason to believe that Pierce and company can’t hold themselves against division leaders Philadelphia come the time.
Of course, don’t expect Pierce to stick 30 points on the board every night and flirt with a triple-double like he did on Tuesday either. Instead, there will simply be concise moments of brilliance that make you realize he still has it, and not all of them will be as obvious as surpassing Bird’s magical number two spot.
Take the smooth pass to Kevin Garnett on Tuesday night for a dunk as a perfect example. Also add in the clutch three pointer that had fans clucky up until the third quarter, and you have only two of Pierce’s lengthy highlight reel that earned him player of the week honors next to Tony Parker.
The other standouts have been occurring almost daily, but people have perhaps been too busy discussing Kevin Love’s gutter stomp on Luis Scola’s mug to bother noticing.
It may not mean much, but Pierce’s 44-minute game against Orlando back in January is up there on the list. It’s not exactly on the same pedestal with The Flu Game, but it’s a victory for the podiatry world nonetheless.
Then there are the bigger moments, like Pierce’s 34-points against the Wizards late last month, the eight defensive rebounds against the Pacers five days later, or the claw back game against a laughable New York Knicks defense that basically kicked this whole five game win streak into overdrive.
Oh, and it’s only February.
If Pierce is voted in as a reserve ahead of Orlando however, it will be sure to throw up a hailstorm among fans of others. Chris Bosh looks to be the headline act this year – or at least on the bench. And there’s enough going for Rajon Rondo right now for fans to totally ignore Pierce and substitute Boston’s point guard instead.
Throw Tony Parker in the same conversation out West, too. Infested with players from Los Angeles, the Western Conference All Stars are dominated by the same tedious frontrunners that will rule the pack for years to come. But if the voters are a smart bunch, Parker could slip into the number seven spot opposite Pierce in a few weeks’ time, that’s being optimistic though of course.
Individual responsibility has always been a big part of the Celtics locker room, but the need for better ‘team mentality’ has been recognized by Doc Rivers ever since Boston spent the summer riding roller coasters instead of celebrating their 18th title.
The renowned cliché of Boston centers making the All Star team seems to have gone by the wayside this year with Jermaine O’Neal nowhere near All Star caliber, but nonetheless Boston could still be well represented on the sidelines.
The Celtics now face the same up and down journey during a shortened season that leaves the playoffs within arm’s reach. Pierce is above bird, but Havlicek is still the king pin – and no calculator can add up how many games it may take Pierce to assume the number one spot.
The same goes for Boston’s title aspirations this season, while the 76ers cruise at the top.
Sure, we can throw in a younger and much more explosive reserve instead of Pierce ahead of February 26. But if the shoe fits for the tenth time in his career, Pierce showed he earns one last spot following Tuesday night’s triumph.