Thursday, March 09, 2006

You Can't Handle The Truth

On the heels of last night's Triple Double in a win over the Sixers, it's time to pay respect to the run that Paul Pierce is having for the Boston Celtics.

Pierce currently ranks 6th in the NBA in scoring (27.2 points per game), but has scored 30 or more points in seven straight games. He's also hit the winning shot in a couple of key games (against the Lakers and the Wizards), then topped that last night by scoring 8 points in the final 90 seconds to rally his team to victory.

That "The Truth" has exploded on such a run is a bit surprising to me, for the following reasons:

• He's always struggled being the go-to guy and the leader of the club.

• He's constantly battled with the Celtics management, which has affected his morale.

• He's surrounded by a young, rebuilding squad right now.

For five years now, Pierce has been rightly considered one of the most talented players in the league, but has struggled through battles with his Coaches, the fans and media, and a fair amount of turnover in his team's front office and on the court.

Six months ago, he looked miserable in Beantown, and many predicted that he was heading for a Vince Carter-like funk. Instead, he's stepped up and emerged as the go-to guy and leader of the young Celtics club, and is a threat to steal the game for them any time he steps on the court. As it stands now, the Celtics are under .500 and on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, but the fact that they are even close to the #8 seed has a lot to do with the way Pierce has stepped up as of late.

From the moment he became a Celtic, Pierce's career has been characterized by adversity. He was one of the top talents in the 1998 draft, so he was never even supposed to become a Celtic. Instead, he slipped to the #10 spot in the draft, where Boston gleefully snapped him up; the sting of being rejected by 9 teams gave him a chip on the shoulder. Two years later, he nearly lost his life after being stabbed in the chest at a Boston nightclub. He recovered, and emerged as one of the most talented players in the league, leading the Celtics to within 2 wins of the 2002 NBA Finals. That would be the high point of his career, as he soon became overwhelmed by the pressure from the Boston fans and the media (which only intensified when Antoine Walker was traded a year later, leaving him as the only star and the true leader of the Celtics). Eventually, it seemed like the relationship between Pierce and the front office/media/fans could not be salvaged; Pierce could not handle the pressure of playing in the most rabid sports city in the country. Only a fresh start could set him straight.

Perhaps we were wrong about Paul Pierce. Not about this game, but about his character. While he definitely went through some hard times, perhaps these experiences hardened him more than we thought. It would be have been easy for him to mail this season in and ask for a trade. He certainly would have got one, probably to somewhere sunny and warm, where there's not an intense pressure to produce. Instead, Paul Pierce has stepped up and become the true leader on the court that Celtic fans have been clamoring for him to become for five years now. He may not always have the most game on the court, but with Number 34 in Celtic Green, I feel like the boys from Boston always have a chance to win.

And then there's this, from The Boston Herald

There's a lot of great players that have gone through the Celtics organization, so it's definitely a great individual accomplishment,” Pierce said. “But I'm not here for individual accomplishments, I'm trying to help my team win."


So here's to Paul Pierce and the season he's having. Perhaps we all underestimated him. As the 1998 Draft demonstrated, it wouldn't be the first time.

3 Comments:

At 8:31 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

True Dat. Double True.

 
At 8:36 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

p.s.

Who is "we"?

 
At 12:48 PM, Blogger Alex said...

General Managers, media, fans, etc.

 

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