Thursday, April 17, 2008
Paul Pierce deserves this
"I was on my way to the airport last year at this time."
We can pile the Player of the Week honors on Kevin Garnett. We can laud Doc Rivers as the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month. (Actually, no we can't, because I don't want any part of that, but you can do whatever makes you happy, pumpkin.) But the person I personally was happiest to see strolling out of the Garden following the Celtics' 66th and final win of a spectacular regular season was Paul Pierce.
It's simply impossible not to love Pierce. He's not the kind of player you just like. You LOVE him. The 6-time All-Star has suffered through almost 10 goddamn years of Celtics ineptitude and disappointment. He came back from being stabbed 11 TIMES and needing subsequent lung surgery to emerge as the team's unquestioned leader. He's still responsible for the biggest 4th-quarter comeback EVER in the NBA Playoffs. He's the first member of the Celtics since Larry Bird to top 2,000 points in one season. As His Royal Shaq-iness so eloquently put it: Paul Pierce is the motherfucking truth.
It's been easy this year to get distracted by the visceral, hypnotic dance that is Kevin Garnett on the court or the breathtaking, buzzer-beating 3-pointers of Ray Allen. But behind it all, Paul Pierce is still the motherfucking truth. He's averaging 19.6 PPG with 4.5 assists over 80 of 82 games this season. Moreover, he's looked so freaking HAPPY at every game this year. The beaten, hangdog look Pierce used to wear on the sidelines belied the ferocity of his play; watching him in years past, it's been almost impossible to understand how he continued to play the way he did for a team that was so obviously holding him back from the championships he deserved. Not this year, though. Pierce's enjoyment of his new team has been evident every step of the way. He'd physically slimmed down with the intent of becoming a more effective defender in the offseason, but there was a mental lightness in his step as well. The Truth doesn't always have to hurt. The Truth had been set free.
The Big Three weren't in for much of last night's win; their lone appearance was a 3rd-quarter cameo that wound up being less than impressive as they allowed New Jersey to go on a 17-4 run. But there's no question that they will be the explosion that everybody turns to watch when the playoffs kick off on Saturday. And nobody will be happier than Paul Pierce to be at the center of that explosion.
And, just 2 weeks ago, he became a daddy.
Congratulations, Celtics, and congratulations, Paul Pierce. You've earned your way here. Now show 'em what you've got.