He was here during those terrible years — the years that made the average Celtics fan switch the channel. They didn’t want to see a Celtics team that consisted of Popeye Jones, Andrew Delercq and Vitaly Potapenko. Those were some of the “veterans” Paul Pierce met during his rookie season in 1998. Not exactly the whose who of NBA fame. Pierce though stayed the course for 10 plus years and was rewarded in the summer of 2008 with a NBA championship. He was even named the MVP of those Finals.
When Pierce raised the Larry O’Brien trophy in front of a sold out jam packed TD Garden that June night, we all saw a player that had been through so much in his NBA career, all of which was done in Celtic green. Pierce clearly wanted out of Boston in the summer of 2007. That was when GM Danny Ainge made the trade that brought the Big Three together. There were rumored deals that Pierce was on his way to Portland or New Orleans. Pierce made it clear, get him some veterans and he would be a happy camper, his wish was granted on draft night when Ainge traded for Ray Allen and a few weeks later traded for Kevin Garnett.
Paul Pierce the player though never seems to get the praise he deserves. He rarely gets mentioned in the same breath as Bird, Havlicek and Russell among other Celtic legends. There can be seperate arguments that Pierce scored a lot of his points on some bad teams which can not be denied, but even after the Celtics traded for Garnett and Allen to form the new Big Three, Pierce has showed how important he is to this current group of Boston Celtics.
Today he is one of the few Celtics that can take over a game with his offense. He is the so-called Celtics closer, when needed. That was truly the case as recently as last Monday night, when Pierce took over the 4th quarter at Madison Square Garden, ripping the hearts out of the Knicks fans — the same Knicks fans who earlier in the game started a “Paul Pierce Sucks” chant while Pierce was at the free throw line late in the third quarter.
At that point, Pierce’s numbers were suggesting that the Knicks faithful had a point. Pierce was just a mere 3-of-8 from the floor and to add the Celtics fan dismay, he had already been called for four fouls. Pierce though took full control of the fourth quarter scoring 13 points on an impressive 5-of-6 shooting, including a back-breaking jumper with Knick Larry Fields in his face as the shot clock dwindled down with under a minute left in the game.
Paul Pierce may not get the respect around the league he deserves but for one night, in the last 12 minutes of a game that guard Rajon Rondo tweeted was a playoff-type atmopshere, Paul Pierce was the best player on the court and the most important player for the Boston Celtics.