Paul Pierce looked good the other night against the New Jersey Nets. Not just his play — although his and-one made jumping jack Derrick Favors look like Greg Ostertag, and his spin move in the lane was nothing short of vintage Pierce. No, Pierce looked good. Fit, toned, and slimmer than he was by the end of last season.
“You can see he has his legs back for us,” Doc Rivers told ESPN Boston.
The Truth has a bounce in his step that wasn’t evident last season. Whether that’s because he was nicked up last season or because he spent the offseason training like a madman, I couldn’t tell you.
But I can tell you the Celtics need a healthy Pierce to do damage. They need the return of their crunch-time murderer, who averaged 39.1 points per 48 crunch-time minutes in 2008-’09 but only 22.8 points per 48 crunch-time minutes last season. Without Pierce filling his normal go-to role, the Celtics’ fourth-quarter execution fell apart. They lost games they shouldn’t have, and couldn’t lean on the ever-reliable Pierce for a bucket. A lot of times, he didn’t have a bucket to offer.
Pierce also plays the Celtics’ thinnest (no pun intended) position, small forward. Besides Pierce, Marquis Daniels is the C’s only natural three — and he can’t be trusted to stay on the court. Daniels has only played more than 62 games in a season once, back in 2007-’08. The last two seasons, he played only 54 games and 51 games, respectively. He gets injured more than my cousin Mike, who we used to affectionately call “Hospital.” Even if Daniels can buck his career trend and stay on the court, there’s no guarantee he’ll be productive. At times last season, he offered nada to the Celtics.
The pressure’s on Pierce. He needs to re-establish himself as a dominant 4th-quarter scorer and keep himself off the injured list. He must hold off the effects of age and the regular wear and tear of the long NBA season. And because of the Celtics’ lack of small forward depth, he might have to do all that while playing big minutes.
“Paul (Pierce) and Ray (Allen) look great physically,” Danny Ainge told the Boston Globe.