Monday, January 10, 2005


Pierce Must Go, Part 1 of, well, until he goes

Let me first get this out of the way – Paul Pierce is an excellent rebounder, an above average passer, and, in general, a hungry player who wants to win.

Paul Pierce is also a terrible shooting, turnover prone, arguing with the refs, slacking off on D, sulking “star” that impedes the development of a young and talented Celtic’s team. His dramatic drop-off in play and attitude over the past three years belies the star treatment he is accustomed to by the Boston media and fans.

Paul Pierce is not a star. Paul Pierce is a passably good NBA player.

Paul Pierce must go.

I had been a Pierce fan since he improbably landed in Pitino’s lap as the 10th pick in the 1998 draft. Interestingly enough, looking back at that draft, Pierce is the only player in the top 10 still with the team that drafted him. I fondly recall the stories of a jilted Pierce screaming out the names of those who went before him in the draft as he knocked down jumpers in practice. He vowed to prove them wrong, and he did.

He improved each of his first four years, culminating in a tremendous 26.1 point, 6.9 rebound, 3.2 assist 2001-02 season. He shot 44% from the field and 40% from three, and he averaged less than 3 turnovers a game. He was a fiery catalyst for the Celtic run through the playoffs.

Fast forward two years later, Pierce’s shooting dropped to 40% from the field, and 29.9% from three. He averaged 3.8 turnovers a game. He forced bad shots, he missed contested shots, he missed uncontested shots, he made bad passes, he argued with the refs, he rarely got back on D, and most of all, he sulked. After four straight improving years, Pierce’s play has steadily deteriorated for two and a half. If the bell curve of his career continues, tougher times are ahead.

Pierce has been well schooled in media relations. For the most part, he says all the right things, flashes a smile, and acts like a leader. On the court, though, in the middle of the action when the list of leadership clichés is not running through his head, Pierce’s demeanor is telling. He sulks, he whines and he’s angry. My favorite of the current C’s commercials, those with the highlights and dramatic music, has Pierce catching a ref as he is about to fall. Notice his face, in this ‘light’ moment, Paul looks pissed, and the camera cuts away as if the next moment he drops him. That sums it up.

Talent washes away attitude all too often in todays sports (Moss for instance). What happens when the talent no longer can accuse the attitude? That player is moved. We have reached that time with Paul Pierce.

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