Let's get onething straight: The Celtics' failure to make the playoffs for the first time infive years had nothing to do with Paul Pierce. In 2005--06 Pierce had careerhighs in scoring (26.8 points per game) and field goal percentage (47.1%), andtied Larry Bird for the most 2,000-point seasons (four) in team history. Forall his effort, Boston's 6'6" franchise player got 33 wins, a bum leftelbow (he had surgery in August) and his name tossed around in trade rumors.Still, he accepted a three-year, $59.4 million extension to remain a Celticthrough '10--11. "By making this commitment to me," says Pierce, "Ithink they're making a commitment to be a contending team in these next fiveyears."
More than themillions, Pierce needs a little help; he accounted for 26.3% of his team'soffense last season, sixth in the league. "You always want more veteranpresence," says Pierce. "It helps you do your job better." So inthe deal for point guard Sebastian Telfair, Boston also picked up center TheoRatliff in the hopes that the 33-year-old, still a feared shot blocker, canstabilize one of the league's youngest rosters.
The Celtics alsohope Pierce gets support from returning players. Third-year power forward AlJefferson reported to camp injury-free and 30 pounds lighter, whilesharpshooter Wally Szczerbiak is healthy after off-season left knee surgery."I'm excited," says Pierce. "We have a couple of good additions anda lot of young talent and depth. I like our potential."
That's PaulPierce: just trying to get by with a little help from his friends.
Projected Starting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
Record: 33--49(11th in East)
Points scored: 98.0 (12th in NBA)
Points allowed: 99.5 (20th)
Coach: Doc Rivers
(third season with the Celtics)
[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
BENCH 2005--06 STATS
RAJON RONDO * (R)
(R) ROOKIE (COLLEGE STATISTICS)
Enemy Lines Anopposing team's scout sizes up the Celtics
As an offensivecoach, Doc Rivers is very, very good. But if the Celtics think they're going towin by outscoring and outrunning teams, then that will be the death of them....Sebastian Telfair and Rajon Rondo are small point guards who can't shoot alick, which means defenses will ignore them in the half-court. Paul Pierce isgoing to be frustrated with Telfair because he isn't a pass-first pointguard--he gets to the lane, and then if he can't score, he dishes it out. Hestill hasn't proved that he's capable of finishing, so it's not like he's goingto force the defense to collapse and create open shots for Pierce.... They'reputting too much faith in young guys like Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, KendrickPerkins and Delonte West. The latter two are career backups on a good team.Green may turn out to be a starter, but I don't see him as a future All-Star.Jefferson needs to overcome his inability to play with some pain, which is ahuge detriment for a big man.... Their failed attempts to trade for AllenIverson showed me that they are panicking.
Paul Pierce and Allen Iverson were the only players to score 15 or more pointsin every game last year. The last time Pierce failed to score 15 in the regularseason was on April 19, 2005.