THE STATE OF PLAY
After being drafted 10th by the Celtics in 1998, the 6'7" forward is playing for just his third team—but his second in the last two years. He was averaging 13.1 points at week's end for 10--5 Washington.
DAN PATRICK:Are you used to that Wizards uniform yet?
PAUL PIERCE: Yeah, I like the colors. America's colors.
DP:I was looking at a YouTube video of you in the 1995 McDonald's All-American slam dunk contest. Who'd you go against?
PP: Vince Carter, Chris Clack and, I believe, Albert White.
DP:What was it like to see Carter?
PP: People don't understand—the first dunk contest Vince won in the NBA, he did the same dunks in high school. I'd never seen anyone with his leaping ability, the way he floated, the grace and style he had ... outside of Michael Jordan.
DP:What is the most overrated quality in the NBA?
PP: A lot of these kids are just rated on their pure length and athleticism. Really no basketball IQ. Really no footwork. Really can't shoot the ball. They look at a guy and say he's fast, he has long arms, he can jump. Then he can't throw a rock in the ocean or he can't run a play.
DP:Are you friendly with guys from other teams?
PP: Not really. I come from the old school. I grew up watching the '80s games, where guys were real rivals. Guys hated each other because everyone wanted to win so bad. This generation, guys are friends, they work out together in the summer. You never would have seen that in the '80s and '90s.
DP:Were you a Lakers fan growing up?
PP: Definitely. I lived less than a mile from the Forum. Plus, we didn't have cable, so all we could watch was Lakers games.
DP:How did playing for Boston go over at home?
PP: You found out who your friends were. Everyone in my neighborhood grew up Lakers fans. You wanted to see who was going to be loyal to you and come to a Lakers game in a Celtics uniform.
DP:Did you ever take it easy on a defender?
PP: Not at all. When you had somebody weak, you were going to go at him all night.
DP:Who did you know you were going to put 30 on?
PP: It was second nature for me to get 30. There was no need for a list.
DP:Come on, who could you torch?
PP: The guy I wanted to put 30 on the most was Ron Artest, aka Metta World Peace. We had some pretty good battles.
DP:Is he crazy?
PP: He's just a competitor at a different level. I wouldn't call him crazy. I think he was just basketball psycho.
DP:Were you afraid of him?
PP: Not really. Not on the court. Maybe if I saw him walking down the street.
Fox's Troy Aikman believes the gaudy numbers put up by today's QBs are misleading. "I don't know that they've had the training of understanding how you control the flow of the game," Aikman told me. "It's, Let's throw the ball, accumulate yards. You don't see as much of the craft at that position." ... ESPN's Paul Finebaum has an issue with the College Football Playoff Selection Committee changing their criteria on a weekly basis: "They've set a bad precedent all year long. They don't really care. They think they're creating a debate. What they're going to create is a really ugly controversy." ... NBC's Bob Costas rejects the criticism that he talks politics too often in his halftime commentary on Sunday Night Football. "I've done dozens and dozens of these," Costas said. "Two were perceived as political. That's a tiny fraction of my total body of work."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
ALEX BRANDON/AP (PIERCE)
JAMIE MCCARTHY/GETTY IMAGES (AIKMAN)
PHIL ELLSWORTH/ESPN IMAGES (FINEBAUM)
EVAN AGOSTINI/INVISION/AP (COSTAS)