Last week there were several articles on Ray Allen and this week it seems to be Paul Pierce's turn. He has a lot to say these days and seems to have a perpetual smile on his face. The theme throughout the articles is that a huge burden has been lifted off of Pierce's shoulders. When asked in a conference call whether he would prefer the burden of the expectations that are on him now or the burden of having to carry a team, he had this to say:
I think now there’s a lot of weight off my shoulders with the additions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and also James Posey. So, you know, I’ve been carrying a heavy load for the Celtics over many years and I’m not getting any younger and the load was getting heavier every year. So I’m real happy to have the chance to play with these guys and hopefully aim for a championship.
One of the questions that has surrounded this team since the signings of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett has been whether the trio can put their egos aside and find chemistry on the court. Last week, Ray Allen made it clear that he has no ego problems and will fill any role needed of him to win. RA was excited about having more crunch-time options and being able to beat double teams. He is excited about mentoring Rondo and the other young players. He is definitely a team player and ego definitely won't be a problem with him.
Many have questioned whether Pierce could do the same. Pierce has been the go-to guy and is used to having the ball in his hands. Doc's patented Pierce ISO won't work with this team any more. When asked about how they will defer to each other and mesh their talents, Pierce had this to say:
Well, obviously you have to make sacrifices; we’ve all been used to carrying the load for our respective franchises. So now we have to focus on the little things we can do to make each other better and to compliment each other. We may have to change or at least adapt our roles compared to what we were used to doing in the past. We’re all capable of scoring 25 points a game but that won’t happen when you have a guy like Ray and Kevin. No team in history has ever had three players average 25 points a game so we may have to change our roles. Personally, I may have to concentrate more on my defense.
The Herald expands on this.
Pierce envisions himself becoming a better defender. He always has referred to himself as an underrated defensive player, with a few in the audience not always taking his claim seriously. This is his opportunity - after years of carrying the offensive burden - to prove it. “A lot of the offensive pressure has been taken off now, so now I can look at my defense. I think I’m an underrated defender,” he said, repeating his claim. “We have to run the system, trust the system, and just trust my teammates. We have to mesh all of these talents together. “It’s hard to say how long that is going to take, but we have to put this formula together. Eventually, that will happen if we continue to work hard. The goal for all of us (in Europe) is to build a foundation and build chemistry. It will be good to go over there, because after practice, guys will stay together instead of going home to their wives and families.”
This certainly is intriguing. We will have Garnett, Posey, Rondo, Perk, and Allen as lock down defenders and if Pierce does focus on his defense, that gives us yet another defensive presence. Defense wins championships and if Pierce concentrates on defense that can only be good for the team.
It makes sense for Pierce to be the one to concentrate on other parts of his game besides scoring. We would have the outside scoring of Ray Allen and the inside scoring of Kevin Garnett and if Pierce would sacrifice some of his scoring to concentrate on defense and focus on driving the lane and kicking out to his teammates along with gathering rebounds, it will make us that much better. A tough defender to guard the bigger 3's is one of the things we have been lacking in the past and Pierce could give it to us this season.
The team has been playing together for two weeks now and are building chemistry and learning each others' tendencies. Training camp in Europe will give them even more time to bond as they will be together all the time and will bond through the experience. When asked if a championship is possible for the Celtics this season Pierce had this to say:
Definitely. I don't see why not. It's hard to say right now until we can get our chemistry down and playing well together and those are things we're already working on, but we have our work cut out and our expectation is to win a championship.
It has been a long time since we could start the season saying that a championship was possible. Is it any wonder that Pierce has looked like the Cheshire cat these past couple of months? If Pierce follows through with his plans to concentrate on defense this season, Celtics fans will be grinning a lot more too.