Training Camp is just around the corner and I thought it was time to take a close up look at the players who will be playing for the defending champs this season and preview the 2008-2009 season. We will start with a look at each of the players. First up is the Captain and Finals MVP: The Truth.
Paul Pierce was born and grew up in Inglewood, California and was the star of his Inglewood High School basketball team, having started all four years. Paul also participated in the 1995 McDonalds All American slam dunk competition along with fellow future NBA all-star Vince Carter.
After high school, Pierce went on to the University of Kansas and played there 3 seasons before becoming an early entry in the NBA Draft. Pierce averaged 16.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in his three seasons at the University of Kansas, and earned MVP honors in the Big 12 Conference Tournament in both 1997 and 1998. He majored in Crime and Delinquency Studies while at Kansas. In the draft, he inexplicably slid to the 10th pick where the Celtics very happily grabbed him.
Pierce got his nickname, "The Truth," from Shaquille O'Neal. After a Lakers' victory over Boston in March of 2001, O'Neal pulled a Boston reporter over and gestured toward his notepad. "Take this down," said O'Neal. "My name is Shaquille O'Neal and Paul Pierce is the (expletive) truth. Quote me on that and don't take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn't know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is the truth." And from that time on, Pierce has been called The Truth.
Pierce has been known for his toughness. He rarely misses a game or a practice. In September of 2000, just minutes after entering a Boston dance club in the early morning hours, he was jumped from behind by three men. He was sucker-punched, a bottle was broken over his right eye, a knife was plunged through the back of his leather jacket six inches into his body and he received 10 other stab wounds. He required lung surgery and was considered in critical condition. Three weeks after the attack, however, he was back at practice for the Celtics and played the entire 2000-2001 season, averaging 25.3 points.
In the 2002-03 season, in a game against the Blazers, Pierce hit the game winner. This in itself wasn't so amazing as he had done it many times before. But what made this game winner more noteworthy was the fact that the night before he had been fouled hard by Amare Stoudamire and lost several teeth. He spent 7 hours in the dentist's chair having them repaired and still started the game against the Blazers the following night and finished by hitting the game winner.
In the 2005-06 season, he had bursitis in his elbow. At times, his elbow was very swollen and he had to have it drained several times before games. But yet, he played through the pain and didn't miss games or practice because of it until Doc shut him down at the end of the year after the Celtics were definitely out of the playoffs.
In the 2006-07 season, Pierce missed the first significant time of his career when he was out for 35 games with a stress reaction in his foot. He could easily have stayed out the rest of the season, but he came back to finish the season as soon as he was possibly able to play, even though he wasn't in the top shape. He didn't care about stats, because obviously he wouldn't put up big numbers in limited minutes and not in top shape, but he cared about helping his teammates who were clearly struggling without him.
Pierce has not only played for the Celtics but has also represented the USA on several teams. He participated in the 1995 U.S. Olympic Festival for the West Team that finished 1-3 and in fourth place, averaged 9.5 ppg., 4.0 rpg., and 2.0 apg. He was a member of the 1996 USA U21 World Championship Qualifying Team that also played an exhibition game against the 1996 USA Basketball Senior National Team and almost pulled off a monumental upset. The USA collegians led the NBA stars by as many 17 points, however the USA seniors rallied late to capture a narrow 96-90 decision.
The 1996 USA U21 World Championship Qualifying Team finished 5-0 that year and won the gold medal. Pierce averaged 9.4 ppg., 4.4 rpg., 1.2 apg. and 1.6 spg. He was Member of the 2002 USA World Championship Team that finished 6-3 and in sixth place, averaged 19.8 ppg., 4.6 rpg. and 3.9 apg. He very unfairly was made a scapegoat for this team's failure. He wanted to redeem himself and made it no secret that he wanted to be part of the team being put together with an eye toward the Beijing Olympics. On March 5, 2006, he was named to the the 2006-2008 USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team program. However he couldn't compete for a spot for the first two years due to the surgery on his elbow the first season and the recurrence of the elbow injury along with the foot injury the second season. And because he didn't participate in the previous two seasons, he wasn't eligible to play in the Olympics.
Pierce is also very active in the community and does much to help others. He was raised by his mother, Lorraine Hosey and every year at Thanksgiving, he puts on a big dinner for the single mothers in the area in her honor. The Truth Fund was founded by Paul Pierce in May of 2002. It was developed as a means for Paul to streamline all his charitable efforts and make an impact on the lives of disadvantaged youth in the Greater Boston area as well as in his hometown of Inglewood, CA.
The mission of the Truth Fund is to provide educational and life-enriching opportunities for disadvantaged youth. Paul's vision of the Fund is to ensure that opportunities are available for young people to recognize their dreams through mentoring programs, technology and other educational needs as well as fostering stable and safe environments for children.
Pierce along with Baron Davis has hosted "A Midsummer Night's Dream," a celebrity All-Star weekend of events raising funds for charity. This event was hosted by NBA legend Magic Johnson for 20 years and was handed over to Davis and Pierce when he retired from hosting it. The proceeds go to The Truth Fund, The Baron Davis Foundation and The Magic Johnson Foundation.
Pierce's attitude and style of play have won him praise from the Celtics' owners and even from Red Auerbach himself. "He's one of my favorite kids," said Auerbach, the patriarch of the Celtics. "Pierce is a typical Celtics kid. All he wants to do is win." Auerbach himself was on hand to present the first annual Red Auerbach Award to Paul Pierce in 2006. It is awarded to the player who best exemplifies what it means to be a Celtic.
Pierce was also recognized by Children's Hospital Boston as their 2006 Champion Award recipient. The Champion Award is an annual honor bestowed on the Boston athlete who exemplifies outstanding community contributions.
After the 2004-2005 season, many expected Pierce to be traded. He struggled much of the year with Doc River's system that focused less on his one on one play and more on team play. There were even times when Doc had to bench him because he wasn't running and wasn't following the game plan. It all came to a head in the playoffs when he lost his cool and was ejected in a game against the Pacers and then later showed up at the press conference with his jaw bandaged. However, he did a lot of soul searching over the off season and returned the following season a much happier player. He was a mentor to the younger players and seemed genuinely happy to be in Boston.
Trade rumors involving Paul Pierce have swirled ever since Danny Ainge was named the Executive Director of Basketball Operations in May of 2003. They seemed to be everwhere after his melt down in the playoffs against the Pacers. But after a stellar season on and off the court, Pierce said that he wanted to remain a Celtic. Ainge laid most of these rumors to rest in the 2006 offseason by signing Paul Pierce to a 3 year, $59 million contract extension.
Even last off-season going into the draft, there were rumors that Pierce might be traded and that the team would continue rebuilding with young players. After winning a title in Miami, Antoine Walker urged Pierce to leave Boston if he ever wanted to get a ring. Pierce has never demanded a trade or ever said anything other than that he wanted to stay a Celtic for life although at times he expressed frustration with the losing seasons. Last year, the draft day deal to bring in Ray Allen left no doubt that Pierce was the cornerstone of the franchise and that the team would do whatever it could to build around him. Bringing in one of the best players in the league in Kevin Garnett was icing on the cake for him. He entered last season with a chance to win a title in Boston and to cement his legacy as one of the Celtic greats.
Last season was a dream season for Pierce and the Celtics. Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen did everything together and presented a united front at every opportunity. In spite of being doubted the entire season, the Celtics finished with 66 wins and won the title for the first time in 22 years. Paul Pierce secured his legacy as a Celtic by out-playing LeBron James in the Conference Finals and then he out-played Kobe Bryant in the Finals to win the Finals MVP. It seemed that Pierce celebrated the whole summer but hopefully he was also working to get in shape for this coming season. If the Celtics repeat as champions, it will be certain that Pierce will once again be the heart of that effort, and that's the Truth.
Hi, Great Post. I think "In 2004, in a game against the Blazers, Pierce hit the game winner. This in itself wasn't so amazing as he had done it....." that is something wrong with the "2004", It is in 2002-03 Season.