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The Invisible Man: Less is more for Pierce

By Rob Peterson, NBA.com
Posted Oct 28 2008 2:18PM

Besides winning a championship and getting the finger bling that goes with it, being The Finals MVP has its benefits.

After he blew by many a Mavs defender in his 2006 Finals MVP performance, Miami's Dwyane Wade blew up that summer as he scored appearances on late-night gab fests, had his handsome mug plastered on magazine covers such as GQ and became as ubiquitous a TV personality as Ryan Seacrest.

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Speaking of Seacrest, he attended the glammed-up celebrity nuptials between 2007 Finals MVP Tony Parker and Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria, where not only the newlyweds saw fireworks, but the guests were treated to them as well.

All of which makes Paul Pierce's low profile this summer more conspicuous. Yes, he practiced his championship parade wave, mocked his Finals injury on The Jimmy Kimmel Show and, except for this Vegas news item, the 2008 Finals MVP disappeared behind a shroud of free agents seeking their 30 pieces of silver and Team USA seeking their redemption worth its weight in gold. If Pierce went to Disney World, he didn't advertise it.

So, what exactly did Pierce do on his first summer vacation as an NBA champion? According to Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, Pierce lost weight to gain a shot at another title.

"He's been unbelievable," Ainge said. "Here he is, the MVP of The Finals, he wins his first championship, and this is where I believe that winning and confidence and that kind of success breeds success.

"And he comes back, eight to 10 pounds lighter -- the weight where he was as a rookie."

Listed at 235 on his player page, Pierce reported to camp closer to 220, which was lighter than he was at the end of last season. Considering players lose significant amounts of weight over the course of the 82-game grind -- and if they're fortunate, postseason -- coming in lighter than where one finished last season is impressive.

"It does seems he's a little bit lighter," Ray Allen said. "He's got more spring in his step."

It may also come as a surprise, especially to cynics who thought, "That guy's gonna report to camp at 280 ..." after hearing Pierce tell Kimmel on June 26 that the summer would be one long celebratory shindig.

Kimmel: "So, are there more parties and stuff planned for the rest ..."
Pierce: "Oh yeah, it's just getting started. Our whole team, we're planning on going to Vegas this next weekend ... "
Kimmel: "Wow."
Pierce: "... and do a four- or five-day party in Vegas."
Kimmel: "So will you guys make it back in time for next season?"

While Kimmel's question was clearly meant as a joke, a serious undertone could be mined from that comedy: Would the Celtics, and Pierce, be hungry enough to repeat?

Not a problem, said Ainge.

"I wasn't surprised; he's a junkie. A basketball junkie," Ainge said. "He loves to play the game and he can't stay away from it for very long.

"I wasn't surprised, but I was encouraged to see that he put the time and set the great tone and is a great example to the rest of the guys on the team."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers also noticed that Pierce came to training camp craving more.

"[He's been] phenomenal," Rivers said after Tuesday's final preseason game in New York. "He was good last year too, but he's been better this year. He was 0-for-7, but I thought he had a huge impact on the game with his playmaking.

RELATED LINKS

Peterson: Celtics ready to defend title
Peterson: Ring ceremony a well-deserved 'distraction'
PHOTOS: Celtics' 1981 ring ceremony
PHOTOS: Celtics' 1984 ring ceremony
Celtics Q&As: Doc Rivers | Kevin Garnett
BILL RUSSELL: Can the Celtics repeat?
2008-09 Celtics season preview | All teams
• VIDEO: NBA TV's Cavs-Celtics game preview
VIDEO: NBA TV's Real Training Camp joins Celtics
VIDEO: SI Previews: Celtics

"That's the Paul Pierce we've seen in camp from Day 1. Kevin Garnett is still our energy guy, but Paul now has become that as well. I can't count the times Paul has reminded the team in practice to pick up their play, to go harder to play harder. It's amazing. Winning has kind of turned him on even more so. He wants more."

And Pierce's summer of fun? How long did it actually last?

"I started working out immediately, actually," Pierce said. "When people thought I wasn't going to be in the gym, I was going to be in the gym.

"I go at all type of hours, whether it's 1 in the morning or 6 in the morning. When people think I'm out hanging out, I'm in the gym."

That ripping sound you hear is Pierce tearing out a page of Larry Bird's post-NBA title handbook.

"I knew it was going to be harder," Pierce said. "If you come in better shape, you're a better player. Once you taste the success as a champion, you don't want that to go away."

And if Pierce has his way, the less there is of him, the more he and the Celtics can hang on to that championship feeling.

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