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“You must be having fun.”

Five words I’ve heard in that order, more than any other combination of permutation of words in the English language over the last few weeks. From Toronto to Indiana, from Charlotte to Cleveland, from Fanuiel Hall to the Burlington Mall.

If my life were a question on Family Feud, that’d be the number one answer right now.

Show me “You must be having fun.” Ding!

Even Jim Ross, the Hall-of-Fame play-by-play voice of the WWE, said those five words to me during a chance encounter in Charlotte the other night. (As I write, I’m staring out the window of the Celtics team plane, at the WWE corporate jet on the tarmac. Waiting for Vince McMahon to emerge from the door, strut across the tarmac and try to fire someone.)

And I mean, yeah, of course this is fun.

Haven’t you been having fun?

Stomping through the first twelve games?

Watching the Steven A. Smiths and the Charles Barkleys and every national NBA voice that had lost the Celtics on their radar, gush about your team like their first high school crush?

Turning off the Pats game to watch Sugar Ray beat the Raptors in Toronto...then reprise the moment last weekend in the Queen City miracle in Charlotte?

Letting that thought enter your cautious mind that maybe, just maybe, this team is, gulp, better than you thought they’d be?

Humbling both Kobe Bryant and the governor of his state before yet another sell-out crowd at the Garden, carving up the Lakers like Dr. Meredith Grey? And doing it with the actual Dr. Grey, Ellen Pompeo watching courtside?

So sure, it’s fun. But I guess the thing is, it was always fun for me. I’m freaky that way. Maybe it’s because this is what I do. Maybe after years of watching the youngest team in the NBA night after night, I too had kind of forgotten what the NBA is supposed to be. Or maybe because I somehow, through yoga, or transcendental meditation or something, was actually able to convince myself that last year’s Gerald Green/Lynn Greer, Bassy Telfair/Salim Stoudamire matchups really did matter.

I’m not sure. But I suppose my idea of fun is better suited for a therapist's couch, or like divorce court, than Celtics.com.

But I can think of someone else, someone I can assure you is having fun.

Paul Pierce.

For too many years now, his life has seemed like a bad re-run. Get to the arena, double teams off the bus, 30-point nights with no win to show for it, and that look.

The look you get in this league from the other stars when you’re on a losing team. The look that says “we know you’re one of us.” You’re one of us, but forgive me while we beat your team again, just doing my job.

An NBA career, a basketball life is too short. It goes by too fast to spend multiple years not getting into the playoffs, but instead getting that look.

Kobe and D-Wade have rings. So do Chauncey and Duncan. Dirk’s been to the finals, so has LeBron, and J-Kidd.

Pierce’s best year, 2006, the best by a Celtic since Max’s good friend Larry Bird’s ’87-’88 masterpiece, ended with the C’s missing the playoffs for the first time in five years. Even on the best night of his extraordinary basketball life, his 50-point game in February that year, it was LeBron James walking off the court with the win.

He’d go into some of the toughest NBA playgrounds, outmanned, put up the good fight and get his lunch money taken anyway. He didn’t complain in public, or in a blog, or on Jim Rome. He just did the job, every night. All he did, was ask for help.

What a difference a year makes.

This week, the captain faces LeBron and the Cavs, D-Wade, Shaq and the Heat and Steph and Knicks again.

But now, he’s not coming to the playground alone. He’s brought his big brothers with him. Brother Kevin, the league’s MVP through the first month, Brother Ray, with two-game winners already in his bag. And that doesn’t even cover the “other two”, Rajon Rondo flirting with the league lead in field goal percentage. Kendrick Perkins dropping a career high 21 against the oft-touted Andrew Bynum. Plus Brother James hitting fourth quarter threes and playing lockdown, late game defense, Brother Eddie dropping 25 foot bombs and Brother Scot showing us why his ten NBA teams have averaged better than 50 wins a year.

Paul Pierce has his smile back. He has his swagger back.

Now it’s time to get his lunch money back.

With interest.

Now, he must be having fun.


NBA Assists Leaders - Forwards (Through November 25)
1 LeBron James, CLE 114 8.1
2 Andrei Kirilenko, UTH 81 5.8
3 Tracy McGrady, HOU 64 5.3
4 Paul Pierce, BOS 62 5.2
5 Andre Iguodala, PHI 60 5.0
6 Carmelo Anthony, DEN 65 4.6
7 Kevin Garnett. BOS 50 4.2

NBA Field Goal Shooting Leaders - Guards (Through November 25)
1 Rajon Rondo, BOS 55.556 %
2 Steve Nash, PHX 54.878 %
3 Jason Kapono, TOR 52.941 %
4 Ronnie Brewer, UTH 52.066 %
5 L. Williams, PHI 52.041 %

** The Queen City Miracle in Charlotte November 24, Eddie House’s deflection, Paul Pierce’s dish and Ray Allen’s dead-eye three to beat the Bobcats at the buzzer, was the Celtics 11th win this November. Their 11th win last year came, wait for it, on New Year’s Day in Portland. It’s hardly out of the realm of possibility, hardly a romantic notion that the C’s could record their 13th win before the month ends in Miami. Their 13th win last year didn’t feel all that romantic...it happened, on Valentine’s Day.

** Success has come easy for the Celtics through the first twelve games, but not traditionally. The C’s rank third in the NBA in assists, and it comes not from the backcourt, but up front. But while Rajon Rondo may not be among the league leaders in assists, he’s stunned his critics by leading all guards (and small forwards for that matter) in shooting through the first four weeks.

** The November 24 game in Charlotte ended a strict trend from the first eleven games. The Celtics trailed most of the night before beating the Bobcats at the buzzer. In their first ten wins, the Celtics trailed for a total of 34:48, or 7.18 percent of the minutes they’d played. And in those ten wins, the Celtics trailed for a total of 27 seconds after halftime. Three of the ten wins hd been wire-to-wire, including the previous two. In their only loss at Orlando, the Celtics trailed for 46:55 of the 48:00. It’s also the only time this year they’ve trailed by double digits. The Charlotte game alaso featured 25 lead-changes. There had only been 49 lead changes in the first 11 games combined.