With Burden Lifted, Reborn Pierce Excited to Start Camp
WALTHAM - If Paul Pierce doesn't have the Rolling Stones' Some Girls album on his iPod, he probably should, because if anyone could identify with "Beast of Burden", he'd be the guy.
Two summers worth of trade rumors, doubt and introspection had Pierce wondering about the direction of his career, and frankly, if his days as a Boston Celtic were numbered.
"I'll never be your beast of burden/My back is broad but it's a hurting. I've walked for miles my feet are hurting."
Paul Pierce had come to the crossroads before the Celtics acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, but now The Truth is reborn and ready to compete for Banner 17.
Mostly, his left foot and elbow were hurting, and his pride definitely took a few hits as well as he often watched the team struggle from the sidelines during a disappointing 24-win campaign. But just days before he'll head to Europe for training camp with his new-look team, Pierce is clearly a rejuvenated man and suddenly, Satisfaction may be within reach.
Talking via conference call to reporters from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, Pierce answered some pretty generic questions about the trip to Rome and London, but when asked to reflect on what could have been, Pierce sounded pretty vulnerable.
And he must have said the word "burden" about five times.
"I didn't know what my future was going to bring, even this summer," Pierce said. "I thought this summer was the greatest chance that I would get traded, but once we made the moves to acquire Ray Allen and KG, I knew I would be here. It's taken a burden off of me and I'll finally have the opportunity to play for a championship."
But before a pair of blockbuster trades, Pierce had come to the crossroads and had all but given up on the idea of retiring with the Boston Celtics.
"I didn't know which direction my career was going to go in. It definitely felt like being left out on an island. It hit me really hard when I had to sit back and watch us, especially when I got hurt." Pierce said. "I didn't realize how much I meant to our ballclub and it was like, when I looked at it, it was way too much of a burden to keep playing for number of years. So there was going to be a decision made this summer."
There were plenty of questions to answer over the last few offseasons. Should he re-sign with the Celtics or test free agency? Was his body starting to break down? Was the team going to get the #1 pick, trade him and rebuild?
"Am I hard enough?/Am I rough enough?/Am I rich enough?/I'm not too blind to see..."
Now entering his 10th season with the Celtics, Pierce comes into this training camp in a something of a different role. For years the face of the franchise, adorning media guides, billboards and websites, he's now part of a freshly minted troika that faces a whole new set of expectations that Pierce has never seen. The bandwagon is loaded up, and the sign taped to the window is conspicuous: "NBA Finals or Bust."
"This is the first year I come into the year with expectations on us. In all of my nine years, I don't think we've been expected to do much," Pierce said. "The great thing about these guys is that they're all unselfish and they'll do what it takes to win a championship."
Similar to his coach Doc Rivers, Pierce is excited about getting away to Europe for camp this year, because he expects much more bonding time than usual being in a foreign country removed from the regular comforts of home. With such high expectations, the team will need to gel quickly, and while he wouldn't offer any timeline on when the team would have its chemistry down, Pierce is looking forward to spending some quality time with his nine new teammates.
"It's just going to be us out there and we'll have to be together 24/7 so its going to be a chance for us to get to know one and other on and off the court," said Pierce, who noted that he vacationed in both London and Rome earlier this summer.
But vacation is over and work is already underway. Pierce, Allen and Garnett have been working out informally in Waltham for the last two weeks, and he's already impressed with the work ethic his new teammates bring to the table. And while he already knew these guys were great players from going head to head with them in the league, Pierce has a whole new appreciation for what got them there.
"You learn how hard they work day in and day out. I know they're great players because I've got NBA TV so I can watch them everyday, but just knowing what they do to prepare themselves to get on the court is what I like to watch," Pierce said. "You definitely can learn something from that."