Ten minutes before the Celtics charter was about to take off this morning out of Bostonís Logan Airport for Washington, D.C. and the teamís White House visit, the Finals MVP, Paul Pierce checked in. The giddy, euphoric Pierce that we last saw on June 17 was much more focused, not only on the impending visit with President Bush but on the regular season thatís less than six weeks away. Pierce spoke with NBA.comís John Hareas about visiting 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, the defection of James Posey, the impact of Elton Brandís signing with the Sixers and whether the Celtics can repeat as NBA champs.

NBA.com: Have you ever visited the White House?
Pierce: One other time when I was in college, my Kansas team went on a visit.

NBA.com: What are you most looking forward to?
Pierce: Iím looking forward to the entire experience. The tradition here is the championship team goes there and meets the President. Iíve never actually met a President.

NBA.com: Now that you are an NBA champ, has your offseason preparation changed at all?
Pierce: Itís gotten a lot harder. When you win a championship, it is a great feeling, and you really donít want that feeling to go away. So it has just made me more motivated to try to do it again and work twice as hard.

NBA.com: How big is the James Posey loss?
Pierce: James Posey was definitely a big piece of what we did last year to win the championship, a guy who has a lot of experience, a guy who was versatile and could play three positions. But I think we have guys ready to step up, the Tony Allens, the Leon Powes, and Big Baby Davis.

NBA.com: What will the impact of Elton Brand joining the Sixers have on the Atlantic Division?
Pierce: It just means that our division is getting a lot better, not only Elton Brand going to Philly, but youíve got Jermaine OíNeal going to Toronto, too. So the division is a lot harder than a year ago. We have our work cut out for us. Elton Brand is a key piece for them and I think thatís what they were missing to be a team to be talked about. Now the division is going to be one of the top in all of basketball.

NBA.com: Which of the former Celtic greats are you really close to?
Pierce: Bill Russell, Jo Jo White, Cedric Maxwell. Iím closest to those three guys.

NBA.com: How has the relationship changed since the team won the title?
Pierce: I feel like I belong now. You feel youíre accepted because you see these guys come around and they wear their rings from time to time, and you just want to get your own history. Now that Iíve been able to do that, it feels good to walk around here and shake hands with these guys.

NBA.com: The last team to repeat as NBA champion was the 2002 Lakers. Can the Celtics do it again?
Pierce: Definitely. That is definitely going to be our goal going into training camp. The Celtics donít celebrate anything but championships. The guys are definitely motivated and the younger guys are hungry to get out there and do it again. Once you get a taste of that success you want more.

NBA.com: What will be the most difficult challenge to repeating?
Pierce: You definitely have to be healthy. Even to win one title you have to be healthy. All the guys have to be motivated to do it again, but we have a number of guys who didnít get an opportunity last year who will be very hungry. I donít think weíre going to have any problem with that with me, Kevin and Ray out there keeping everybody motivated.