It came in a tough win over the lowly Charlotte Bobcats, a team that might be the worst in NBA history. It came off an offensive rebound and broken play, and the national TV cameras weren't even around to broadcast it from coast to coast. Doesn't matter. Paul Pierce passed Larry Bird on Tuesday night to move to second place on Boston's all-time scoring list, led by John Havlicek; 21,797 points, and I don't need to tell you that this is quite the accomplishment.
As is often the case, WEEI's Paul Flannery came through with the best summation of Pierce's milestone, and career to date. We'll begin our snippet with a quote from Celtics coach Doc Rivers:
"You know, here's the part I wish people wrote about Paul," Rivers said. "Paul had a chance to leave us when we were bad. And instead of moaning that he wanted to go to a championship team, he stayed. And he said, 'I simply want to be a Celtic and I trust that we're going to win a title someday.' He had no reason to believe that at the time. I mean, we were pretty awful. And to me, I wish people talked about his loyalty more, because I think that's pretty special, especially in this day and age when everybody's jumping from team to team.
"And that's their right, I don't begrudge that with anybody," Rivers continued. "But I do think it's special that Paul Pierce decided he wanted to be a Celtic for his life."
Kevin Garnett changed the culture. Ray Allen came to Boston so fully formed, it's a wonder he ever played anywhere else. Rajon Rondo emerged from his own peculiar universe to take his rightful place in this constellation of stars. But it was Pierce who made it happen because he not only accepted the change, he embraced it fully.
It's true. As the Celtics suffered through mediocre-to-rebuilding years after trading Antoine Walker in 2004 and winning the championship in 2008, Pierce was well within his rights to ask to be traded from the team. Even though GM Danny Ainge was drafting well, Pierce's prime seemed to be being wasted amongst a group of first and second-year prospects. It was probably the best move for the Celtics at the time, as well, but they held off on dealing Pierce to devote themselves fully to the youth movement. Both sides are to be credited for that.
Both sides also need to credit a bit of good luck along the way, because Pierce has also been incredibly lucky.
He's lucky that Kevin Garnett finally gave in and asked to be traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves after GM Kevin McHale had resisted overtures (and some pretty significant compensation) from the Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns in the years leading up to the summer of 2007. He's lucky that the then-Seattle SuperSonics were willing to give up Ray Allen for cap space years later and the pittance of a draft pick that turned out to be Jeff Green (one of GM Sam Presti's rare missteps). He's lucky that Presti didn't try to grab Theo Ratliff's expiring contract in that deal, clearing the way for the KG trade.
Fortune smiles on all sorts of franchise players, though. Shaquille O'Neal was lucky enough to spend time with Penny Hardaway, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash, LeBron James and Boston's Big Three during his career. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is lucky Chicago lost the coin flip in the 1979 draft. KG and Allen are as lucky as Pierce with the way this all turned out. And, as Paul Flannery notes in his piece, Pierce has created his own luck. Nearly 14 years after being drafted, he's overcome a lingering heel injury to drop 18.4 points in just 33.4 minutes even after that slow start. A career-high 5.5 assists, as well, and 40 percent shooting from long range. That's your 13-year vet.
And the Celtics, even after that scary start, have righted the ship. Just seventh in the East right now, but with plenty of room to grow, and that defensive mettle (Boston is second in defensive efficiency) in place. And while Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo take turns acting as perhaps the team's most irreplaceable players, and Ray Allen remains the model of consistency, Paul Pierce is the Boston Celtics. Drafted by them, raised by them, hurt by them, loved by them, winning with them.
Here's to a few thousand more points before The Truth decides to call it a career.
- Paul Pierce
- Kevin Garnett