Let's get one
thing straight: The Celtics' failure to make the playoffs for the first time in
five years had nothing to do with Paul Pierce. In 2005--06 Pierce had career
highs in scoring (26.8 points per game) and field goal percentage (47.1%), and
tied Larry Bird for the most 2,000-point seasons (four) in team history. For
all his effort, Boston's 6'6" franchise player got 33 wins, a bum left
elbow (he had surgery in August) and his name tossed around in trade rumors.
Still, he accepted a three-year, $59.4 million extension to remain a Celtic
through '10--11. "By making this commitment to me," says Pierce, "I
think they're making a commitment to be a contending team in these next five
More than the
millions, Pierce needs a little help; he accounted for 26.3% of his team's
offense last season, sixth in the league. "You always want more veteran
presence," says Pierce. "It helps you do your job better." So in
the deal for point guard Sebastian Telfair, Boston also picked up center Theo
Ratliff in the hopes that the 33-year-old, still a feared shot blocker, can
stabilize one of the league's youngest rosters.
The Celtics also
hope Pierce gets support from returning players. Third-year power forward Al
Jefferson reported to camp injury-free and 30 pounds lighter, while
sharpshooter Wally Szczerbiak is healthy after off-season left knee surgery.
"I'm excited," says Pierce. "We have a couple of good additions and
a lot of young talent and depth. I like our potential."
Pierce: just trying to get by with a little help from his friends.
Projected Starting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
(11th in East)
Points scored: 98.0 (12th in NBA)
Points allowed: 99.5 (20th)
Coach: Doc Rivers
(third season with the Celtics)