Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pierce Speaks the 'Truth'

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Former Celtics captain and Boston icon, Paul Pierce, now with the Washington Wizards recently sat down with ESPN's Jackie MacMullan to discuss a plethora of topics, including his lone year in Brooklyn, his relationship or lack there of with Walter 'Ray' Allen and even how sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber as prolonged his playing career.

Here are some highlights of the piece that was very enlightening to say the least:

Playing in D.C. this season, Pierce at 37-years-young is enjoying himself despite averaging career-lows in points (12.2) and rebounds (4.0) while playing 26 minutes per game. 

"I'm happier, he said. "It was a tough situation [in Brooklyn] last year. Horrible really." [ESPN Boston]

Pierce opened up about playing for Jason Kidd and the Nets last season, that on paper were suppose to be a title contender and challenge the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. But that was not the case when the team jumped out to a 13-27 start and stumbled into the postseason at 44-38 to finish as the sixth seed, only to be knocked out by Miami in the second round four games to one.

"It was just the guys' attitudes there. It wasn't like we were surrounded by a bunch of young guys. They were vets who didn't want to play and didn't want to practice. I was looking around saying, 'What's this?' Kevin (Garnett) and I had to pick them up every day in practice.

"If me and Kevin weren't there, that team would have folded up. That team would have packed it in. We kept them going each and every day.'' [ESPN Boston]

'The Truth' admitted that the player that confused him the most when he arrived in Brooklyn was the team's highest paid player and 'leader,' Deron Williams.

"Before I got there, I looked at Deron as an MVP candidate,'' Pierce said. "But I felt once we got there, that's not what he wanted to be. He just didn't want that.

"I think a lot of the pressure got to him sometimes. This was his first time in the national spotlight. The media in Utah is not the same as the media in New York, so that can wear on some people. I think it really affected him.'' [ESPN Boston]

Overall the reluctant leaders on the Nets made it difficult for Pierce, and his friend Kevin Garnett to come in and help the young proven guys reach a goal that required hard work and dedication.

"There's a lot of secondary guys on that team. KG and I went there looking at them as the main guys who would push us, because we were advancing in years. But we ended up doing all the pushing.'' [ESPN Boston]

Still Pierce would have still stuck around if the Nets were looking to re-sign the veteran, especially since he knew Garnett had made the decision to play one more year in Brooklyn.

"I would have stayed in Brooklyn because of Kevin,'' Pierce said. "I told him, 'I don't really like this situation but I would never leave you if you want me to stay.' But they decided not to re-sign me so I never had to make a choice. I would never have left Kevin like that.'' [ESPN Boston]

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KG, now in Minnesota once again after being dealt back to the city he called home for 12-years during the trading deadline this past February, and Pierce knows how much it means to one of his best friends to be back where his hall-of-fame career began.

"He's happy,'' Pierce said. "I'm glad he waived his no-trade clause. I told him, 'They don't appreciate you in Brooklyn, man.' They didn't even use him right.

"He's where he's supposed to be. He IS Minnesota. He never sold his house there.'' [ESPN Boston]

Still the two-former teammates keep in touch with each other a few times a week and Pierce even credits KG for introducing him to a hyperbaric chamber and its benefits of healing injuries faster and boosting energy. The 17-year vet sleeps in the chamber for 2-3 hours before every home game.

Pierce became a believer of what the oxygen chamber could do in 2009, shortly after the Celtics won their championship and has been vying the Wizards' team medical staff to purchase one. He has even gone as far as recommending his current teammate; John Wall to use it as Washington prepares itself for hopefully a long playoff run as the fifth seed.

"It's great for recovery,'' Pierce said. "It's definitely helped me. It's the size of a little coffin. You just get in it, zip it up and you're good.

"The first time I tried it felt like I was suffocating, like there was no air. But now I'm so used to it I'm asleep in a matter of minutes.'' [ESPN Boston]

Pierce believes this generation of players will have longer careers because of technology and the focus on body maintenance, nutrition and conditioning. He stays giving advice to his younger teammates who could one day have the potential to be great.

"I talk to them a lot about mental preparation and consistency,'' Pierce said. "I keep telling Wall and Beal, 'You've got to make up your mind. Do you want to be good, or do you want to be great? Because if you want to be great, you gotta do it every single night, not just when you feel like it.'

"Both of those guys have the potential to be great. I love them. But sometimes I'm not sure they realize what it takes.

"That was (Rajon) Rondo's problem, too. Some days he did, some days he didn't. I think it's more this generation. A lot of these players have been catered to since the sixth grade. The NBA is changing so much. It's not like when I came up, with that old-school mentality that practice really mattered. You've got these 24, 25 year old guys who sit out of practice now to rest. It's hard for me to understand, but I'm trying.'' [ESPN Boston]

Probably the surprise of the MacMullan article, was the fact Pierce and Walter 'Ray' Allen didn't really have much of a friendship behind closed doors despite being the best of teammates on the court.

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"It was a weird relationship,'' Pierce conceded. "We were all good friends on the court, but Ray always did his own thing. That's just the way Ray was. Even when we were playing together, we'd be having a team dinner and Ray wouldn't show up. We'd go to his charity events but Ray wouldn't show up to somebody else's.

"I called him on it. I said, 'Man, Ray, we support all your stuff but when we ask you, you don't come to ours.' I remember when Rondo re-signed with Boston, we had a little dinner at a restaurant and Ray didn't show up.

"I know Ray probably didn't like Rondo that much, but it wasn't a fact of not liking somebody. You don't have to like everybody you play with -- it's a matter of showing support.

"Rondo probably didn't like Ray either, but he came to Ray's functions to show, 'Hey, we're together in this.'

"It's not a bad thing with Ray. We had a great relationship on the court. But even the year we won it, after a game we'd say, 'Let's go have something to eat and have a night with the older guys.' We'd get there and it would be me, Kevin and Sam (Cassell), but no Ray. In a lot of ways, me, Sam and Kevin were our Big Three.

"It just got to the point where it was like, 'That's Ray.' No hard feelings. Everyone made such a big deal of us not talking after we left, but there really wasn't much there.'' [ESPN Boston]

Pierce still keeps in close contact with Doc Rivers and former Celtic teammates Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and even Glen 'Big Baby' Davis. But the 'Truth' admits he has not spoken to Allen since he decided to take his 'talents' to South Beach in the summer of 2012.

Obviously looking back on his final six-year run in Boston, Pierce wishes he would have been paired with his 'Big-Three' teammates sooner to have had a "longer run together," but some things were obviously out of his control. Despite the success he has had and he remains in good shape (225 pounds for the first time in his career), Pierce has stated he will call it quits after next season (whether in D.C. or somewhere else).

"I had my time," he said. [ESPN Boston]

Pierce's former team the Celtics have clinched a playoff berth for the first time since he played his last game in Boston two-years ago. The Truth on the other hand is getting ready for another playoff run (his eighth consecutive trip to the postseason) with the Wiz, and he's only really concerned with the Cavs as being the team to beat to reach the goal of coming out the Eastern Conference.

"We haven't done particularly well against Toronto, but I don't feel they have the 'It' that makes you worried,'' Pierce said. "There isn't a team I look at in the Eastern Conference that makes me say, 'They are intimidating, we don't have a chance.'

"As good as Atlanta is, they just don't give off that aura where we're afraid of them.

"You definitely have to worry about Cleveland because they have LeBron and some vets now, but if we get to the conference finals, anything can happen.'' [ESPN Boston]

Joel Pavón
Follow us on Twitter:@CausewayStreet

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