I recently mentioned how Paul Pierce should get some serious consideration for this season’s MVP. I made it a quick bullet point but, through some additional fan comments and KG winning the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award, I decided this needed some more discussion – so here goes.
I know many of the Celtics’ fans that watch game after game agree with me and realize that without Paul Pierce this team wouldn’t be coming up on 60 wins. That’s not to say the same doesn’t go for Garnett, but he gets the respect whereas Pierce doesn’t. The big additions of Ray-Ray and KG have given the media a false sense of reality – KG is the only MVP on the Celtics because last year they had Pierce and they were dreadful.
Throughout the year the MVP talks have focused around LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Chris Paul. I’m not taking anything away from any of those players as they all are worthy candidates, but I think Pierce needs to be included in these discussions. Personally, I don’t see how anybody but King James could win the award based on his Magic Johnson-like stats and the fact that his team couldn’t win a game in the WNBA let alone the NBA without him. Still, it’d be nice if Pierce’s name was brought up when the term ‘MVP’ came rolling around.
I’ve always been a big Pierce guy. He made the Celtics worth watching throughout the forgettable last decade. He led my greatest Celtics’ moment and the greatest comeback in playoff history in the fourth quarter against New Jersey in the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals. He would come on the microphone at The Garden at every home opener and give some words of hope, even though I’m sure even he knew the words wouldn’t materialize into wins. Most importantly, he loves playing for the Celtics.
Player of the Week
Obviously I’m happy for KG, as he was named last week’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week. The week covered the three games in Texas (San Antonio, Houston and Dallas) and the only loss of the road trip, at New Orleans. KG played great in all four games and I agree somebody from the Celtics deserved the honors after sweeping the dreaded ‘Texas Triangle’. But why not throw Paul into the equation and give Garnett and Pierce a Co-Player of the Week award?
Here’s a breakdown of each player’s stats through the four-game-span.
Garnett averaged 35.5 minutes, 20.5 points on 45% shooting, 11 boards and about 3 assists.
Pierce averaged 39.5 minutes, 23 points on 52% shooting, about 8 boards and 4 assists.
Their stats are pretty much a wash. Anybody who watched these four games knows Pierce and Garnett both played integral parts in each game. They matched numbers throughout the week and I’d have to say it was Pierce who hit more big shots. Again, I’m not saying Garnett should not have won the award, but when is Pierce going to start getting the credit he deserves?
Lack of Recognition
Garnett had an outstanding game against the Suns on Wednesday, but it was Pierce who took a relatively close game and put the final nail in the casket. Pierce has been doing that all season. When he gets hot, he can't miss. Of course the majority of Pierce's hot streak in this game came against the lackadaisical defense of Gordon Giricek, but it was impressive nonetheless. It was mainly Pierce who pushed a manageable 11-point fourth quarter margin (against the league's second highest scoring team) to 20, and put the game out of reach.
Giricek is just one of the many defenders Pierce has left in the dust this season. (Brian Babineau / Getty Images)
Garnett then stepped to the line after the Pierce show and chants of "M-V-P" reigned down from the rafters. All I could think after hearing that was, sure Garnett had a great game, but the most important player on the court that night was Paul Pierce. Even the questions after the game were centered on Garnett and the MVP race. The media has once again flooded to Garnett and left Pierce on the backburner.
As a small sidebar, the Garnett and Pierce after-show has become one of my favorite Celtics' rituals now. Whether it's a win or a rare loss, I always like watching their post-game press conference. They work well together on the court but they work well off it as well. Their banter is always amusing and Pierce usually has a couple of sarcastic comments to throw Garnett's way. I could easily see them in their own reality show someday - something like Rob & Big. Sure they'd have to move in together, but what are friends for? On second thought, that's a little far-fetched, so I'll settle for a Scalabrine and Pollard reality show instead. That would be nothing short of legendary.
Pleading the Case
As important as Garnett is, I think Pierce has made more big plays. Whether it's catching fire and putting close games out of reach, or driving to the hoop to draw the defense and setup somebody else for an easy basket (see the Detroit games), Pierce is always involved in the plays that decide games.
He was always an All Star but it just seems like he keeps getting better every year. I wasn't sure how well he would fit in with both Garnett and Allen but obviously the results (up to this point) have been incredible. I don't doubt that some of his improvement has stemmed from Garnett, but it's still Pierce who is executing to near-perfection.
As commented on by a Green Room fan, Pierce's free-throw shooting is up about ten percentage points from last season. He seems much more confident from the charity stripe this season, especially in late game situations. I've always been fearful of the Celtics down two with Pierce at the line for a pair with little to no time left. Prior to this year he seemed to hit only one of two in those situations, but this season I have all the confidence in the world he'll make both. I think he realizes he now has other players that can make big plays in crunch time, so the responsibility doesn't rest solely on his shoulders. Pierce has never been shy about his skill level but this year he's playing with a newfound confidence.
His defense has been his biggest improvement. Although his own opinion may differ, he has never been a great defender by any stretch of the imagination. This year has been a completely different story. The defense as a whole has made a monumental improvement from last season thanks to Coach Thibodeau and KG. Thibodeau gives the defensive schemes while KG coaches the floor. Regardless of who is responsible for the change, Pierce is an entirely new player on the defensive end.
Paul is averaging his typical 20, 5 and 5 numbers again this season. But, as anybody supporting Garnett in the MVP race would tell you, it's not all about the numbers. Garnett brings all the intangibles and there is no doubt that he has transformed this team, but more often than not it's Pierce taking over a game for the Celtics. Early on I'd say Garnett was the MVP of this team, but Pierce has been putting on a show the last couple of months.
The Final Word
Perhaps it was Garnett himself who said it best during Wednesday night's post-game press conference: "This is my MVP right here," as he pointed to Pierce.