In Paul Pierce’s mind, he’s heard this message every year for a couple years now: With he, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett getting older, many think this could be the Boston Celtics final stand. But, after hearing it before, are we really at that point this time around?
The Celtics didn’t necessarily surge their way into the playoffs and now have to take on the New York Knicks in the first round. In other words, aging Boston has to get by a couple of much younger stars in Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.
Much of their potential seems to hinge on health, and it’s not just because of their age, but that’s obviously a big part of it. What do you think? One last run for the Celtics? Are they done already? Or do you expect them to be right here come next year?
Paul Pierce joined WEEI in Boston with Mike and Lou to discuss the first-round matchup, Madison Square Garden, getting a chance to rest up for the playoffs, putting Kendrick Perkins in the past, the importance of having a healthy Shaq, people that say this could be the team’s final run and Kobe Bryant’s $100,000 fine.
On the first-round playoff matchup with the New York Knicks:
“This is pretty exciting. You’ve got to like what they’ve done with their moves, adding Carmelo to go along with Amar’e and Chauncey. It’s definitely going to be exciting. … What more can you say? You already had the Red Sox-Yankees.”
Where does Madison Square Garden rank amongst arenas?:
“To me, it’s right there at the top. Outside of me playing here at The Garden, because I’ve had the opportunity to play a number of games there, I’m going to say it’s right at the top.”
On being able to rest for a couple games heading into the postseason:
“I think it’s big for a lot of us. I was just thinking … about how much better I felt. People don’t understand, you go through an 82-game grind, just the little knacks and bruises you get throughout the course of the season. When you get a few days rest, it can do wonders for the body.”
How long does it take to flip the playoff switch mentally?:
“I flipped the switch when I woke up this morning. A lot of players are off today, so it’s a whole new season. … The focus is there and I’m locked in like I’ve never been before for these playoffs.”
Do the Celtics feel disrespected by people questioning their toughness without Kendrick Perkins?:
“It was even worse last year when we went through our struggles. Definitely Kendrick had his impact, but you’ve got to remember he missed a big portion of the season and, during that portion, we were able to beat a lot of the good teams also. I think that’s just an excuse at this point. I think that it’s time for us to move on from that. It hurts when you lose a teammate … but at the end of the day, the guys that are in this locker room are the guys you’ve got to go to war with.”
How important is Shaq to the success in the playoffs?:
“He’s going to be huge for us. If he’s healthy, I believe we can win the whole thing, but we definitely need him. … He’s somebody that’s tough to match up with and he can cause all kinds of problems for the other team.”
Does it creep into his mind that these may be his last few opportunities to be in this position?:
“I try not to think about that. They’ve been saying that we don’t have long since the first day we got together. I just try to play it out. Nobody expected us to be this good this year, I don’t think. They were saying we were too old and maybe last year was our last run. Now they’re saying that again this year.”
His reaction to Kobe Bryant’s language and fine:
“That’s a pretty thin line, when you’re talking about players who play with so much passion and emotion and it comes out. When you’re in the heat of the moment and things happen to you, sometimes things come out. … You say things at the moment and you tend to regret it when you go back and look. You can’t fault somebody for being in the heat of the moment. His reaction maybe wasn’t in the best interest of the fan appeal … but I hear it every day. It’s crazy when you look up and see a player get fined $100,000 because he was caught on camera. If the camera doesn’t catch him, I’m sure we wouldn’t be talking about this right now.”