WALTHAM — Accolades to Kevin Garnett. He has been everything, if not more, that the Boston Celtics and Danny Ainge bargained for in that monumental 7-for-1 player trade last summer. The Most Valuable Player Award talk is deserved.
Maybe, though, it's time to honor the person most responsible for the most incredible worst-to-first turnaround in National Basketball Association history.
And that's "The Truth," as in Paul Pierce, who earned the moniker from Shaquille O'Neal after torching the Lakers for 42 points on March 13, 2001.
That's right, Paul Pierce.
As the Celtics embark on a playoff run that many expect to be reminiscent of Larry Bird Era two decades earlier, opening with the Atlanta Hawks tomorrow night at the Garden, Pierce deserves as much credit as Ainge or Garnett.
"A lot of guys talk about wanting to win. I hear it all the time," says Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "But to be honest, few of them really mean it. Paul meant it."
That's right, Paul Pierce, 30, the guy many of us looked at as a ball-hog and whiner, really and truly wanted to win. With the additions of Garnett and Ray Allen, he had to make it work.
It was Pierce who, in demanding the Celtics bring in the goods to make a run at as a championship contender, had the most to lose.
"Paul was going to have to give up a lot," says Rivers. "He had to give up some points. He had to give up some leadership. He had to give up the ball. He had to give up his comfort zone."
Before Garnett was acquired, Rivers and Allen took Pierce out for a trip.
"I'm not saying where we went, but it was just the three of us," says Rivers. "And we talked about what we needed to do, what he needed to do. It was then I brought up that he was going to have to give up his comfort zone. We were going to be better, but he was going to give up some things. And that's not always easy for a superstar to accept."