Ranking Paul Pierce
BOSTON - The NBA season begins tonight in Boston, where the Celtics will raise Banner No. 17 and receive their championship rings after completing the greatest single-season turnaround in league history. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen proved that "anything is Possss-ahh-buuuullllll!" when superstar players are willing to sacrifice for the good of the team.
Pierce was the other major turnaround involving the Celtics. He was an under-appreciated six-time all-star and a prolific scorer for his entire career. Unfortunately, Pierce was also on some really bad teams, which unfairly gave him a reputation for padding meaningless stats to his resume. But he moved into the discussion of the NBA's upper-echelon players through an impressive postseason run -- he scored 41 points against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals and bested league MVP Kobe Bryant in the NBA Finals.
Pierce just turned 31, which puts him on the tail end of his prime, but he still plans to build on a season in which he won the Finals MVP after (miraculously) healing from a right knee injury in Game 1 of the series. I asked Pierce a few weeks ago about how he got up from a wheelchair and led his team to the title. Pierce, not realizing I was half-joking, was a bit defensive. "It wasn't a script," he said. "It wasn't like somebody wrote it. It's the way it happened and that was it."
Pierce shocked some this summer when he told reporters in Spain that he, not Bryant, was league's best player. Asked to explain, Pierce said, "I really don't care what people think of me as a player. I'll sit back and worry about that when my career is over. I'm going to try to go out there and be the best player I can be and everybody is going to have their opinion anyway."
My question to you is, after his performance last season -- which included taking fewer shots and playing better defense -- where would you place Pierce? Top five? Top 10? Top 20? Tell me what you think.
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