The fact is that without Paul Pierce this particular edition of the Boston Celtics would be lost. Pierce has not only been the Celtic’s best player, he has been the most complete player in the entire league through the first month of play. Following the Celtic’s Sunday night win in Miami head coach Doc Rivers let the media know who his early choice for MVP was; “He’s the MVP in the league as far as I’m concerned, just all the things leadership, preparation, his intensity on the floor, scoring, assisting. Even on nights he didn’t have big numbers, he made the timely baskets or made a timely defensive play. He’s just been very impressive.”
After leading the Paul-Pierce-for-MVP parade with this piece on Friday, November 27, 2009 (two days before Doc Rivers and the Boston Globe followed suit), it may surprise you that I'm already going to back-pedal, at least a bit. Paul Pierce isn't MVP material, not league MVP anyway. I like Paul Pierce. The Boston Celtics need Paul Pierce, desperately. Without Paul Pierce, the Celtics would still be stuck on 16 banners.
But since I wrote the Pierce-for-MVP piece last week, I've been watching #34 more closely. What I've seen is what Danny Ainge described two years ago. Paul Pierce is like Dennis Johnson, a tremendous talent who doesn't always give it his all. Pierce takes quarters off. He takes big parts of games off. I don't hold this against him. Nor did I hold it against DJ. The problem is that league MVPs don't behave this way.
You could argue that Bob McAdoo did just this, as did Moses Malone. If you believe Bob Ryan, Kareem took most of his career off on the defensive end. But Kareem and 'Doo had one thing Pierce doesn't have this year: huge scoring numbers. Moses was frenzied on the boards. I'm not sure that Paul Pierce is frenzied about anything, frenzied enough, that is, to be seriously considered for league MVP. A great player? Of course. In fact, this is the Truth's year to cement his place in Celtics history as well and NBA history. I think he's gonna have to do it, however, without a league MVP trophy to add to his collection.
Let me add one qualifying thought.
If the Celtics can start to win all or nearly all of their big games this year, plus nearly all of their nationally televised games, and Paul Pierce emerges as the key difference-maker in those games, he may find his way onto MVP ballots for a surprising number of voters. But the Celtics have too many weapons for that to happen. Witness the Charlotte game as a recent example. Still, I won't foreclose the possibility.
Conveniently enough, the Celtics play a big game tonight on national television.
Paul Pierce, are you listening?