There was a certain energy about Paul Pierce as he walked off the TD Garden floor following the Celtics' 104-80 win over the Bobcats on Wednesday night.This is a healthy Paul Pierce, a lively Paul Pierce. It's hard to believe this is the same guy who watched from the sidelines just four short days ago. But he's back now, and when the captain's feeling good, the whole team feels good.
The season started with me exhorting Paul Pierce to live up to his self-proclaimed status as an all-time great by hoisting this team on his back on the way to regular season MVP honors. Even NBA.com said Pierce was right there with Kobe and LeBron in the fourth quarter. Doc Rivers chimed in, too. But long before he started getting injured, Paul Pierce was already starting to fall off the MVP radar. It then occurred to me that, God forbid, Pierce was showing signs of old age.
While the MVP talk is kaput, talk about Paul Pierce as premiere player, especially in big games, is alive and well. John Havlicek performed at a high level in fits and spurts through the end of his career, when he retired at age 37. Asking Pierce to become the old Pierce, the intestinal fortitude of this team, isn't asking a lot. It's just asking him to be himself. Hopefully, last night was the first in a series of such nights that don't end until June.