Pierce Felt Dissed

January 29, 1999

Pierce Felt Dissed

   WALTHAM - Vince Carter will be at the FleetCenter tonight. He was one of the nine players drafted ahead of Paul Pierce last June. Carter looks as if he will be a fine player for the Raptors, but the Celtics are still glad nine other teams chose to pass Pierce by.

Once again, Rick Pitino was praising his 6-foot-7-inch forward after yesterday's practice. Fans have joked that Pierce should start packing his bags now that the coach has given him an endorsement (see Chauncey Billups). But this is no Billups situation. Pitino's son Richard was upset that his father traded Billups last February. If Pitino were to trade Pierce, he'd have problems outside his family, especially since many people watched the rookie's 14-point, 7-rebound exhibition debut against the Raptors Tuesday.

Pitino said Pierce is a "gem offensively" who is still rough on defense. He has legitimate 3-point range that certainly wasn't hurt over the summer. Word was that Pierce once had an unusual workout in Los Angeles: He shot jumpers as someone called out the names of all the players drafted ahead of him. So if someone yells, "Vince Carter," during tonight's exhibition and Pierce responds with 10-for-10 shooting, you'll know why.

DeClercq possible

The Celtics played with only nine men Tuesday. That won't be the case tonight. Newcomer Eric Riley, a 7-foot center, is expected to dress. Andrew DeClercq, who sat out Tuesday with a sore wrist, may play, too. Bruce Bowen, Walter McCarty, and Greg Minor still are not ready . . . Pitino was asked if Pierce slipping in the draft (he was expected to go third) had anything to do with Kansas's poor showing in the NCAA tournament. "Any time you get knocked out of the tournament, you lose your luster," he said. "Any time you go further, you gain all the publicity and hype. So it helps to go to the Final Four like the North Carolina kids [ Antawn Jamison, Carter] did." . . . Dee Brown is not the only Raptor who spent time in Boston. Former Celtic John Thomas is still on the roster. When he entered Tuesday's game, Thomas got a handshake from Pitino. . . . Dwayne Schintzius, who towers over all other Celtics at 7 feet 3

inches, said he doesn't want to be the obligatory Big Body in The Middle. "I want to do something out there," he said. "And once I get into better shape, I will." . . . A television reporter asked Pitino a question about the shortened season yesterday. The coach gave a response initially, then veered into a good-natured slam of the reporter. "Every second we sleep, is a second lost," Pitino said, "and I notice you have been sleeping because you haven't shaved."

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