Pitino Keeping Pierce's Ego in Check

February 8, 1999

 Pitino Keeping Pierce's Ego in Check

 WALTHAM - You won't have to worry about Paul Pierce remaining humble. The Celtics have something that keeps things in perspective for their rookie forward. It's called video. Pierce had 19 points on consecutive nights, against the Raptors and Cavaliers. He had a tremendous fourth quarter against the Cavs, scoring 15 points and tipping in the winning basket over the much bigger Shawn Kemp. "It was a great play,"

Celtics coach Rick Pitino said yesterday, after the team's practice at Brandeis. "It was one of the many great plays he made. He, without question, was a major factor in the game." You can feel that "but" coming, right? "But when we grade our games offensively and defensively, he grades out the lowest in every area," Pitino said. "All rookies grade the lowest. Using screens, setting screens, rotating defensively - all the mental aspects of the game. So he has a lot to learn. But he is a great physical talent." If you know someone who is a true videophile, you should introduce that person to the Celtics' coaches.

They spend hours analyzing game tapes and grading the players in 20 categories, 10 apiece for offense and defense. So even though Pierce had the winning hoop, you can be sure that he heard about his steals (he didn't have any) against Cleveland. On Friday, he also got lost while chasing Raptors rookie Vince Carter. That breakdown turned into an easy jumper. But Pierce wasn't too shabby in the free-throw category on Saturday. He made the only 3-pointer he attempted. And, as the video also shows, he allowed the Celtics to leave town with a victory. No fun in sun The Celtics will be in Florida until Friday.

They may find some time to enjoy the weather of Central and South Florida. But they will have to be creative to do it. That's because Pitino is putting the team through a mini-training camp after tonight's game with the Magic and tomorrow's against the Heat. All you need to do is check the box scores to see which area will get heavy attention from the coach: turnovers. Although the Celtics beat the Cavs Saturday night, they still turned the ball over 27 times. Antoine Walker led all players with seven . . . Andrew DeClercq and Popeye Jones are returning to the court just in time. Tonight they both will be asked to help slow Magic center Ike Austin. Tomorrow they get a chance to wrestle with Alonzo Mourning. Apparently Eric Riley knows what to expect from the Florida games. The center was one of the last Celtics to leave for the team plane last night because he was working in the weight room . . . Pitino reiterated yesterday that Ron Mercer will not play in the next two games because of his sprained right knee.

Walter McCarty won't be able to play for another couple of weeks because of an injured toe . . . About an hour after Saturday's game, there was still a shred of doubt on the Cleveland coaching staff. They didn't have the benefit of seeing replays, so a couple of Cavs coaches didn't believe that Pierce got his tipin over Kemp. Even though Kemp is terribly out of shape, he is still very strong and outweighs the rookie by about 70 pounds.

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