WALTHAM - The last man off the court yesterday at Brandeis University was the first man theCeltics took in the draft, rookie Paul Pierce, who suffered through an 0-for-11 shooting night in Cleveland Tuesday while he and his teammates suffered through a 17-point drubbing.
But both Pierce and his coach are trying to turn that negative into a positive learning experience.
"What I tried to tell [ Pierce] this morning," said Rick Pitino, "is that teams are going to break down film and whatever way you go strong, they're going to take it away. If you shoot it a certain way well, they're going to take it away. So you've got to adjust and that's good because it makes him build adjustments."
"A game like that is going to keep him hungry and humble," added Pitino. "Over an 82-game schedule, you're going to have eight or 10 games like that and over a 50-game schedule you'll have three, four, or five games like that."
Pierce, whose scoring average dipped a bit to 18.9 - still good enough for second on the team behind Antoine Walker's 20.6 - after his O-fer, was more concerned yesterday about coming away with a win against the Nuggets before the team embarks on a five-game road trip than he was with recent history.
"If we can come out [ tonight] and play better than we did, I'm confident we'll have a good road trip," said Pierce, who stuck around for some extra shooting after the rest of his mates had left the practice floor. "Personally, I still want to measure myself not just against the best rookies in the league, but also against the best players. There are going to be some tough nights in the NBA, but as far as the other night goes, the shots were there. It was just an off night. The shots weren't going in, but they were shots I can make on a given night."
A full itinerary
The Celtics' road trip begins Sunday afternoon in Toronto and concludes the following Sunday in Indiana. It includes a three-games-in-four-nights stretch against Charlotte, Atlanta, and Detroit . . . Pitino refers to 76ers guard and league leading scorer Allen Iverson as "Michael Jordan in his first three years. It was a brilliant move by Larry Brown to put him at the 2-guard. I've watched Iverson five times and I don't know where he's more disruptive, on offense or defense," said Pitino. "On offense, at the 2-guard, he's pure hell. He's off to an incredible start." . . . Old friend Chauncey Billups is hobbling these days with a sprained left ankle that has knocked him out of the Nuggets' starting lineup. Billups had made 18 straight free throws prior to last night's game and was averaging 12.9 points per game, including four games in which he had hit at least four 3-point shots.