Is Paul Pierce part of the Boston Celtics’ all-time team?
On Tuesday, Pierce passed Larry Bird on the team’s career scoring list, moving into second place for the most historic franchise in the NBA. He is creeping up on 22,000 career points and still going strong.
Pierce has a ways to go to catch Celtics all-time leader John Havlicek, whose total of 26,395 is even more remarkable when you consider he began his career as a sixth man. If Pierce passes Havlicek – at his current average of 18 points per game, he would need roughly three full seasons to do so – he definitely crashes the top five.
“I think the fans would really appreciate another championship more than me passing Hondo,” Pierce said.
But what if he doesn’t do either? What if Pierce retires or moves on with one title while still second on the list? Is that good enough to become the fifth face on the franchise’s Mount Rushmore?
Four spots are pretty much etched in stone – Bird, Havlicek, Bill Russell and Bob Cousy, all among the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players.
Bird won three titles, played in three other Finals, claimed three MVP awards and two Finals MVP awards. Havlicek won eight titles, with six of them coming before the installation of Finals MVP, which he won in 1974.
Russell won 11 titles, played in one other Finals, earned five MVP awards and has the Finals MVP named after him. Cousy won six titles, played in one other Finals, was the MVP in 1957 and played well before Finals MVPs were handed out.
Pierce? His 10 All-Star berths compare favorably, and he does have a Finals MVP. But the argument against him is that he has not won nearly as much as the “Fab Four.” Pierce played in just one other Finals, and in his 13 full seasons, the Celtics missed the playoffs five times and are less than 80 games over .500.
The Celtic most consider to be ahead of Pierce is Kevin McHale, another member of the 50 Greatest Players who played alongside Bird and has the same number of titles and Finals trips. But he never won a Finals MVP. I’m sure there are some folks out there also campaigning for Sam Jones.
As the only modern-day player under consideration, Pierce is at a disadvantage. The NBA is three times bigger – and much better – than when Russell, Cousy and Havlicek dominated. Free agency and finances are far more impactful than during Bird’s day. And championships are much harder to win.
So does Pierce make the cut? We agree with Bird.
“He had some great years in Boston — a few when the team was down, and maybe that hurt him a little bit,” Bird told the Boston Herald. “But he’s a great scorer, and he won a championship, so he’s right there with the rest of us, as far as I’m concerned.”
We are interested in what our readers think, so feel free to comment below – after you read about the week that was in the NBA.
TRIVIA: Kevin Love is currently fourth in scoring and second in rebounding. Who was the last player to finish in the top five in both categories? Answer below.
THE END OF CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT: LeBron James and Kobe Bryant were on Forbes Magazine‘s list of the 10 most disliked athletes. Last April, James and Bryant were 1-2 in jersey sales announced by the NBA.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks, after his team overcame a huge game by Monta Ellis to win at Golden State:
“Our goal going into the game is to hold Monta Ellis to 50 and he only had 48, so we accomplished two things.”
LINE OF THE WEEK: Stephen Curry, Golden State at Denver, Feb. 9: 36 minutes, 13-17 FGs, 6-9 3-pointers, 4-7 FTs, seven rebounds, seven assists, two blocks, one turnover, 36 points in a 109-101 win. After one of his many makes, Curry did an impersonation of the “shimmy shake” Warriors coach Mark Jackson popularized as a player. “We had joked about it earlier that it was his signature move. I haven’t practiced it but I’m scared to look at the film. That was the first time and probably the last time.”
LINE OF THE WEAK: Raymond Felton, Portland at Dallas, Feb. 11: 39 minutes, 4-17 FGs, 1-6 3-pointers, 0-1 FTs, two rebounds, two assists, three turnovers, nine points in a 97-94 double-overtime loss. Not quite the direction you want from your point guard in a tough road game.
TRILLION WATCH: Kind of a ho-hum week, with Jerry Stackhouse’s 4 trillion on Monday the “best” effort. Lakers small forwards Devin Ebanks (9 trillion) and Jason Kapono (8 and 7 trillion) remain the season leaders as we approach the midway point.
GAME OF THE WEEK: LA Clippers at Dallas, Feb. 13. It is the last stop on a six-game road trip for the Clippers, who already have won at Orlando and Philadelphia and will be looking to take out the defending champs for the second time this season.
GAME OF THE WEAK: Charlotte at Toronto, Feb. 17. This actually might have some intrigue as the Bobcats figure to be up to 16 straight losses when they arrive north of the border to face the Raptors, who already have lost twice to the Wizards.
TWO MINUTES: Violet Palmer has worked hard to become a quality referee who is retained once the playoffs begin, but her actions in Philadelphia on Wednesday were inexcusable. Apparently tired of the chirping from the Sixers bench about Spurs guard Tony Parker possibly dragging his pivot foot when coming to a stop and looking to pass, Palmer made a ridiculous call, whistling Evan Turner for a handcheck when Parker backed against his hand while the players were 40 feet from the basket. It was vindictive and petty. … It is a little difficult to get your mind around Jason Richardson’s performance Saturday in Milwaukee, where he made 9-of-11 3-pointers – including four in less than three minutes – but also shot 0-of-4 from the line. … Thursday’s unveiling of All-Star reserves left more than a few players feeling left out. The Pacers saw center Roy Hibbert selected but forward Danny Granger and guard Darren Collison passed over. However, it was not for a lack of electioneering by the coaching staff. “We’ve sent e-mails out and make phone calls and we definitely want the coaches around the league to understand the sacrifices our guys have made to buy into the team approach and how it’s led to winning,” said Pacers coach Frank Vogel, whose surprising team is jockeying for a top-four seed in the East without a true superstar. “And particularly the things we’ve done on the defensive end. I don’t want that to go unnoticed.” … Detroit’s Ben Wallace shot his first two free throws of the season Friday. He missed them both. … In 19 games since Jan. 10, Suns center Marcin Gortat is averaging 16.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. That hot streak has pushed his season numbers to career highs of 15.2 points, 10.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks and allowed him to join Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Marc Gasol as the only players posting 15-10-1.5 this season. You don’t think of Gortat as an elite center, but that is elite company. … There have been literally hundreds of Jeremy Lin stories this week, and our Moke Hamilton had a pretty good take. But our favorite was this one: While the Harvard grad was lighting up the Wizards for 23 points and 10 assists Wednesday, Washington coach Randy Wittman received a text from his son, Ryan, who faced Lin during his days as a player at Cornell. “He told me that they did a much better job guarding him than we did tonight,” the elder Wittman said. “I already had that text message before the game was over. Makes Dad feel good.” … The Bobcats have had very little to smile about this season, but forward Derrick Brown made all 10 of his floor shots in Tuesday’s loss at Boston. In case you were wondering, the record is held by – who else? – Wilt Chamberlain, who was 18-of-18 vs. Baltimore on Feb. 24, 1967. … It didn’t take Kenyon Martin very long to re-introduce himself to the NBA. After getting out his contract in China, Martin was signed by the Clippers and made his debut Wednesday at Cleveland, where he shoved Cavs forward Samardo Samuels to the floor and was hit with a technical foul. “First game back and I get (fined) $1,000,” Martin said. “That’s who I am. I can’t turn it off.” … The Rockets won three straight games on the road this week, and their bench was a big reason, accounting for 55 percent of their offense with 165 points. In those three games, Houston received 11 different double-digit scoring efforts from its reserves, including five in Thursday’s win at Phoenix, matching the most in franchise history. … The league-leading Thunder will need a fourth scorer come playoff time, and it certainly won’t be Nick Collison. When Collison took – and made – two shots in Friday’s win at Utah, it doubled the number of shots he had put up in the previous five games. … Heat forward Shane Battier has struggled mightily on the offensive end this season with career lows of 4.1 points and 35 percent shooting and recently noted, “The great Hubie Brown said, ‘Know when to pass, know when to shoot,’ and I’m finding a way to mess even that up.” At Washington on Friday, Battier finally broke out a bit, scoring a season-high 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting. “We never panicked about him,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He does so many things as a player that we like. He does all of the little things that help us as a team. It was great to see the ball go in for him and take a little bit of the weight off his shoulders.” … In the early 1990s, the Pistons became the first NBA team to completely move away from chartered flights with their own plane, dubbing it “Roundball One.” That aircraft served the team until 1997, when it switched to a DC-9 that it used from 1998 to 2010. At the start of last season, the Pistons starting using an MD-20 as the third generation of “Roundball One” and donated their second plane to the Northland Community & Technical College Foundation in support of the school’s highly regarded aerospace program in Minnesota. In addition to flying the Pistons to and from NBA cities for 12 years, the donated plane also made hurricane relief effort missions to Central America in 1998 and New Orleans in 2005.
Trivia Answer: Kevin Garnett in 2003-04. … Happy 53rd Birthday, Larry Nance. … There’s no truth to the rumor that Duke is trying to schedule the Bobcats as one of their non-conference games next season.
Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear Thursday and Sunday. You can follow him on Twitter.