Despite the regular chants of the FleetCenter crowd in these playoffs, no one on the Celtics was expecting Paul Pierce to get the NBA's MVP award.
However, the fact he finished 11th in the balloting did raise eyebrows.
"I think Paul's a great player," Jim O'Brien said before the Celtics' 66-64 win over the Pistons in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series. "That's all I'll say about that."
Tim Duncan edged out Jason Kidd to win the honor, while Shaquille O'Neal, Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant followed.
Pierce picked up one third-place vote, one fourth-place vote and 14 fifth-place votes from the 126 members of the media polled. That gave him 22 points overall in the 10-7-5-3-1 process and left him also behind Gary Payton, Chris Webber, Dirk Nowitzki, Allen Iverson and Detroit's Ben Wallace. Kevin Garnett and Michael Jordan finished just after Pierce, who was third in the NBA in scoring at 26.1 points per game.
The Celtic co-captain was fine with those results on Friday.
"Eleventh?" he said. "I've got to play better, that's all."
Told he had finished behind Wallace, who had 12 points and 21 rebounds for the Pistons in a playoff game against Boston , Pierce smiled and went into comedy mode.
"I finished behind Ben Wallace?" the former Kansas player said. "Wow. I need to get politics on my side. I gotta pay you guys off or something? I've gotta slide y'all something? Man."
According to veteran teammate Kenny Anderson, Pierce just needs a little time on his side.
"He's young," Anderson said. "It takes some time. Last year in the second half of the season he took off, and then this year he took off. In the NBA you've really got to be consistent and then they start voting for you.
"But if I had to bet on it, before he's retired he'll get MVP."
It was jokingly suggested to Anderson that the prophecy could come true if he passed Pierce the ball more.
"If I'm here," Anderson replied with a smile. "Give me an extension."
Anderson's contract runs out after next season.
Pierce has been snubbed before, of course. He has played with a chip on his shoulder since he entered the league. He was drafted 10th overall by the Celtics in 1998 but he expected to be drafted higher. That slight stayed with Pierce.
He wrote down the names of teams that passed him over and the names of players they selected.
He memorized the names, then recounted them when he shot the ball in practice.
"That was something I used to motivate me," Pierce said. "When I shot each shot, I would call out the teams that drafted ahead of me. I would call out that team and that player."
Michael Olowokandi, Jason Williams, Larry Hughes and Robert Traylor all were taken ahead of Pierce. None is close to where he is now. "I've had a great year," Pierce said, "but I'm just scratching the surface."
In Boston's first-round series against Philadelphia, he averaged 30.2 points per game. In his 46-point performance in Game 5, he made a team-record eight three-pointers