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Pierce not the same player?


I was talking with a colleague the other night about how different Boston Celtics superstar Paul Pierce looks this year in the NBA playoffs compared with the way “The Truth” looked during the playoffs a season ago.

“Last year, I was starting to think that Paul Pierce was on the same level as Kobe,” I told my colleague. “But he’s not even close.”

That’s not a knock on Pierce. More a statement of confusion on my part. When he wants to be, Pierce is still a fierce competitor, a great all-around scorer and one of the most passionate players in the league. It just hasn’t really looked like he’s wanted to be that person so far this postseason.

I’ve seen Pierce take himself out of plays. I’ve seen him roll his eyes and seem frustrated about not being able to get loose instead of demanding the ball and attacking the opponent like he always has. I’m not sure what’s changed.

Yes, he’s a year older these days, and, at 31, Pierce isn’t exactly a spring chicken by NBA standards. But has he become that much different as a player in just one season?

Through four games in a dog fight of a series against Chicago, Pierce, who, to his credit, is averaging 23.5 points per game, has looked slow, sluggish, unsure and unmotivated.

Not having Kevin Garnett on the floor has hampered Pierce’s ability to operate, as the Bulls have been able to roll their double teams to Pierce while locking up with Ray Allen one-on-one without having to worry about Garnett hurting them.

(In doing so, though, it seems as if the Bulls have failed to account for Rajon Rondo, who has two triple-doubles in the series. But that’s another story)

It’s a different scene in Boston right now and clearly the Celtics — and Pierce — are struggling to adjust. Tied at 2 games apiece, the series is far from over and the C’s still have home court advantage. But will that be enough to get by the pesky Bulls? And if they do, will the Celtics be able to dig in for two more tough series just to get back to the Finals?

I doubt it.

Quick question to finish this off: How many current NBA players do you rank ahead of Pierce at this stage in the game?

Here’s my list, in no particular order:

Kobe (LA Lakers), LeBron (Cleveland), D-Wade (Miami), Carmelo (Denver), Brandon Roy (Portland), Chris Paul (New Orleans), Deron Williams (Utah), Kevin Durant (OKC), Dwight Howard (Orlando), Derrick Rose (Chicago), Ben Gordon (Chicago), Kevin Garnett (Boston).


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