Celtics Question of the Day: Who will you miss most from last season?

Celtics Question of the Day: Who will you miss most from last season?
September 13, 2012, 1:23 pm
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While much has been made of how Danny Ainge has brought the Boston Celtics' core group back for another run at Banner 18, that's not what the numbers tell us.

Less than half of the players on last season's team are returning, which means those lineup cards are sure to come in handy for fans during the early part of the season.

Most would agree that this new-look Celtics squad is better on paper at least, than last season's club. But with every new team filled with new players, arises new pot holes that potentially need to be filled by the departed.

Of the players that are no longer with the Celtics, the player Boston will likely miss the most is Mickael Pietrus.

MP. The Flying Frenchman. Air France.

Whatever you call him, Pietrus was a player that became an instant hit among Celtics Nation and his teammates.

"He's got a lot of intangibles," Boston's Paul Pierce told CSNNE.com. "He really bothers people defensively, knocks down open 3s. He's like that glue guy, that in-between guy that you need to win a championship. You know what your stars are going to bring, but you need guys like him."

Part of the appeal of Pietrus was at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, he was tall enough and strong enough to defend multiple perimeter positions as well as some forwards if teams went with a small-ball lineup.

Throughout his career, he had shown a knack for stepping up and knocking down big shots in big games, too. But his most endearing quality around here was that maybe more than any player with so little time around the franchise, Pietrus wanted to be a Celtic.

You hear players sing that tune whenever they come to a new city.

But with Pietrus, it was different.

When the Phoenix Suns cut him loose and allowed him to become a free agent, Pietrus' camp didn't waste any time putting the word out that he wanted to come to Boston. He didn't care about Boston's depth at his position. He didn't care that there was no way in the world he would start, or have a chance to start.

All he wanted was a chance to play for the Green Team.

And it wasn't just lip service, either. At no point was this more evident than the start of the season when he was talking about winning a championship while the C's were trying to be an above-.500 team.

So for Boston to advance to the Eastern Conference finals was an expectation, not a goal, of Pietrus.

"I know this team; I know they would be better, a lot better the second half of the season," Pietrus told CSNNE.com.

Pietrus had flashes of being the impact player Boston wanted, but those times were few and far between. Part of that had to do with a series of injuries that to some degree limited his effectiveness throughout the season.

Within days of the C's season ending, Pietrus had surgery on his right knee that was operated on earlier in July of 2011. Although the surgery was deemed a success and Pietrus spoke about how much better he felt afterwards, it was unclear to many whether he could return to the level he was at just a couple years ago.

Still, that wouldn't keep Celtics fans from clamoring for his return or from Pietrus reiterating his desire to return to Boston.

The moment that cemented his relationship with Celtics fans came following his horrific spill in Philadelphia on March 23, one in which C's coach Doc Rivers feared Pietrus had suffered a career-ending neck injury at the time. Pietrus was taken off the floor on a stretcher, and later diagnosed with a Grade-Three Concussion.

In an exclusive interview with CSNNE.com less than 24 hours after the fall, Pietrus expressed how grateful he was that the injury wasn't more serious.

"Every time I see it (replay of the fall), it just makes me cry," he said. "Because I know it could have been so much worse for me."

As much as the injury hurt, he seemed to be more pained by the fact that the Celtics lost the game.

But in typical Pietrus fashion, he was upbeat even in defeat.

"We're going to be OK," he said. "We're Celtics. We're going to be OK."

Pietrus would eventually return to the lineup, but continued to struggle to develop the kind of consistency he's used to.

And while the C's have added more talent, they still do not have a versatile wing player with the ability to stretch defenses with their shot-making, and can hold their own defensively with the better small forwards.

It looks like the role that Pietrus had last season will be divvied up between a few different players.

Jeff Green is being pegged as Paul Pierce's backup at small forward and will draw some of the defensive matchups that Pietrus had last season. And the backcourt assignments that Pietrus was called into duty for, will now likely be split between Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley (whenever Bradley's shoulders heal to the point where he can return to action).

Still, there was an infectious optimism that he brought to the team that won't be easy to replace or replicate.

"He's a great spirit," Rivers said C's coach Doc Rivers. "The guy likes basketball and he plays hard. I'll take that all day."