WALTHAM -- 15 years into his career, Paul Pierce is still asked about feeling underrated in the league in which he currently ranks fifth in scoring among all active players and boasts an NBA championship with an accompanying Finals MVP award.
"That's how it's been my whole career," Pierce said following Boston Celtics practice on Sunday. "I was the tenth pick, remember? Projected number two. They forgot then. That's how I like it."
Pierce has used his tenth selection in the 1998 NBA Draft as motivation every season. He has always taken pleasure in proving the skeptics and naysayers wrong. Now at 34 years old (he turns 35 in October), he looks forward to another season of proving he still has many more games left to play.
Last season Pierce was sidelined by numerous injuries and held back on the court by a sprained MCL in his left knee during the playoffs. His production dropped from 19.4 points (44.3 FG), 5.2 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game during the regular season to 18.0 points (34.4 FG), 4.4 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Celtics will benefit from having their captain feeling "one hundred percent" healthy on the court. They appreciate the contributions of Pierce, the Celtics second leading scorer in team history.
"He helps everyone, not just me," said point guard Rajon Rondo. "Obviously he's one of our best, if not the best, shooters on the team. He even makes plays. I don't have to make any plays for Paul. He can make his own plays, but I want to make his job a lot easier so I try to make plays for him as well."
Pierce looks to bring more consistent production each game. It is a level of accountability he holds very high for himself in his role with the Celtics.
"I'm a veteran leader," he said. "I've sot to be consistent in everything that I do on the court, off the court, my work ethic, and just continue to be me. My role is just as important as everyone else. I'm the captain of this ball club and they expect big things out of me."