NEW YORK Back when he was the new guy, Mickael Pietrus talked about the Boston Celtics as being a great team this year that would turn their fortunes around in the second half of the season and make a run at Banner 18.
The Celtics have quite a ways to go before that can be more than just optimistic chatter, but there's no question the C's are a lot closer to being the team Pietrus-tradamus envisions with the playoffs just a couple weeks away.
"Nobody wants to play us in the playoffs," Pietrus said. "We have to stay focused on what we have to do, what we have to do to get ready for the playoffs. We're ready. Everybody's mindset is playoffs right now and make sure everybody get into a good rhythm."
He added, "we want to make the fans happy. We want to get that Banner, for me the first time, for the guys, the second. I'm very excited to be a Celtic. I'm very excited to be here right now."
Pietrus' play will be important for the Celtics to indeed make the kind of playoff push that he and many of his teammates are looking for.
After suffering a concussion on March 23, Pietrus is gradually getting his legs back under him.
Just as important, the C's need him to re-establish some type of consistency with his perimeter game that he displayed prior to the injury.
As much as Boston will look to him to provide some tough, gritty man-to-man defense, they will also need him to help stretch defenses when he's on the floor.
Since returning from his concussion, Pietrus is averaging seven points while shooting 31.3 percent from the field and 23.8 percent on 3s. He's also hauling down 4.8 rebounds.
Prior to the concussion, he averaged 6.8 points while shooting 39.5 percent from the field and 35.5 percent on 3s. He didn't do much on the boards back then, grabbing just 2.9 per game.
Pietrus isn't worried about his struggles of late.
"I haven't played for three weeks," he said. "My rhythm is not going to come the first or second game. It's going to take time. Hopefully I'll have enough games to get ready for the playoffs. I'm very excited about it, to get more games under my legs to get wind and try to feel good before the playoffs."
The Celtics are certainly a better team with Ray Allen, who has missed the last four games due to swelling in his right ankle - the same injury that sidelined him for six games earlier. But the one positive in Allen's absence has been the opportunity it has afforded Pietrus to play more minutes and thus, get closer to regaining the shooting touch he displayed prior to missing 10 games with a Grade-3 concussion.
In the four games Pietrus has played since being cleared by the NBA and Celtics medical staff - all with Allen out with his ankle injury - Pietrus has averaged 28.3 minutes per game. Prior to his injury, he averaged 21.3 minutes played per game.
Regardless of how he's shooting the ball, Pietrus has picked up defensively where he left off which bodes well for a team that prides itself on stellar play at that end of the floor.
"To win games, you have to be able to play Celtics defense," Pietrus said. "That's why we were able to turn it around the second part of the season, because of our defense."
And if the C's continue on that path, Pietrus-tradamus' vision may just in fact become a reality.
"That's what it's all about, Banner 18," Pietrus said. 'We got a couple games left. We're going to make sure our priorities are team-first, and everything look good before playoffs."