Pietrus keeps mood light, could be X-factor for C's

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Pietrus keeps mood light, could be X-factor for C's

BOSTON It's rare to find Mickael Pietrus without a smile.

Shooting slump. Turnover. Concussion.

It doesn't matter.

He's one of those the glass-is-always-half-full kind of people.

Having someone provide what seems to be a never-ending supply of positivity is a good thing for the Boston Celtics.

But it is his talent more than anything else, that has both Pietrus and the C's excited about the postseason.

While much of the focus heading into their first round series against Atlanta will focus on the Big Four, there's always a player or two that emerges as an X-factor.

Pietrus is that kind of player.

He is a role player, for sure. But at times, that role has morphed from that of a back-up, to one in which he's taking center stage in leading his team to victory.

The C's saw that first-hand in 2009 when he played with Orlando and played a huge role in knocking off the C's in the playoffs.

Pietrus is hoping to make a similar impact as a member of the Celtics now.

"My role is to win championships," said Pietrus, who signed with the Celtics shortly after being waived by Phoenix. "That's why I'm here for, to win championship. That's why they call it the Celtics. They want to win championships. I want them to have one this year with me, so I'm very excited."

From the time he arrived in Boston, back when the Celtics were treading water as a .500 team, he talked of winning a title.

It never bothered him when folks thought he was just plain cuckoo for having such lofty goals for a team that no one was sure would even get to the playoffs at that point, let alone compete for a title.

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

Indeed, the Celtics have been one of the NBA's top teams after the all-star break with Pietrus' play being instrumental in that success.

However, a concussion at Philadelphia on March 23 sidelined him for 11 games.

While disappointed that he would have to miss games, Pierce told CSNNE.com the next day that he felt fortunate that it was just a concussion and not a career-ending injury. Replays showed that on the play, Pietrus landed squarely on the base of his neck.

"Every time I see it, it just makes me cry," Pietrus told CSNNE.com shortly after the injury. "Because I know it could have been so much worse for me."

And moments later, in that seemingly always-cheerful voice, Pietrus said, "So, how are you doing?"

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has talked all season about as much as Pietrus has meant to the Celtics in terms of wins and losses, he has been just as valuable inside the locker room.

One moment, he's cracking jokes on teammates, the next he's cracking down defensively on an opposing perimeter player.

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

So will his teammates, some of whom liken his role with this C's team similar to the role played by James Posey during the Celtics' 2008 title run.

"He's got a lot of intangibles," C'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."

When the playoffs arrive, there's no telling what it will take for the Celtics to win a game, let alone a series.

They will need players to seemingly come out of nowhere with big games every now and then.

Pietrus has the ability to do that, when called upon.

"Mickael, he brings a love for the game and a consistent energy. That's crucial," said Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations. "He's also confident. He's not afraid of the big moment. That's good to have a guy like that on your bench, who's not afraid to come in and take the shot when it's there and not worry about the consequences, but just keep playing. Sometimes in playoff games, they get ugly, 36 percent shooting and you could still win if you stay involved in the game. That's what I like about him. He could miss four (shots) in a row, but he's taking the next one. In that game, that might be huge."

And while he's dealing with some soreness in his surgically repaired right knee, Pietrus says it won't have an affect on him gearing up for his first playoff run with the Celtics.

"In this locker (room)," Pietrus says, "they say, pain or regrets? I will rather get the pain."

Blakely: Thomas isn't a starter, but new All-Star voting is an improvement

Blakely: Thomas isn't a starter, but new All-Star voting is an improvement

BOSTON – There’s certainly some disappointment among Celtics Nation that Isaiah Thomas just missed out on being an All-Star starter in the East.

But one thing we can certainly see with the new voting system … it works way better than the old way of choosing starters.

This was the first year that the NBA decided to allow current NBA players as well as a select panel of media choose who the starting five in the Eastern and Western Conferences would be.

The fan vote would count for 50 percent while media and players would each represent 25 percent of the final tally.

From there, the players would receive a fan ranking, a media ranking and a player ranking.

Because of the aforementioned breakdown – fans count for 50 percent while media and players represent 25 percent of the vote – the fan ranking would be counted twice while the media and player rankings would be counted once.

Let’s look at Isaiah Thomas’ situation which ultimately came down to him and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan for the final starting spot in the backcourt.

Thomas was fourth in the fan voting, second in the player voting and first among guards in the media voting. So when you add the fan voting (4 *2) + player voting (2 *1) + media voting (1*1), you get a total of 11 which is then divided by 4 to arrive at a score of 2.75.

Now let’s look at DeRozan.

He was third in the fan voting, third in the player ranking and second in the media voting among guards. So his score when you add the fan voting (3*2) + player voting (3*1) + media voting (2*1), you get a total of 11 which when divided by 4 brings you to a score of 2.75 – same as Thomas.

The tiebreaker was the fan vote which meant DeRozan and not Thomas, would get the starting nod in next month’s All-Star game.

As much as it may suck that Thomas lost out because of this system, he would not have had a shot at being a starter under the old system in which the fans were the ones to pick starters.

In fact, it would have been Chicago’s Dwyane Wade in the starting lineup under the old system.

No disrespect to D-Wade, but he has not had an All-Star worthy season. And had the old system been in place, he would be an all-star and thus take up a roster spot of another player who frankly, is more deserving.

And if you take a glance out West, they too would have had a starter who has not had an All-Star caliber season.

Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia finished second in the voting among Western Conference forwards, fueled in large part to his home country, Georgia, voting early and often for him. Because of the media and player voting, Pachulia wound up sixth among Western Conference big men which is still too high when you consider some of the players behind him – Memphis’ Marc Gasol, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge and Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan – who are all having better seasons.

While no one would say this new system is perfect, considering how this year’s voting would have panned out under the old rules, this change by the league is a good one that should stick around.

NOTE: I was among the media panelists selected by the NBA to vote for this year’s All-Star starters. My selections in the East were Cleveland’s LeBron James, Kevin Love and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo in the frontcourt with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Boston’s Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt. My Western Conference selections were Kevin Durant of Golden State, Anthony Davis of New Orleans and Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio in the frontcourt, with Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in the backcourt.