MIAMI Before the Boston Celtics actually hit the floor, you'll often find Paul Pierce jumping rope or doing some other stretching-related exercise to stay loose.
While it may seem a bit odd to see him doing side-to-side stepping with an elastic band wrapped around the outside of both knees, Pierce is doing it for one reason - he doesn't have a choice.
"This is what it takes for me to come out here," he told CSNNE.com prior to facing Miami. "If I don't do that, I can't do this" as he promptly raises up and makes a jump-shot.
Pierce has been playing at a high level most of this season, something he attributes to working diligently on making sure his body is in shape to absorb the physical pounding it takes on a nightly basis.
"It's been a hard year for everybody, all teams, lots of games," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "Guys that you thought would never miss a game, the Derrick Rose's of the world, even (Dwyane) Wade it's just one of those years."
Making Pierce's durability even more surprising is that he began the season so banged up, he was forced to miss the first three games with a right heel injury. And upon his return, it was clear that his conditioning was not where it needed to be on top of him not being in good basketball shape.
"It's tough to play catch-up in our league, and he's done a great job of that," Rivers said.
Early in the season, Rivers recalls seeing Pierce running on the treadmill an hour before tip-off, "and knowing he may struggle in the game, but it would get him right for the stretch and that's what he's done," Rivers said.