Boston Herald: In appreciation of the improvements Paul Pierce has made in his game and his attitude, Doc Rivers is looking to add to his 5,360 regular-season and playoff career assists.
The Celtics coach said yesterday he will work the phones to promote Pierce’s candidacy for the U.S. national team.
Rivers would like to see that kind of play rewarded with a berth on the U.S. team as it works toward the next Olympics, and he’s ready to boost his phone bill to do it.
“I’ve got a great relationship with most guys out there on the committee,” Rivers said. “But at the end of the day, Paul just has to keep doing what he’s doing. Your game will talk for itself. As much as I’m going to make the calls, what he’s doing will say the most for him.
“Paul has proven that he’s a different player, a different guy. I mean, he’s been phenomenal and I think he will earn it. If he doesn’t earn it, then that will be a shame. But I do think that he will be on. . . . your play and your actions always speak, and I think Paul’s play and actions are starting to speak pretty loudly around the league.”
Rivers’ actions here are speaking to Pierce. Told yesterday morning that his coach was planning to campaign for him, Pierce said, “I definitely appreciate that. I think coach has a big influence around the league. He’s the one that sees me the most, and the coaches pretty much talk to each other all the time. To hear that he wants to do that for me, that’s big.
This is what he had to say nearly a month ago.
Boston Herald: Charged with returning USA basketball to its glory days, Jerry Colangelo hopes to name a core group of five to six players to the team by the new year. While it's unlikely Paul Pierce will be among that number, the Celtics captain has previously stated he would like to be considered.
''I think it would be a great honor to be able to go back once again and represent the USA and have a chance to win a gold medal," Pierce added yesterday before the Celtics beat the Knicks, 102-99. ''Regardless of what happened on the US team when I played a few years ago, I'm a lot older, a lot more mature, and I'll be willing to accept my role, whatever that may be."
Executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge supports Pierce in his desire to play for Team USA. Ainge plans to talk with Colangelo about putting Pierce on the national team destined for the 2008 Olympics. Colangelo and Ainge have a strong relationship dating to the days Ainge played and coached in Phoenix.
''Absolutely, I will do that," said Ainge. ''I will never do it for players just because they're my players. If I feel they're worthy of something and I feel they deserve something, I will be the first one to be their campaign manager. At this stage, I feel what Paul has done in his career, the maturing that he's gone through, his age, and his experience [make him a good candidate]. I think Paul would like a second crack at it. I believe he's ready to play with that group of guys."
Ainge has no worries about the three-year commitment required of NBA players, calling Pierce a ''basketball junkie" who won't wear down mentally or physically. A willingness to make that commitment could help the Pierce candidacy.
''That's a big commitment that hasn't been set upon us before when playing for USA teams, and guys are going to take that into consideration," said Pierce, who had 28 points yesterday. ''Some guys are going to be injured, some guys are going to be coming up on contract years, so a lot of things play into that when you make that three-year commitment.
''There's definitely been an adjustment knowing that you've got a three-year commitment, knowing that Team USA struggled the last time out. So they really want to put extra emphasis on making sure things go right this time around."