- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Celtics forwards Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.Celtics coach Doc Rivers preached patience as captain Paul Pierce worked himself back into game shape after missing all of training camp and the team's first three games of the season with a heel injury. Even as he still seeks familiar consistency with his jump shot, Pierce has elevated other areas of his game, particularly his playmaking skills in the absence of Rajon Rondo, and is filling up the stat sheet in recent games.
Just glance at Pierce's stat line over Boston's last five contests: 19.4 points, 5 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.2 steals over 33.8 minuts per game. His shot is starting to fall more regularly and Pierce is shooting 47.1 percent from the floor during that five-game span.
Allow Kevin Garnett to explain.
"You know what? Throughout this short season, man, it's funny how people expect you to start off perfect, and it's really a testament to Paul, and who he is, and what people know him to be," said Garnett. "You have no idea how hard it is to get ready for an NBA season -- to prepare, drills, sand hills, sand dunes, lines, running, weights, beach, 4:30 [a.m.] workouts, two-a-days [but] it still is not an NBA game. You can do all that stuff, you can do all the conditioning and stuff, and all the shooting that you want. It's still not an NBA game.
"And I think what you all saw, he was beat up from [a heel] injury, he was playing through it, and people wrote him off really early, which was funny. But it gave some clarity as to how people see him, and that's because they expect the perfection they've known him to be. I think he's in a rhythm now. He's never shy of confidence. He's the Truth, and I just don't think that anybody, as a human being, is perfect, and that includes him. But it's good to see him playing good basketball. He's always been our leader since I've been here, and he will always be our leader. So, that's what it is."
Pierce said he feels like he's turning a corner after Monday's win over Orlando.
"I think I'm finally starting to get into a good rhythm, understanding where my shots are coming to come from in the offense, when to be aggressive, when to pass the ball," he said. "This is what I expected. I put a lot of work in the gym, and what people don't expect is when you don't have the time and when you're out for so long, people expect you to just come out there, step on the court, and be amazing. That's really not how it works. There's a process to being a great player out there. You have to put in the time, you have to put in the work, and I wasn't able to do that over a three-week period, and so I'm coming along a little slower than normally, but it's coming."
11dKevin Pelton and Chad Ford