Boston Celtics: Mickael Pietrus
Making a surprise appearance at the Celtics' training facility in Waltham, presumably where he's rehabbing his right knee, which he had surgery on two weeks ago, Pietrus stopped to speak with reporters and made it sound like he has every intention of staying with the Celtics for future seasons.
"I feel like, for me, I feel like it's home," Pietrus said of Boston. "I feel like I'm home. My summertime is hanging out with the Celtics. And I'm excited about [the NBA draft on Thursday], too. So I've never experienced any of the draft experience, so hopefully I'll be in the Garden and cheering for my new teammates."
Pietrus added: "Obviously all the fans want me to be back on Twitter, so if it was up to the fans, I would be a five-year, 10-year Celtic, but it's not up to them, or me, too. Hopefully my agent and [director of basketball operations Danny Ainge] are going to work out a deal and [I'll be] a Celtic forever."
Pietrus and his agent, William McCandless, can begin negotiating with the Celtics on Sunday, July 1 -- the first day of the NBA's moratorium period. A deal can't technically be signed until July 11, but one can be in place by that point. Pietrus, though, understands that he's just a piece of the puzzle, fully aware that the Celtics still need to lock down the most important piece this offseason in Kevin Garnett.
Count Pietrus among those who want to see Garnett back in Boston next season.
"He's the face of the franchise. If we really want to win a championship, we've got to have KG," Pietrus said. "And, our main focus on Sunday is going to be KG, two letters. I have two numbers [1 and 8], and now I have two letters. So, you know, I'm excited about it, too, so hopefully you guys are going to see me back on Sunday. Hopefully it's going to start Sunday for me, too, so I'm just excited to be here, and just excited to think about Banner 18 all summer. So, I think I've got to go get it. So my main focus is to get Banner 18 and that's it."
Player: Mickael Pietrus
2011-12 averages: 6.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.6 apg, 21.9 mpg
2011-12 salary: $1.2 million
Season highlight: Despite making just one of his first nine shots over the first four games of the Eastern Conference finals, Pietrus chipped in 13 points (on 5-of-8 shooting, hitting a pair of 3-pointers), three rebounds, and two steals over 27 inspired minutes in Boston's Game 5 triumph in Miami. The effort landed Pietrus at the postgame podium, where he revealed some texts from former Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal helped inspire the big-game performance.
Season lowlight: On the final stop of a season-long, eight-game road trip on March 23 in Philadelphia, Pietrus got tangled with Lou Williams going strong at the basket in the second quarter and landed hard on his back, whip-lashing as he crashed to the court. Pietrus needed on-court attention from trainers and doctors before being stretchered out of the building in a scary scene. Amazingly, Pietrus suffered only a concussion and didn't even spend the night at the hospital. He did sit out the next 10 games while battling post-concussion syndromes before returning in mid-April, only to participate in the lone back-to-back-to-back of the season, and needed four more games off later in the month to let his sore right knee calm.
Final grade: B
Teacher's notes: Much like Paul Pierce with the sprained MCL in the playoffs, Pietrus labored offensively for much of the season because of his right knee (one that required surgery again after the season). Then when he finally started attacking the hoop to generate easier offense, Pietrus endured the concussion that left him somewhat skittish to go at the rim upon his return. Through it all, Pietrus' defense allowed him to battle the offensive lulls and kept him a key cog off the Boston bench, able to match up with the opposing team's best scorer when Pierce was off the floor. What's more, Pietrus utilized his size to add a decent presence on the glass, posting his best defensive rebounding percentage (13.7) since 2008. Defensively, Pietrus allowed 0.796 points per play, finishing in the 75th percentile among all NBA players (excellent for his position), according to Synergy Sports data. Opponents shot a mere 36.4 percent against him (by comparison, Pierce graded out nearly identical, allowing 0.80 points per play, the 74th percentile, as opponents shot 35.5 percent against him)
What's next?: Pietrus is an unrestricted free agent, but expressed a strong desire to return to Boston and aid another championship run. He was clearly enthralled by the history here and wants to etch his name as a part of it. The question is whether the Celtics can afford to bring him back. Pietrus almost certainly will command more than the minimum this offseason, but he might take a small discount if Boston brings back its core for another run. The biggest thing for Pietrus at the moment: Rehabbing from arthroscopic surgery on that right knee and getting himself ready for training camp.
Honor roll: Click HERE to read past report cards.
Don't agree with teacher? Just want to sound off on Pietrus' 2011-12 season? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
Allen went under the knife to remove bone spurs in his right ankle that plagued him from mid-March to the end of the season. Allen missed 15 of the final 20 games of the regular season, and the first two games of the postseason, before grinding out Boston's final 18 playoff games. He averaged 14.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists over 34 minutes per game during the regular season. Allen shot 45.3 percent from 3-point range, which ranked fourth in all of the NBA this past season and was a career-high, besting his previous career-high (44.4 percent, set last season).
Allen was noncommittal about his future and a potential return to Boston after Saturday's Game 7 loss in Miami. He said surgery was his priority.
"That's my first priority, just going into surgery sometime," said Allen. "If I can do it tomorrow, I would do it tomorrow. That's probably my main concern right now, is taking care of that. My body feels good. That's been my only issue. After that, it's hard to say."
For the second straight offseason, Pietrus underwent surgery on his right knee. The original procedure, while still a member of the Phoenix Suns, forced him to miss the first eight games of the 2011-12 season as he rehabbed. The knee flared at times during the 2011-12 season, particularly in periods of heavy activity, and seemed to affect his offensive consistency. Pietrus averaged 6.9 points and 3.1 rebounds over 21.9 minutes per game during the regular season.
Said Pietrus back on May 14: "(The knee) is bothering me a little bit, but I told you guys, I’m going to keep going. It’s something I’ll worry about getting done in the summertime. (McKeon) told me he’d take a look at it in the summer. It’s not a big problem -- it’s something that can be resolved in 15 minutes. I look forward to the summer -- after the parade."
Pietrus expressed an interest in returning to the Celtics next season and, by getting the procedure done this early in the offseason, it gives him a better chance of being completely healthy for the start of training camp.
"(The Celtics) work hard, they play hard, and every day is a part of history, so, that's what I was born for, to succeed and help history," said Pietrus. "Now it's you've got to go home and try to relax and work hard in the summertime, because I believe in my team."
Pietrus admitted during the playoffs that he will almost certainly need a second arthroscopic surgery on a right knee that flared at times during the 2011-12 campaign (this after Pietrus had a similar procedure last year before a nasty separation with the Phoenix Suns). The knee limited his consistency, particularly on the offensive end, throughout the season.
The question is whether Pietrus and the Celtics can find an agreeable contract number. After facilitating a buyout with the Suns, Pietrus inked a one-year, minimum-contract deal with the Celtics on Christmas Eve. It's likely he'll find more attractive deals on the open market -- maybe more years or more money -- but the chance for a title could help Boston retain him at a reasonable rate.
"My goal is to win a championship," said Pietrus. "I'm only 30. I look good, I'm healthy."
And Pietrus seems to put a value on accomplishing that goal with a team with the history of the Celtics.
"I want it to happen, because, with the Celtics, you've got to respect that jersey, it's all about history," he said. "But, you know, that doesn't mean I'm going somewhere else. They love me. I love them, too. So I'm going to work hard to bring them Banner 18."
Pietrus also heaped praise on his relationship with coach Doc Rivers and that might help entice him back to Boston.
"Doc, to me, is like a dad," said Pietrus. "I came here, he took me under his shoulders, treated me like his son, and that's why I was so grateful to the Celtics this year, and so grateful to the players, too. So, hopefully I'll be back under his shoulder again next year and do it again. I just want to play hard for my team, play hard for Doc, because he has respect for me, I have respect for him -- and that's what it's all about for the franchise, respect."
Go figure, Shaquille O'Neal finally helped the Boston Celtics in a postseason series against the Miami Heat. It just came a year later than expected.
The Celtics held out hope last season that O'Neal could get on the floor for the conference semifinals, but his Achilles never allowed it (and Boston was bounced in five games by the Heat). After Boston won Game 5 of this year's Eastern Conference finals over Miami on Tuesday night, Mickael Pietrus suggested O'Neal deserved some credit.
Pietrus made a pair of monster 3-pointers over the final six minutes as part of a 13-point outburst that helped the Celtics to a 94-90 triumph at American Airlines Arena. Boston leads the series, 3-2.
Invited to the postgame podium alongside Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce, Pietrus credited O'Neal for some encouraging words.
“Yesterday I got a text from Shaq that said, ‘Just keep believing and keep playing,’ so that’s what I did," Pietrus said.
Pietrus' first big shot came in what might have been the game's biggest play. With Miami ahead by six with little more than six minutes to go, Dwyane Wade scrambled to produce a monster block on Brandon Bass at the rim. The ball lofted out toward the free throw line, where Rajon Rondo not only outleaped LeBron James and Mario Chalmers, but had the presence of mind to deflect the ball to a wide-open Pietrus on the right wing.
"When Rondo took that rebound and kicked it out to me, I knew I had to take the shot and make it," Pietrus said. "That’s what I did.”
With Boston down a point with three minutes to play, Pietrus produced another key hustle play by chasing down an offensive rebound of a Ray Allen miss (kept alive by another quick-thinking Rondo poke). The ball eventually ended up in Garnett's hands and he buried a baseline jumper to push Boston back out front.
After Miami answered, Pietrus again came up big. This time a loose-ball scramble left Pietrus open in the corner and an alert Pierce swung the ball to him for a triple and an 85-83 lead with 2:11 to play.
"One thing you know about MP is he's going to shoot it," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "He's been down this road before. He played with Orlando, made big shots, had big defensive stops, was very comfortable. The thing I loved, he didn't hesitate on either (3-pointer). He actually slowed down a little bit to gather himself and took two big 3s for us."
Rivers also noted the Rondo tip-pass play.
"I thought the play Rondo made for us was absolutely sensational to get MP the one 3," Rivers said. "It was on a long rebound (of a) blocked shot. And Rondo not only saved it, but he saved it toward one of our shooters. I thought that was maybe the biggest play of the game."
Boston's path to victory in Game 2 depends a lot more on the likes of Mickael Pietrus and Greg Stiemsma. Yes, this is a roundabout way of saying the odds are stacked heavily against the Celtics. But still, hear me out.
Later in the piece, Hollinger explains why Pietrus could be a key:
Which takes us back to Game 1, and to Pietrus. Boston scored 79 points, including just 33 in the second half. That's just awful. The Celtics weren't going to win with that production no matter what they did defensively.
But there is one hope for Boston to generate high-value looks against Miami: the corner 3-pointer. ...
... The goal for the Celtics is to convert some of those drives for 2s into open corner 3-point attempts -- they need to take at least six or seven and convert at least three of them. And the best candidate to do it is Pietrus, who had only one shot attempt in Game 1 but made 41.9 percent of his corner 3s this season. He's playing on a bad wheel himself, but has the chops to hang with James and Wade defensively and, unlike Dooling and Sasha Pavlovic, can make that corner 3 consistently.
Allen, of course, is the other player who should take advantage. But even if he returns to form he isn't likely to get many more opportunities, as the Heat are still showing him tons of respect by aggressively trapping him off pin-downs.
Click HERE (Insider access required) to read the full story.
"(The knee) is bothering me a little bit, but I told you guys, I’m going to keep going," Pietrus said. "It’s something I’ll worry about getting done in the summertime. (Team doctor Brian McKeon) told me he’d take a look at it in the summer. It’s not a big problem -- it’s something that can be resolved in 15 minutes. I look forward to the summer -- after the parade."
Asked later if he would require arthroscopic surgery, the same sort of procedure he underwent last offseason on the knee and needed extended time to recover, Pietrus confirmed that's what he intends to undergo.
"They need to clean out some of the tissue in there," he said. "It is hurting a little bit, not as much as it used to. It can wait."
Pietrus also hinted that he wants to come back to Boston next season.
“These guys in here want me back, so when July 1 comes, I want to be as healthy as I can be," he said.
Pietrus suffered a Grade 3 concussion while playing against the Sixers in March, and he admitted to still being a bit skittish in attacking the basket.
“I’m glad God protected me," he said. "I’m still afraid of falling again."
Pietrus said he talked to Sixers guard Lou Williams about the play. "He’s a good guy,” Pietrus said. “He’s not a dirty player. He’s still my friend."
As for the rest of the Celtics, coach Doc Rivers said before Monday’s Game 2, "Everybody’s ready to go, which is good."
Asked about the importance of Game 2, Rivers said, "I just think each game is a beast of its own and you just focus on that game. Game 1 was the most important game, now Game 2 is. You look at the other side of it, they’re looking at they’d like to get both -- they didn’t -- so they want to get one. Then the whole cycle turns our way (when Boston travels to Philadelphia). We just have to keep playing."
What if I told you Air France had taken just one 2-point shot this entire series? Yes, it was the impressive reverse layup at the end of the third quarter of Game 5, so Mickael is shooting 100 percent from inside the arc. From downtown? A whole different story. Remember how much we all use to complain about Rasheed Wallace’s shooting from downtown? Well, Mickael shoots it nearly just as much and for the past month, he’s been worse than Rasheed ever was. In this series, Pietrus has hit just 2-of-13 3-balls, clocking a horrendous 15.4 percentage from beyond the arc, while taking just over 2.5 attempts from deep per game.
* Forsberg's thoughts: We've been saying for much of the series that the Celtics need more offensively from Pietrus and it might be time for him to attack the basket with more aggression, hoping to give himself a spark and the 3-pointers will follow. But to put Pietrus' offensive struggles in perspective, consider this: According to Synergy Sports data, he is averaging 0.5 points per possession, registering a mere 8 points on 16 possessions, which ranks him in just the 3rd percentile among all playoff participants. By comparison, Ray Allen is averaging 1.143 points per play (40 points in 35 possessions). Pietrus gets a bit of a pass because his defense has been solid (even if the stats suggest that, even there, he's still struggling at times to contain the likes of Joe Johnson).
It seems prudent to also put Keyon Dooling in the spotlight while we're discussing Pietrus' offensive struggles. While Dooling was in and out of the rotation during the regular season, he's been nothing short of spectacular in the playoffs, scoring 21 points on a mere 14 possessions, good for a best-in-the-league 1.5 points per play. Dooling is 8 of 14 (57.1 percent) from the floor overall, providing much-needed bench offense as Pietrus struggles to find his own shot.
It's been a bit of an uphill climb for Pietrus this postseason. He missed all five shots he took -- all 3-pointers -- over a combined 39 minutes in Games 1 and 2, but finally got going a bit on that end of the court in Friday's Game 3, making 2 of 3 trifectas while chipping in 6 points over 25 minutes in the overtime win.
Pietrus' biggest contribution thus far has been his versatility, particularly on the defensive end. His size has allowed him to defend many of the mix-and-match bodies the small-ball Hawks have trotted out, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the offense is just a bonus for Pietrus.
"[Defense is] why we got him," Rivers said after Friday's Game 3 triumph. "The made shots are gravy with him. He’s a terrific on-ball defender, and that’s what he does. He has the ability to deny, get up into you. Joe Johnson, there’s not many better 1-on-1 offensive players in the league. [Pietrus] had to guard him on an island a lot. And the fact that he was able to do a pretty good job allowed us not to have to help and rotate."
Allen appeared set to return after joining the team in New York and going through a morning shootaround, but his sore right ankle flared after the session, according to coach Doc Rivers. Pietrus, who had offseason right knee surgery, experienced some swelling after the Celtics endured a back-to-back-to-back this past weekend, which may have contributed to his being sent home.
"I got here and the Grim Reaper -- that’s what we call [team trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] when he comes in -- and he gave me the news [on Allen]. You just roll with it; we’ll see tomorrow," Rivers told reporters in New York.
As for Pietrus, Rivers added, "[It was] probably the three days in a row. You kind of forget that he's been out so long and we threw him right back in the fire. I probably erred there, three days in a row for him; His knee swelled up, so we sent him back home, right away."
Allen has now missed 11 of the team's last 16 games. Pietrus missed 10 games while recovering from a concussion before returning for the last four games.
BOSTON -- Celtics swingman Mickael Pietrus, sidelined for 17 days after suffering a grade III concussion last month in Philadelphia, will return to action Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks. His return comes at an ideal time as guard Ray Allen will sit out after swelling returned in his ailing right ankle.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Pietrus will play a manageable stint (5 to 10 minutes) as the team eases him back in after he was cleared to play since passing the league's mandated concussion tests this week.
"He’s been cleared, he worked out [Tuesday], and this is good for him," said Rivers. "We'll ease him in, instead of just throwing him in. That’s how we’re going to do it. It’s not like he’s going to have any practices. The sooner we can get him on the floor, the better. And all the doctors cleared him, so once I hear that, then he’s ready to play."
Asked if he's surprised how quickly his return came together considering the team had wondered recently if he'd even be back on the floor in time for the playoffs, Rivers added, "I didn’t expect to see him, maybe this year. Anything is good. I'm very surprised."
Pietrus' return is only tempered by the fact that Allen is out again. Sidelined for six games due to soreness in his right ankle, Allen returned for five games, but so did the swelling and the team is forced to wait for it to subside again.
"It just swells, I guess," said Rivers. "I don’t know. I got a call a little while ago [informing him that Allen would be out]. It is what it is."
Rivers had previously expressed concern about the potential for the injury to return, throwing Boston's rotations into flux and that's exactly what has happened. Rivers said he expects Allen on the upcoming four-game road trip that starts with a visit to Toronto on Friday night, but admitted he couldn't be certain.
"I’m just more concerned that this is the second or third time this has happened," said Rivers. "So that’s concerning."
Pietrus spoke to reporters before the game for the first time since being injured and, while purposely cryptic about his return date, he expressed great satisfaction in simply being healthy enough to play basketball again after two harrowing weeks while recovering from the severe head injury.
"I was laid up for two weeks, I couldn’t do much," said Pietrus. "I was trying to rest my brain. I could not watch TV, I could not do anything. It’s not like an injury that you hurt your knee or your ankle -- it’s your brain, so you have to get your brain right. That’s basically your life...
"My next step is to enjoy life. Life is too short. You saw me on the floor [in Philadelphia], like one minute I was healthy, the next minute I was laid down. To me, right now, it's just enjoy life. I don’t think about anything else. Just enjoy my time with my teammates. Just enjoy my time."
Rivers said the latest report from back home was that Pietrus is running with no ill effects from the head injury sustained last month in Philadelphia. Pietrus began his concussion testing last week and passed a baseline test, but still has more tests to navigate before being allowed to return to full basketball activities. Pietrus told ESPNBoston.com on Sunday that he was targeting a return in about two weeks, which would be right before the end of the regular season, and Rivers said that's a strong possibility if he continues to progress as he has lately.
"Honestly, I haven’t asked [team trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] yet, we haven’t gotten into the return date, but [Pietrus] sounds like sooner than later," said Rivers. "But that’s from Pietrus, so we have to temper all that. Listen, if we get him at all, it’s a blessing, because it didn’t look like we would, that would be a huge boost for our team."
Asked about passing the initial tests, Rivers couldn't resist a one-liner, quipping, "Like I told [Pietrus], it’s encouraging if he passes any test." Turning more serious, Rivers added, "No, that’s good. And he’s been running with no effects, either, which I think is even more important. So that’s a great sign for us."
Rivers continues to hint that, if Pietrus can get healthy and shake the rust, he'd consider thrusting him into a starting role to give the team even more options in matching up with bigger backcourts (potentially rotating him and Avery Bradley depending on the opponent, which is obviously easier based on series play in the postseason). One thing is clear: Ray Allen is locked into his bench role.
"[Getting Pietrus back] would be great for us," said Rivers. "It would give us the ability, if we wanted to, to use that different lineup, if [the opponent has a] bigger 2 or 3, you could use Pietrus, or just stay with Avery. It just makes our bench even better. I like Pietrus on the bench, too, because he can guard the 3 and he can space the floor even more with his shot -- it makes us a better basketball team.
"Look, you get your players back healthy, you’re better. So it would be nice."
"I'd like to talk to you, but I don't play for Philadelphia," joked Pietrus as he left the building.
Moments earlier, though, Pietrus spoke briefly to ESPNBoston.com about his recovery from a head injury suffered against the Sixers on March 23. In his first public comments since his hard fall left him with a grade III concussion, Pietrus said he was "feeling good, much better."
Asked when he thought he'd be able to return, he answered, "Oh, I don't know. A couple of weeks, maybe? I'm hoping so."
"I'm doing everything they ask me to," he said. "I'm taking all the tests."
What kind of tests? Did he mean the neurological testing used to measure improvement following a concussion?
"Yes, those," he said. "I'm improving every time."
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Still feeling the affects of what coach Doc Rivers said was a Grade III concussion (the most serious classification), particularly light sensitivity, Pietrus' return to the court remains in limbo, but the team was excited to have him in attendance for a blockbuster matchup with the Heat.
"It's just great to see him," said Rivers. "I don’t think anybody has seen him since the injury. It will be great to have him in the locker room. He’s texting me a lot now, which is great, and that’s terrific that he’s able to do that. Again, we haven’t even started the [concussion] tests. He’s going to be out a while."
Pressed on whether that meant the Celtics were starting to fear Pietrus might not be back this season, Rivers suggested the team is just taking it day by day to see how he improves.
"I wouldn’t be surprised if he played next week [and] I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn't see him," Rivers said. "I just don’t know. With that injury, I don’t think anyone really knows now. When I played it was easy, we just played the next day and [Rivers' former Hawks coach] Mike Fratello would yell at me for not playing well. Now I call Mike all the time and tell him, ‘I have an excuse!’ But really it’s amazing what we didn’t know back then and what we know now. I’m glad we know it now."
The Celtics expected Pietrus to simply pop in and Rivers said he was hoping to send him right back home to recover. In typical Pietrus fashion, he stayed until the end of the game to revel with his teammates after a big win over the rival Heat. Spotted leaving the locker room, he wore sunglasses and a hood to help with the light sensitivity.
Also in typical Pietrus fashion, he made his presence felt.
"MP is a live body, so every time he’s in the building, you know he is here," said teammate Keyon Dooling. "He looked good, he looked like MP. You can tell he’s still bothered by the light, stuff like that... but it’s just good to see him. Obviously, we’ve been texting him and checking up on him, but just to see him, it's quite refreshing."
Added captain Paul Pierce: "Oh, it was great, just having him back around the guys. He's been through a tough situation where we don't know when we're going to get him back. It's good to have Ray [Allen] around even though he's not playing [due to an ankle injury]. It just keeps the guys in the flow, keeps the chemistry going. It just keeps them in the mix and that's what a team is all about."
Making his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio WEEI (93.7 FM), Ainge said Pietrus is still exhibiting concussion symptoms after his scary fall last Friday in Philadelphia. He stressed that Pietrus is getting better each day and the team is in no rush to get him back on the floor.
"He still has concussion symptoms and until he's asymptomatic, no headaches and no sensitivity to light, we won't even be able to test him," Ainge said. "The league has implemented new procedures once he becomes asymptotic and he's not there yet, although he is improving each day."
Asked if he thought there was a chance that Pietrus doesn't return this season, Ainge said, "We're not thinking that way at all. There's not a whole lot we can do. If we find that information out we'll have to react and go get someone out of the D-League or something. Right now, I don't see how that would happen. He is getting better each day.
"I anticipate within the week that he'll start getting tested and get back to practice," Ainge continued. "I don't know how long that process goes either. We're not in a rush to get him back as much as we want him to come back and be healthy. I think we'll know more in the next four or five days."
Pietrus escaped serious injury in Philadelphia, but under new NBA regulations this season, he must pass a series of concussion tests in order to be cleared to return to on-court activity.
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