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Bob Lobel: Why Can’t We Get Players Like Paul Pierce?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Paul Pierce - the greatest?

Trying to make a case for Paul Pierce and his legacy with the Boston Celtics is not an easy task. The game is so different that even Naismith would have trouble recognizing his creation. When all is said and done, getting any agreement on this is not really possible. It becomes a guessing game at best.

However, some trained eyes are better than others. Bob Ryan, Jackie MacMullen, and Steve Bulpett would be able to agree on something that might make Pierce fans happy but that’s too easy.

But what about a fan that has followed the game since the 50’s like Johnny Miller? Miller, a sports reporter known by one and all as a fearless questioner of the status quo, has his own list. Pierce barely cracks the top ten. 

I’m going with Johnny here because I agree with him. 

It goes like this: Russell, Bird, Havlicek, Cousy, McHale, Cowens, Sam Jones, Heinson, and Sharman. Then, add Ramsey/Pierce. Harsh, I know, especially since Pierce was/is such a terrific scorer. There is no doubt he can score. Nothing productive would come from listing the deficiencies keeping him out of the top 10. Let’s just put his number up with the others, celebrate his time here, and move on. 

To think of it, what other numbers could go there? Danny Ainge? Maybe Rondo’s number will get hoisted one day in the far-off future.

Surely not Garnett, who has a punk vocabulary filled with f bombs for all fans within earshot. Of course, in reality, that won’t keep his number out of the rafters. What will keep him out will be the fact that he hasn’t been good enough for a long enough time. How about Ray Allen? He’s basically in the same boat as Garnett regarding the longevity issue, albeit with so much more class. 

Now let’s get back to Rajon, the enigma. When Danny “Angel” (ML Carr’s nickname for him) calls and asks me what he should do, I’ll tell you what I would tell him: “Continue to do what you have been trying to do, trade him.” 

I know that realistically I won’t be hearing from Ainge, but I want to go back to a moment with a former GM- Rick Pitino. We all know that “Pitino” is almost a swear word in these parts, but to his credit he did have two of the very best quotes in Boston sports lore. The first of the two is when he called listeners to local sport talk shows the “fellowship of the miserable.” The second slam dunk quote came after a particular frustrating game when he came up with the now infamous, “Larry Bird is not walking through that door. Kevin McHale is not walking through that door. Robert Parish is not walking through that door.” Both quotes are living large to this day. Brilliant! Why can’t we get players like that? 

Rick Pitino Factor

I bring up Pitino because of a little known meeting at the Palm restaurant. Yours truly and Alan Miller (now of Boston.com) were hosts and producers of the Rick Pitino show. Others at this meeting were invited exclusively through Pitino. Guests were long time friend Ken Ford (aka Jersey Red), accompanied by his driver and trainer, also some players were in attendance. Suddenly, those present were asked to vote on whether Pitino should walk away from his contract with the Celtics, leaving over 20 million on the table in the process. 

The pressure was obviously mounting, and Pitino knew it wasn’t going to get better, only worse. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. Although it was flattering to be asked about such a momentous decision, everyone in that room had nothing but sympathy for what he was going through. Most of us said it was time to go. I said something stupid like “that’s why they have the Acela train, so you can get out of town as fast as you can.” 

Pitino stayed 5 more days as Head Coach and GM, before resigning. As I previously mentioned, he left a lot of money on the table. 

So if Pitino called, why wouldn’t Ainge? Well, let’s just say I’m not waiting by the phone. I liked Pitino a lot, maybe one of the few who did. By his own admission he was too impatient after his coronation as the new Celtic leader, much too impatient. 

Jumping back to today, can we now admit the Celtics are cooked? They have fallen to the 4th ranked team in a 4 team market with teams 1 through 3’s argument only getting stronger as the days go by. It’s difficult to put the Bruins at 3 because of their spring awakening less than a year ago. It was perhaps the most gripping of all the championships this town has won over this past decade. But, for now at least, they are still looking up at the Patriots and Red Sox. 

Now this is where it gets interesting and where a true argument can be had. While Pats Nation may object, the rule of thumb in the Boston Sports Universe is Red Sox first and Patriots a close second. I believe this is still the truth today. However, the Patriots’ first Super Bowl win was the highlight moment of a long and mediocre career. In contrast, the Pats are also responsible worst moment too, losing the super bowl in Arizona. This came barely ahead of being told they didn’t want me on the air anymore… a story for another time!


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