Paul Pierce checked in with the Mut & Merloni show Thursday, one day after leading the Celtics to an 89-70 victory over the Nets.
Pierce scored 24 points Wednesday, but he acknowledged that he still has a ways to go to get back to form after missing the first three games with a right heel injury.
"I'm coming along slowly," he said. "Remember, I'm coming off an injury, so Doc [Rivers] hasn't been one to push me too hard in my first few games. I haven't had any practice time with the crew. That's pretty much what that's been about [resting in the fourth quarter]. We've been able to get leads through three quarters and that's allowed me to rest and try to get my injury all the way healed."
Added Pierce: "I really didn't have too much of a preseason, but you can see the rust throughout the league on teams getting off to the starts they're getting off to, except for the teams that have probably been together for a while. We're still trying to find ourselves, even though it's seven games into the season. We've dealt with injuries, we've still got guys that we're trying to implement into the offense, a lot of new guys."
Rivers has made a point of stressing that the Celtics' window is closing quickly, and Pierce is well aware.
"He's been talking about that pretty much every year," Pierce said. "But look at the contracts: [Kevin Garnett] is up this year, Ray Allen's up this year. You never know what the future is going to hold. So definitely, this is a year where you have to have a little bit more of a sense of urgency, knowing that maybe this is the last time we could be on the court together. That's the way we're taking it, each and every day we come out here and play the game, and especially when we're around each other in the locker room, because you never really know what's going to happen next year."
Following are more highlights from the interview.
On Avery Bradley: We know he can play tremendous defense. I think offensively it's just about him gaining his confidence. Because in practice I'm seeing him knock down shots constantly, going to the rack strong. But he's way ahead of the curve defensively. He might be right now one of the top 10 best defenders in the NBA that people don't even know about. If he can bring his offense along to catch up with his defense, he can be one heck of a player."
On Brandon Bass: "I had a chance to play against him a lot in Orlando. You could see the flashes of the things he could do in his limited minutes. I knew he was a physical player, I knew he was really strong on the inside One thing that has surprised me is him knocking down the 15-footer. I didn't know he that good of a shooter from 15 feet and in. That's something that has surprised me. That's been a great addition. If he can continue to play with that energy and confidence. If he can be a Sixth Man Player of the Year, that just says a lot of how good our team is going to be.
On Bass' "No-Pass Bass" nickname: "As long as he keeps making them at a high rate, I have no problem with it. Other than that, he has to swing it to me."
On his extensive use of shot fakes: "I don't think I have a choice. I'm not that fast anyway. … I like to put my body into the defense. It kind of throws them off balance and it enables me to get to the hole or get my jumper."
On the improved play from the bench this season: "There's a lot more experience coming off our bench, a lot more maturity amongst them. They're coming in and they're getting the job done. They're getting to practice early. You can see that they want to win a championship."
On the Heat: "They've gained a lot of confidence in what they've done within a year, going to the finals and having a chance to win a championship, and it's only going to bring more confidence to two determined players. great players always try to find a way. Hopefully, we can just extend that window for them one more year."
On Shaquille O'Neal joining TNT: "He has more nicknames than I've ever seen in the history of sport. He's a great addition. Maybe they'll get into a tussle and bring up the ratings. … I would like to see a rematch of the Charles Barkley-Shaquille O'Neal fight."
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