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Thu, 02/09/2012 - 6:41pm  

Ainge: Pierce 'one of the greats'

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge joined The Big Show Thursday to discuss the team and forward Paul Pierce. The 34-year-old Pierce surpassed Larry Bird for second in all-time points for the C's this week. 

Ainge called Pierce "one of the greats," and noted that the small forward has been underrated in his career. 

"Because he played with bad teams for most of the early part of his career -- I mean, look what he did past his prime," Ainge said. "Everyone wants to say he was MVP of the finals, but no, he outplayed LeBron [James] in Game 7 in that Cleveland series. What he did in that playoff run was spectacular, and thats what it takes to be a championship-caliber team."

The C's have won nine of their last 10 games, and Ainge said the way the team plays in the weeks leading up to next month's trade deadline will determine which moves he might make.  

"We have a long way to go," Ainge said. "I think we that we can become a better team than we [are] now, but with Paul's health, KG has been incredibly durable, we're getting really good play out of Jermaine [O'Neal], we're trying to limit his minutes. Chris Wilcox has come back healthy and given us a huge boost off the bench, and as our team is coming full, we see Mickael Pietrus and what he's been able to add to the team in the last few weeks. There's a lot of good things happening, but no question, how we play in the next few weeks will be a big factor in what we do." 

Ainge would not yet consider the Celtics as being as heavy a favorite to emerge in the East as the likes of Miami and Chicago. 

"I think that those younger teams would have to be the favorites today," he said. "They've proven it. They're playing that well. They outplayed us last year. I would say those teams right now would be the favorites." 

On the subject of losing and the way to react to a season ending, Ainge said he "can't even imagining partying after a loss," as Patriots Matt Light and Rob Gronkowski did Sunday night after losing the Super Bowl. 

For more on the Celtics, visit weei.com/celtics




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