Pierce needs no break from this

Being an All-Star never gets old

By Frank Dell'Apa
Globe Staff / February 14, 2009
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PHOENIX - When Paul Pierce meets Kobe Bryant on the basketball court, one of them usually leaves scowling. But both were grinning yesterday as Pierce pointed his camcorder at Bryant and said, "Celtics vs. Lakers, right now. That's what everybody wants to see, right?"

Bryant didn't take the bait, but he did laugh at the sight of Pierce the filmmaker, cutting in on Bryant's interview rather than cutting off his path to the basket, which will likely happen when they meet in tomorrow's NBA All-Star Game.

Thursday night, Pierce was all business in leading the Celtics to victory in Dallas. About 12 hours later, he was in a hotel in downtown Phoenix, acting as much like a fan as a celebrity.

This is Pierce's seventh All-Star appearance and, like teammates Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, he has a veteran's perspective.

"This has been a lot of fun, the funnest years of my life," Pierce said. "Knowing that I'm on the downside of my career - I'm not going to play 11 more years - these are the funnest years, right now. All-Star weekend, being on the same team [with Allen and Garnett], I definitely appreciate it. Each and every day I wake up and go to practice and appreciate the fact I can play with two Hall of Famers."

If Pierce's Celtic experience is fun and games, then this weekend is just fun. The next time Pierce confronts the rest of his fellow All-Stars, they will not be trying to make each other smile.

"I enjoy it all," Pierce said. "On the court we are definitely competitive. But we get in here, in this room, and all together, we don't even think about the game. I enjoy being around my peers and enjoy the weekend and being part of the festivities. That's what All-Star is all about, being around the guys, having fun, talking about the game, things off the court, and everybody's family. That's what All-Star break is really about.

"To be here and enjoy it like this - you're in a room, one room, with the top 24 basketball players in the world, the best athletes. It's hard to get that, the best in one room. You appreciate what all the great players bring to the game, and admire that, and there's a level of respect."

This is Pierce's first All-Star Game as an NBA champion. Before defeating the Lakers in last year's Finals, Pierce was an anomaly - a perennial Celtics All-Star who hadn't won a title.

"I didn't bring my ring," Pierce said. "The guys in the room know we won the championship last year. But that's last year and it's about who's going to do it this year, and we're in the middle of a race. You don't go out and hold your chest up high like I'm better than anybody and put it in everybody's face. There's common respect among us. You don't throw it in anybody's face, those things come back to haunt you - just enjoy the experience of being around the guys and the whole All-Star experience.

"It's always been a pleasure for me. I look at every time I make it like the first time I made it. There will be a day when I don't make it and it's going to be like hell. The older you get, the more you appreciate it."

So, Pierce was making like a tourist, hanging around the periphery, his way of unwinding after having helped the Celtics to a 44-11 record, best in the Eastern Conference. This is not much of a break, though, since the Celtics return to practice Tuesday in Salt Lake City, then play the Jazz Thursday, followed by visits to Phoenix, Denver, and the Los Angeles Clippers.

But Pierce is accustomed to going all out, all the time. If taking a vacation means fraternizing with foes, he is going to do so wholeheartedly and with more than just mental pictures.

"To experience All-Star weekend is a privilege every time. So, you can't take it for granted. That's what I never do," Pierce said. "That's why I walked around and had fun with the guys. There's going to be a day when I won't make an All-Star team. Then what? You are going to think about the memories and go back and look at this and show your kids."

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