Labor strife on mind
Pierce to partake in negotiating
WASHINGTON — Paul Pierce’s contract status is secure. Last summer, the Celtic great opted out of the final year of his deal and agreed to a four-year extension through 2014.
So his personal interest in a new collective bargaining agreement between NBA players and owners could be interpreted as moderate at best.
But not so. Pierce said he plans to participate in a negotiating session at All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, as he did last year in Dallas.
Although most of his career is behind him, Pierce said he has been closely following labor talks, which have been polite but produced little. The current CBA expires June 30 and NBA owners are threatening a lockout unless salaries are reduced; some owners have suggested a hard salary cap, which could cause a stalemate.
“I’ve been keeping up with it and if we have a meeting, I probably will participate,’’ he said before the Celtics’ 85-83 loss to the Washington Wizards. “I’m one of the older players. I’m probably one of the ambassadors of the league moving forward. I basically just want to see the league in good hands when I’m all done. That’s basically my reasoning. Even though the other [younger] guys moving forward are going to be around a lot longer.’’
During the 1998 negotiations, there was a perception that many of the veteran players who participated agreed to a less-advantageous deal for players because they wanted to return to the courts and end the lockout, perhaps a shortsighted view for incoming players. Pierce insists the veterans will have the best interests of the younger players at heart.
Defending his 3? Pierce, 33, said he is leaning toward defending his 3-point shootout title at All-Star Weekend. Pierce entered the contest last season to prove to naysayers that he was a solid long-range shooter. And to further support his case is his career-best 42.7 percent shooting clip this season from beyond the arc.
“I’m thinking about it,’’ he said with a smile. “I guess I’ve got to represent back home.’’
Teammate Ray Allen said Pierce has improved immensely on his long-range shooting. Pierce hit 2 of 4 3-pointers last night.
“I think he’s more patient with his offense,’’ said Allen, who also hit two 3-pointers to move to 25 behind Reggie Miller for career 3-pointers.
“He kind of picks and chooses when to attack. So the one thing I try to focus on when I’m on the floor is I try to get him easier shots . . . Paul is one of those guys while he can score anywhere. He’s been that way his whole career. But now he’s piecing the game together. Very simple. Very efficient.
While the participants for the slam dunk contest have been announced, the NBA has yet to announce competitors for the 3-point shooting, shooting stars, or the skills contests. Rajon Rondo has expressed interest in returning to the skills competition after playing H.O.R.S.E. against Kevin Durant last year.
Shaq not bad off Shaquille O’Neal did not make the trip because of a sore right hip and Semih Erden made his fifth start of the season and grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds.
Coach Doc Rivers said before the game that if O’Neal’s status had been serious, he would have been informed by trainer Ed Lacerte.
“We’ll wait until we come back,’’ Rivers said. “I don’t think it’s anything serious, but at 38 [years old], who knows? He’s up there. We anticipated this. Obviously we assumed we’d have him or [Jermaine O’Neal] for this and not having them both with [Kendrick Perkins] out, it hurts our team. There’s no doubt about it. We just have to be a little more creative than we want to be.’’
The Celtics don’t play again until Tuesday, giving O’Neal three days to rest.
Health updates Marquis Daniels said he felt no additional discomfort from the left ankle he sprained in Wednesday’s Detroit victory. Daniels played 26 minutes in Friday’s win over the Utah Jazz, and 25 more last night. “I wasn’t worried,’’ he said. “I just tweaked it.’’ . . . Perkins maintains that he’s two weeks away from returning to the lineup after right ACL surgery. Perkins wants to come back Feb. 4 against the Dallas Mavericks . . . Delonte West made the trip and has had the cast on his surgically repaired right wrist removed. He is projected to return after the All-Star break . . . The Wizards signed guard Mustafa Shakur to a 10-day contract because of a left wrist injury to Kirk Hinrich. He finished with 5 points, 5 assists, and 2 blocks in 10 minutes . . . With just four rebounds last night, Kevin Garnett has seven in his last 60 minutes of action and is averaging just 5.2 since his return from a strained right calf.