For Paul Pierce, seeing the Celtics keeping the Big Three intact was a major step. Adding Jermaine O'Neal as a supplement for the injured Kendrick Perkins was also important. But, in truth, the Celtics have lost more than they've added this offseason, and even though he made his four-year $61 million deal official today, Pierce said it's been difficult watching the free agent carousel circle with top players passing the Celtics by.
In sifting through potential players, Pierce said the Celtics place a premium on fit more than talent, but added that at this stage in the offseason, the pool is starting to thin out.
"With a team that we have, you really don’t call out the best talent," Pierce said in a teleconference this afternoon. "You’ve got to evaluate players and understand who’s going to be the best fit for us. It’s not always about the best talent. I’ve been looking at players, definitely trying to see who’s going to help us, along with being a good fit. Right now, it’s slim pickings out there. It may have to happen via trade. But in free agency, I think a lot of guys have really jumped on where they’re going to be at. It’s difficult, but I’m sure at some point this summer I’ll put my hand in there somewhere."
Pierce heaped praise on the Miami Heat for making the biggest moves of the offseason, bringing in Chris Bosh and LeBron James to join Dwyane Wade. These are the months where paper means more than the games, and Pierce said Miami immediately becomes the favorite out of the East to meet the Lakers in the Finals.
'On paper, I probably view him as the favorite," Pierce said. "You put together a trio like that, even with the pieces they’ve all ready added – Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Zydrunas Ilgauskas – right there you talk about a team that right now they’ve got a team that’s capable of winning the championship and you know they’re only going to get better with the pieces. You’ve got to expect going into the season, when you’ve got the caliber of players that they have that they’re the favorite along with the Lakers."
More from the conference call:
On whether he ever considered leaving:
No, I never thought once about leaving the Celtics. I knew after the season I wanted this team to get better knowing we didn’t win the championship, and that’s why I opted out and took less money for this team to improve. Also I wanted to ensure that I had a chance to retire a Celtic. I thought it was a win-win situation.
On what it means to retire a Celtic:
It means everything. Just knowing that I’m going to have a place in this franchise for a long time, knowing that a lot of players really don’t have that opportunity to say they played for one team. That’s really something that’s not seen. Leaving my mark and knowing that my legacy is going to be left with one ball club. That’s big.
On his health, after battling ankle, foot and thumb injuries last season:
Every year, you anticipate a healthy year. I think the key right now is for me just getting my body back this summer. I’m actually feeling pretty good as we speak, not quite 100 percent, but I think over the next couple week, a couple more weeks of rest will probably help me out. I just anticipate getting stronger and being better. But you can’t predict what’s going to happen as far as injuries. My injuries were kind of like stuff that happens as part of the game, turned ankles, a freak accident with the knee. You can’t predict those types of things.
On digesting the Celtics Game 7 loss to the Lakers:
It’s difficult man. That’s one of the hardest losses for me that I’ve taken in my career. As much as you want to put it behind you, it’s just tough. I’ve pretty much thought about it every day. It’s been driving me crazy just knowing that we could have had a second title in the last three years. I’m using it as motivation for the next four years just knowing how close we were to winning another title. I haven’t thought about one game for so long and I know that it’s not going to erase from my head any time soon.