Paul Pierce averaged 25 points per game for the 2006-07 Boston Celtics, who won 24 games. The following season, Pierce’s scoring production fell to 19.6 points. Fortunately, he had a championship banner nearby to mop up any tears that drop may have caused.
The longtime Celtics star understands better than most the sacrifices necessary to win an NBA title. When Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen arrived in the summer of 2007, Pierce knew his individual stats would suffer. The present-day Celtics will face similar circumstances this season as they try to find room on the court for three All-Stars, two of the brightest young talents in the league, and a deep bench.
“When you have that type of talent, they’re going to have to learn to sacrifice,” Pierce said. “Not everybody is going to be able to accomplish maybe the individual goals they want to accomplish, but the team’s greater goal should be all that matters.”
Pierce, who now works as an ESPN analyst, spoke Friday morning in Brookline, where he was partnering with Staples to support local students and teachers as they head back to school. Pierce noted there are some extraordinary talents on Boston’s roster, but those talents probably won’t be on full display every game this season.
“You have to sacrifice if you are truly committed to trying to win a championship,” he said. “They’re going to win a lot of games, but unless they sacrifice — because we know they’re going to be better than probably what their numbers show — if they can sacrifice they’ll win a championship this year. Because the talent is definitely there.”
Pierce said that although Brad Stevens is a great coach who helps players understand their roles and maximizes their abilities, the leaders in the locker room have to remove ego and jealousy from the equation in order to chase a title.
One of those leaders, Kyrie Irving, has the option to opt out of his deal after next season. However, Pierce doesn’t think the point guard’s uncertain contract status will affect Irving or the locker room.
“Kyrie is a competitor,” he said. “He’s won a championship. He knows — if they win again he’ll get whatever contract he wants. He’s an extraordinary talent and he knows that winning trumps everything. If you win, everybody wins.
“They have the talent, they have the coaching, what else is left? They’ve been to the Eastern Conference finals twice in a row.
“ The next step is getting to the Finals and eventually winning a championship.”