1. The Truth — Watching Paul Pierce shoot the ball over the last two games was a reminder of how lucky we’ve been as Celtics fans to witness one of the greatest scorers of this generation play his entire career in green. Since 1998, Pierce has been the one constant throughout the ebbs and flows of the franchise’s tide. Pierce’s remarkable durability and willful desire to take (and often make) the biggest shots have created a flood of memories. Still crazy to think of how lucky we were he ended up 10th in that June, 1998 draft. In case you need reminding, here are the nine players who were taken ahead of him: Michael Olowakandi, Mike Bibby, Raef LaFrentz, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Robert Traylor, Jason Williams, Larry Hughes, and Dirk Nowitzki. In Pierce’s last two games, he’s shot 26 of 39 from the field, 9 of 14 from deep, scored 75 points, collected 20 rebounds, dished out 10 assists, grabbed six steals, and generally, played his tuchus off. Without Pierce’s stability, it might be harder to believe this team can turn it around once again. This flash of the Old Truth is reassuring, even if they didn’t pull of the win against the gritty Bucks on Friday.
2. The Jet Has Turned Into a Puddle Jumper — If you’ve never heard the expression, a “puddle jumper” is a very small plane, one that takes trips of up to two hours. They exist throughout the world, but my experience on them includes flying from Pittsburgh to Parkersburg, West Virgina, a trip that usually takes about 45 minutes, but includes a route along the Ohio River which can often mean ugly winter storms, or summer thunderstorms. Puddle jumpers are not smooth rides. They are airplanes, but just barely. In December, Jason Terry’s nickname “The Jet” doesn’t seem accurate. Thus, he is “The Puddle Jumper” when he shoots 1 of 15. In December, Terry is shooting 34.6%. During the 10-game stretch, Terry has had two above average shooting games, three decent games, and five poor to awful shooting performances (each at 33% or less) including these three box-score-stinkers: (5 of 17 vs Milwaukee on 12/1; 1 of 12 vs Philadelphia on 12/7; and 1 of 15 vs Milwaukee on 12/21). In the 13 Celtics wins, Terry’s shooting percentage is 52.6; in the 13 losses, he sits at 34.5. Terry’s home/road splits are also severe. At home, he’s hitting 50% of his shots, while on the road he’s at 35.2%. Hopefully, when Bradley reclaims the starting 2-guard spot, Terry gets more comfortable in his familiar bench role.
3. Welcome the Varnado — With the announcement that Chris Wilcox is sidelined for a month with a thumb injury, Yahoo Sports is reporting the Celtics have signed D-League shot-blocking-leader Jarvis Varnado. Though it remains to be seen how many of the D-League shots being blocked are actual shots (Celtics big man project Fab Melo just blocked 14 in one game on Saturday), Varnado, has had some European seasoning and has the added benefit of wanting badly to show the Miami Heat what a mistake they made in cutting him this past October. I also must humbly brag that we at The Darko Index made our best efforts to persuade Danny Ainge in the hopes that the Celtics would make this move, after watching Jason Collins play 23 minutes against Cleveland on Wednesday night. Welcome to the green, Varnado!
4. Games with Old Friends — It’s always great to make the yearly pilgrimage to the Garden. To have a chance to see a couple of games with Eric, Jared, and Steve means a lot to a BayArea-residing Celtics fan. Getting those season tickets for all ten of us, back in 2007 after the Garnett trade, was well worth it.
Up next: a four-game road-trip starting on 12/25 @ Brooklyn (12pm game, look-out for first-half sleepy-eyed turnovers); followed by a stop to Clipper-land on Thu, 12/27 (1030EST on TNT); then the surprising Warriors on Sat, 12/29, before concluding the calender year in Sacramento on Sun, 12/30. We can hope for a 2-2 trip, with Brooklyn and Sacramento as our best chances for some much-needed road wins. A 3-1 trip would go a long way toward boosting the C’s confidence.
Mercifully, Avery Bradley is scheduled to return the following Wednesday (1/2) at home against the stifling Memphis Grizzlies.
Side note: Larry Sanders is a force of nature. Second in the NBA in blocked shots this year, Sanders wreaked havoc on the psyches of Celtics on Friday night. Sanders causes a disease known as “fear of penetration,” which Rondo contracted early in the game and couldn’t shake until the final buzzer.