Will anyone remember The Truth? - Gabe Kahn
As just about everyone in North America is probably aware, Pierce was intentionally fouled by Jamaal Tinsley with 12.7 seconds left in game 6, with the Celtics leading 84-83. Because Tinsley hit Pierce in the mouth, the Celtics' captain angrily swatted Tinsley's hand away and the Pacers' point guard dramatically (and exaggeratedly) fell to the ground. After a conference with his fellow referees, Steve Javie called a technical foul on Pierce, his second of the game, resulting in an automatic ejection and a Reggie Miller game-tying free throw. Because Pierce could no longer shoot the freebie, Indiana was free to choose anyone off the Celtics' bench to shoot and confidently selected 20-year-old Kendrick Perkins, who promptly missed them both. By some miracle, the Celtics were able to overcome all this adversity and pull out the game in overtime without their star.
Back to Pierce and his writing skills. The Truth ought to be penning numerous “thank you” notes and letters expressing his humility and regret over what happened in that never-ending and utterly ridiculous game.
He should have started his first one to Perkins while the Celtics were still on the team plane on the way back to Boston. Poor Perk, who, after not playing a lick all night, suddenly found himself front and center taking the biggest two shots of his life. The big kid from Texas obviously wasn't ready for that type of pressure and certainly does not deserve any blame for missing the shots, either. If any of you are criticizing him, just imagine if you were put in that position, after such a short time in the league and at that age. In a few years, yes, we will expect him to convert those opportunities. As for right now, it was simply an unfair situation for him to have been in at all, and he was in it because of the supposed team leader's breakdown.
Next, Pierce should send a note Antoine Walker's way for bailing out Pierce in the OT. As always, Walker nearly killed the Celtics with his lovin' (how many times did he miss players on the break?!), but in the end, it was his shoulders that carried the Celtics to victory in the extra session. Although I don't think any three pointer by Walker is ever really justified (career 3-pt%: 32.6%), his trey put the C's ahead for good and bailed his team out of another botched possession. Of course, Walker should probably also thank Pierce for taking the spotlight away from some of his ineffectiveness in this series, so if Paul wants to write a few more before handing this one to ‘Toine, it would probably be understandable.
To save time, Pierce can get away with writing a group thank-you to some of his other teammates as well. If Gary Payton hadn't played his solid, tough defense on Reggie Miller (3-10 shooting) all night, the Green and White wouldn't have lived to tell about this saga, anyway. If Ricky Davis hadn't emerged as the only Celtic able to score in the early going, the game would have been a blowout. And if Al Jefferson hadn't come in when Raef LaFrentz was in foul trouble, played tough and often effective defense on Jermaine O'Neal and grabbed 14 rebounds, the Celtics would have been outrebounded by four instead winning the battle of the boards by ten. That almost certainly would have led to defeat, and Pierce owes those guys his utmost appreciation for not allowing that to happen. (He should also give Coach Doc Rivers' a knowing wink for realizing that the smartest thing he could do was to leave the apathetic Mark Blount's keister on the pine, by the way).
Why does Pierce need to give all those guys hugs usually reserved only for moms and unusually attractive women? Because if the Celtics lose that game and get knocked out of the playoffs, Pierce becomes the guy who made his team lose, not because of his play, but because he resembled something of a horse's behind.
Check this out: Ron Artest asked for a month off so he could promote an album, and he was then involved with some scuffle in a game against the Pistons that, if I recall correctly, got him in a bit of hot water. Chris Webber called a timeout he didn't have and his team lost the NCAA championship. Latrell Sprewell attacked his coach and was suspended for almost an entire year. Ray Finkle missed the game winning field goal in the Super Bowl (had to throw that in there). Dennis Rodman took off his shoes and refused to re-enter a pivotal playoff game while with the Spurs.
What do all of these characters have in common, besides their obvious WTF's? Each of them, save maybe Finkle, was or is an excellent player. Thing is, though, almost all that people will remember about their distinguished careers when it's all said and done is that when the chips were all on the table, they didn't just mess up; they imploded. Pierce does not want to be associated with this bunch.
Don't believe this incident could have had that affect on Pierce? Bill Buckner is a shining example of one moment in time standing out amongst many, many more admirable ones. Better yet, Pierce can just go over and talk to his teammate Davis. As everyone knows, Ricky purposely shot at his own basket while playing with the Cavaliers a few years ago in a futile attempt to record his first triple-double. From that incident alone, Davis still cannot shed his bad boy image and it most definitely caused him to miss out on even getting close to winning the Sixth Man of the Year award even though he led most of the other candidates in virtually every statistical category.
The scary thing is, even though Boston escaped game 6 and still could win the series, Pierce may not be able to remove this black mark from his record. In his lone full season without Michael Jordan in Chicago (last year doesn't count), Scottie Pippen had his best overall year and was considered for MVP. The most memorable part of that entire season, though, is when Pippen took himself out of a playoff game in the closing seconds because Coach Phil Jackson elected to have Toni Kukoc take the final shot. Pippen's character will always be questioned based on that one decision. And the remarkable thing is that the Bulls ended up winning the game.
At practice on Friday, Pierce was unwilling to discuss the his actions, saying "I'm very happy we [were] able to come out with a win. It is what it is, time to move on, now Game 7. That's all that's on my mind right now." My money says his silence regarding the play is related to the fact that he's already had to pour his heart out to his teammates in his letters. Still, he has one more note he should write. That one should be an apology addressed to himself, Paul Pierce--because he may have forever tarnished his name, reputation and his legacy to the game.