Monday, February 15, 2010 at 8:37AM
By Alec Radzikowski, TheSportsHatch.com Managing Editor
During last Saturday night's skill competition and right before Paul Pierce was ready to kick off the 3-point contest, outspoken TNT analyst Charles Barkley scoffed at the idea of mentioning Paul Pierce and Larry Bird in the same sentence.
It all started because Pierce left his warmup jersey on, just as Bird did when he won the 3-point contest back in 1988.
Barkley went on to say that Pierce is not even one of the top 5 Celtics of all-time, possibly not even in the top 10. Pierce got the last laugh after winning the contest, but this is obviously not his ultimate goal for 2010. If the Celtics are going to have a chance to win another title with this incarnation of the Big 3, it will most likely fall on the shoulders on Pierce. Ray Allen? Could be traded this week. Kevin Garnett? How's that knee doing?
Last season, Pierce carried the Celtics into the postseason after losing Garnett for the stretch run with a tough knee injury. They eventually fell to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, but the team was running on empty and no one thought they had a chance of making it that far.
Although Garnett is playing again, he is not nearly the player he was back when the C's won their 17th title in 2008. Glen Davis missed the beginning of the season after hurting his wrist in an altercation with one of his friends. GM Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers seem to have grown tired of Davis' act. (We won't refer to him as "Big Baby" anymore, and hopefully he won't act like one again this season).
The Celtics signed Rasheed Wallace for some much-needed front court depth and an excellent player off the bench. He hasn't set the world on fire with his play, but Wallace will definitely help a playoff team. Ray Allen is in the last year of his mega-contract and still gives you decent production. For these reasons, he is an attractive trade chip.
All three players, Davis, Wallace and Allen have all been mentioned in recent trade talk. Ainge is a wheeler and dealer to the fullest and he'll have no problem shaking up the team for the right trade. If they can avoid major injuries, the Celtics appear to have enough talent to make a deep playoff run. But it appears this team needs a spark and it will be up to Ainge to figure out the best way to get that done.
One thing is for certain: Another Celtics title run is going to be up to Pierce. He is the team captain. He's carried some very bad Celtics teams. He's outperformed some of the greatest players of our generation (LeBron James and Kobe Bryant) in a back-to-back series to win his first championship ring. The opportunity is certainly there for Pierce to get it done again. And if he does, Sir Charles (who looks like he has no trouble in this department) might have to eat his words.