Toughness is an underrated quality in the NBA these days. To be contenders, teams need a good offense along with a strong defense, but they also need that one quality that eludes a lot of teams, and that is toughness. I've always felt that one of the reasons that the 2011 team faltered after Danny traded Perk was because, even though they still had KG, they lost much of their toughness. And, when Perk was added to the Thunder, he brought with him that elusive quality, immediately lifting the team into contention every season. It's one of the intangibles that Perk adds to a team.
No one can say that Paul Pierce isn't a tough player. He has played through injuries that would shut normal players down. On September 25, 2000, Pierce was stabbed 11 times while at a night club. He had to undergo lung surgery to repair the damage. In spite of that, just weeks later, Pierce was on the court for training camp with the Celtics. He was also the only Celtic to start all 82 games in the 2000–01 season. He's a tough player and for years he added toughness to the Celtics and now, he's bringing that same toughness to the Nets. He's been their best overall player so far in the preseason.
When you mention toughness, Kevin Garnett always comes into the conversation as well. KG brings toughness and grit to any team he plays on. When he came to the Celtics, he immediately changed the whole attitude of the team. He and Perk were the perfect combo to lead the Celtics to their 17th championship. When KG and Paul Pierce were traded, they took with them some of that all important toughness. So, while Danny needs to replace Pierce's scoring and leadership and KG's defense and intensity, he also has to replace the toughness that the Celtics are now missing.
One good move in that direction was signing Vitor Faverani, L'Hombre Indestructible. He brings toughness to the team and doesn't back down from contact, which is good to see. But, in order to get back to being contenders, other players need to show that toughness as well. I've always liked Gerald Wallace as a player. He's tough and is willing to leave it all out there on the court. In spite of the contract, having a player like that on the team is important.
Getting back to the toughness of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. I'm sure you've read about how LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have called for KG and Paul Pierce to apologize to Ray Allen for giving him the cold shoulder after he left the Celtics, now that they themselves are no longer Celtics. The lack of logic in their comments should be obvious. Ray Allen left the team when they were contenders. He left the two players he won a championship with of his own accord to chase a championship with the Heat. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce had no choice. Danny Ainge traded them, they didn't choose to leave. I fully believe that they wanted to stay Celtics, rebuilding or not. And it's like LeBron has any room to talk the way he left Cleveland.
I love the way both former Celtics replied to these ridiculous comments.
KG stated the obvious: “Tell LeBron to worry about Miami. It has nothing to do with Celtic business.” Pierce just said “I left Boston?” Pierce never left Boston. His love for the city and for the team are still very obvious. He was traded, but his heart still bleeds green. But, their words weren't the best reply to LeBron's idiotic ranting. From ESPN NY
The message was sent with 6:46 left in the first quarter of a meaningless preseason game at Barclays Center Thursday night.
The reigning MVP was out in transition, barreling toward the basket like a freight train.
That’s when Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce lowered his right shoulder into the Heat's LeBron James just inside the 3-point arc, delivering a hard, playoff-like foul as if he were a hulking hockey defenseman delivering an open-ice hit.
“That’s going to be our identity. That’s a message to the league,” Pierce said.
“We want to be a hard, grind-it-out team. We want nothing to be easy. That’s what we’re trying to show in the last couple of games, the way our defense has been playing. We’ve given up so few points. That’s the message we want to send. Some nights our shots are not gonna fall, but we can control that end [the defensive end] of the court.”
When the Nets acquired the future Hall of Fame forwards from the Boston Celtics during the summer, they weren’t just getting leadership. They were getting much-needed toughness, too.
And that, more than anything else, is what Danny needs to replace on the Celtics. Vitor is a nice start, but when considering his next moves, toughness should be at the top of his list.
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