SI has a big feature on Paul Pierce coming out in tomorrow's issue. I was sent an advance copy of the article. Here are some of the highlights:
Pierce on his standing in the NBA:
"I've always been the Rodney Dangerfield of this game," he says. "Maybe it was meant to be that way, but that always drove me. If somebody said, 'You're going to be the Number 1 pick, you're going to have a great team around you all these years'? It would've been too easy."
Tony Battie on partying with Pierce early in their career:
"He was competitive in everything: a game of H-O-R-S-E, a game of cards, an evening out," says Orlando Magic forward Tony Battie, a former Celtics teammate. "We'd get together and hang pretty rough and party pretty hard, but he would be the first one in the gym in the morning, talking smack. You'd get in at 9 o'clock and think you're early, but Paul was there at 7:30. He'd out-party you, then get his lift in while you were still sleeping off the night before."
On his state of mind after being stabbed:
Pierce stayed just four days in the hospital and was back playing three weeks later, but some of the wounds weren't physical. Once an outgoing, almost clownish presence, Pierce kept to himself at home; the Celtics arranged for a 24-hour guard there. He talked with fewer and fewer friends and family members as the months wore on. "It really messed me up in the head," he says. "I saw a shrink, a psychiatrist, a couple of times and I was like, 'You know what, man? I don't want to talk to you no more; this is bothering me.' I didn't feel comfortable."
On not hearing from his father after the stabbing:
In the days and weeks after the stabbing, Pierce wondered if the gruesome news might finally be enough to flush his father out. Each day Paul would sift through the messages and supportive letters from strangers, fans, friends. "I'm here: I could've died," Pierce says. "And to never get a phone call or a letter from him? That really hurt me for a long time. I was like, Man, he didn't even reach out or nothing. That hurt me to where I was, like, If he dies? I don't even care.
On his first thoughts of Danny Ainge:
when Ainge took over as general manager that May, he unloaded Walker. "He didn't think highly of me and Antoine at all, and I knew this," Pierce says. "So I'm already thinking, He's not feeling my game; I don't need to try to build a relationship because he already doesn't like me and just traded Antoine. Maybe I'm next."
On his fiancee, Julie Landrum, keeping him happy… and in Boston:
The team won just 24 games in 2006-07, and late in the season Pierce told a Boston reporter, "I'm the classic case of a great player on a bad team, and it stinks." Yet such foot-stomping had become more exception than rule; Ainge, Rivers, his brothers Jamal and Steve had noticed that, as Pierce says, "my spirits really changed." He had been seeing a woman named Julie Landrum since '05, and Pierce credits her with teaching him to think more positively and "keeping me happy." Out for nearly half the '06-07 season with injuries, Pierce watched Boston lose a record 18 straight. He realized that, at 29, he was as far as ever from winning a title, and his first impulse was to publicly demand a trade. Landrum talked him out of it.
On being a father:
"I don't want to be the dad that my father was," Pierce says. "I want to see my child grow. Who knows if I would've made it if he had been involved? Who knows if I would've been that much better? Who knows? But I'm sure his influence wouldn't have hurt those times I fell off my bike or didn't have nobody to rebound for me. I want to be there for my daughter-when she falls, to pick her up. When she needs help with homework."
This issue of SI hits news stands tomorrow. There's a ton more in there… including an encounter with his long-lost half-brother. It's some interesting stuff.