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Paul Pierce on D&H: Shaq has helped Kevin Garnett

10.28.10 at 1:43 pm ET
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Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce

Celtics captain Paul Pierce joined the Dale & Holley show and touched on a number of topics including what would have happened if Doc Rivers had decided to leave, how the Heat will have to adjust to playing with each other and what Shaquille O’Neal has done for Kevin Garnett.

“I love Shaquille in the locker room,” Pierce said. “The one guy he’s making better on and off the court is Kevin. You can just tell with Kevin’s attitude, he’s a lot more loose than he’s ever been. Kevin really listens to a lot of things Shaq has to say because they’ve been through their wars together and I know Kevin has a lot of respect for Shaq and what he’s done in this league, as do all of us. His presence has really helped us out as a ballclub, in the locker room and on the court.”

(To hear the whole interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page).

Here are more highlights from the interview:

What happened in Cleveland?

That’s the Cleveland Cavaliers minus LeBron James. They had a lot going. It was the home opener, a lot to prove with LeBron being gone, they played a great game. I can’t take anything away from what they did last night. They came out and gave us one, right over the head.

Did you take them lightly?

I hate to use that word lightly. I play the game the same way every night. They came to play. I don’t want to take anything away from what they did. We had our run, we had a chance to put them away, they just stuck with it. They made some big shots, the crowd got into it and they finished the game.

What’s the difference in Cleveland’s offense without LeBron?

When you got LeBron James in the lineup the offense is a little more predictable because you know he’s gong to get the ball pretty much every time down the court or 90 percent of the time. They’re really try to find an identity. They don’t really have a true go-to guy so they have to rely on out-working everybody, ball movement and sharing and playing together. They did an excellent job of that last night.

How will the Heat co-exist? What did he do with Garnett and Ray Allen?

I think they’re going to have make some sacrifices and that’s going to be the key. What’s unique about us with me, Kevin and Ray, I think we all bring something different with our games. Ray, he’s a great player without the ball. Kevin, you can play through Kevin or he’s great at setting screens and making people better, also I can play off the ball. I can be spot-up shooter.

In their case, they have LeBron and [Dwyane] Wade who constantly have the ball in their offense. Neither one of them has been asked to stand on the wing or stand in the corner and be a spot-up shooter. That’s an adjustment I think they’re going to have to make in figuring out their roles. Who’s going to be the lead dog on offense? Who’s going to be the facilitator and who’s going to play a different role, like, say, [Chris] Bosh being a guy who’s just going to rebound, play defense and screen?

It’s tough, especially for these guys because they’re in the prime of their careers and it’s going to be tough for them to swallow that knowing that they can give much more than what they’re going to give on a night-in, night-out basis for them to win.

When did you feel like it came together with Garnett and Allen?

It was just being together and talking about it. We always kept open communication and we’ve always been close since day one. The day we traded for Ray we talked for 30 minutes on the phone. It was a constant dialogue. At the end of the day we were all in the same position. We were on bad teams putting up great numbers. We were like, that’s not really what it’s about.

What do we want? Do we want to win? We said hey, ‘The things we did on our other teams were not going to be do that anymore. We’re going to have to shoulder the load together and make some sacrifices in our games if this going to work. It’s just hard. It took some time.

I know I have a lot more ability and I know I can give this team a lot more. I still feel like can be a 25, 26 point scorer in this league, but that’s not what this team needs for us to be successful. We’ve won with me not having to do that. Sometimes you feel like a genie trapped in a bottle but you know hey, it’s what best for the team.

I know on a night-in, night-out basis I can do more, but it’s all about winning about this point in my career and I’m able to swallow my pride, my ego for the good of the team.

Did you think everyone would come back?

It all started with Doc. I said if Doc comes back then the pieces would fall into place. Really it was all on him. I believe if Doc didn’t come back, Ray probably would have moved on. Who knows if I would have signed an extension or if the Celtics would have been willing to do that. There were a lot of question marks and it was all on the coach. If you’re going to bring in a new coach and a new system it would have been almost like starting over and guys would have probably had to move on.

How close did you come to leaving?

I definitely would have been here this year. I know that for a fact because I had one year left on my deal. I probably wouldn’t have opted out and then I probably would have weighed my options. At this point in my career I couldn’t see myself going through another rebuilding phrase.

Who knows, but I think things work out for a reason, just like there was a reason I fell to Number 10 in the draft for a reason. But things happen for a reason and I’m glad they ended up the way they did.

How has your relationship with Rivers changed?

Man, we’ve come a long way. I know we bumped heads a lot. Me just trying to adjust to his philosophy and what he wanted. And me with my ego and wanting to play a certain way based on what I’ve done in the past before doc got here. It was just about us coming to a common ground, meeting in the middle and also about me maturing as a player. I think there was one year went home in the summer and I said it was time for me to grow up. I want to be a Celtic and if this thing is going to work, then I’m going to have to change.

I changed my whole attitude. We weren’t a playoff team but I wanted to be a leader for the young guys on the team. I just changed my whole attitude to make this thing work and I’m glad it all worked out.

What have practices been like?

It’s very competitive. You look down the line we’ve got guys coming off the bench that have been starters. Delonte West has been a starter in this league, Jermaine O’Neal has been a starter, Nate Robinson started for the Knicks. Every day is competitive. I tell everybody that our second unit is really pushing the first unit each and every day and that’s something I’ve never really had.

Every day at every position you’ve got to bring it. Me and Marquis [Daniels] match up every day and that’s a battle. He’s a great defender. I think he’s an underrated defender. Delonte competes with Ray, Nate with [Rajon] Rondo. You’ve got both O’Neals going at it. You’ve got Semih Erden, he gives guys problems down there. And of course you’ve got Big Baby. The practices are tremendous. If we don’t with our A-game, we’re going to get our butts kicked.

How did he feel about watching the Miami spectacle?

It was interesting. You got three of the top 10 scorers in the league and two of the top five players in the game on one team. I haven’t seen a dynamic group of guys on one team ever. People talk about the 80s Celtics and they talk about the talent on the 80s Lakers teams, but I think this outweighs any trio that we’ve ever seen in NBA history.

On taking charges from LeBron:

I’m done taking charges on LeBron. It’s such a 50-50 call, and it’s a judgment call. At this age, 33, I don’t know how many more I can take.

On the new rules enforcing technical fouls:

The refs have been a little more lenient in the regular season than they were in the preseason. They wanted to make a statement about it but I think they’ve been a little more loose, they’re talking to you a little bit more. It would have been ridiculous to not allow players to react. If it’s not in a negative way toward an official, if just an emotional reaction to a call, I think that’s fine. As ling as you can tone it down in the right manner. I think they’ve been lenient since the season started.

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Shaquille O'Neal,
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