Paul Pierce  confirmed what Celtics  president Danny Ainge divulged to the viewing public while sitting down with broadcasters Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn during the second quarter of Wednesday night’s 71-69 victory against the Bulls: The C’s captain has played with a pinched nerve in his neck since December.
“It’s getting better,” Pierce said in response to the injury inquiry. “It’s something that’s been bothering me probably for like the last two months. It’s getting better, though. The last couple weeks have been better than it has been.”
Pierce struggled mightily in January, shooting 39.9 percent from the field (28.9 3P%) for the month, but he’s emerged once again as the C’s leader in the two weeks since Rajon Rondo ‘s season-ending ACL injury.
During the C’s 8-1 stretch in their last nine games, Pierce has still struggled with his shot (39.0 FG%) — including a 2-of-12 performance in the win over Chicago — although his 39.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc and a boatload of clutch shots have helped assuage any concerns about his health. At 35 years old, Pierce has averaged a ridiculous 16.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 7.2 assists in 36.6 minutes a night since Rondo’s injury.
If any player in the NBA needed this weekend’s All-Star break, it’s Paul Pierce, who barring a late scratch from the Eastern Conference roster will miss his first such exhibition in seven seasons.
“It’s coming right at the right time,” said Pierce, a 10-time NBA All-Star. “So many things have gone on the last few weeks with us mentally and physically, especially with the injuries we have. I think the latest blow with [Leandro] Barbosa really hit us mentally and emotionally. Guys really felt that.”
Despite having just 10 healthy players on the roster, including Fab Melo, the Celtics continue to find ways to win.
“This team is tough,” said Pierce. “Mentally, you’ve got every reason to just be out of it each and every night — use the injuries for an excuse, use the emotions, the fatigue — so many excuses are available for us, but somehow, someway we continue to fight through it mentally. [Celtics coach] Doc [Rivers] is doing a great job of keeping us focused, pushing us through, and that’s why we’re grinding out wins.”
Still, Pierce understands the older Celtics core can’t keep this up without reinforcements, especially since assistant coach Tyronn Lue has had to act as a warm body during practice sessions.
“We have to add a guard, maybe another big man,” he said. “Most likely I think it’s going to be necessary just to have some depth — give me, Kevin [Garnett], Jason [Terry] some rest, especially during practices.”