Pierce 100%, Expects To Play At High Level In 2012-13

BOSTON (CBS)  – Celtics captain Paul Pierce had an up-and-down postseason last year, one that saw Boston fall one game short of their third NBA Finals appearance in five seasons.

Pierce was hampered by an MCL injury he suffered in the first round against the Atlanta Hawks, but the soon-to-be 35-year-old says he is back at full strength as the Celtics get ready for another championship run in 2012-13.

“I’m 100 percent now,” Pierce said Friday at Celtics Media Day. “(The injury) really limited me (throughout the playoffs) because no treatment at the time was going to make it better.”

Pierce battled through the injury, averaging 18.9 points in 20 playoff games on just 39-percent shooting — down from the 43-percent he shot during the regular season.

“It limited me as far as lateral movement and jumping ability. There were times when I got out of bed and it was very stiff,” he recalled. “It was a mental grind at that point. The key for us, if were going to win another championship, will be health.”

The C’s captain doesn’t have number in mind as far as his minutes-per-game go this coming season, but he does think it’s a situation to monitor.

“I’m going to listen to my body,” he said. “(Doc is) going to kind of watch how the game is going, how I’m playing. If I can still play at a high level, who knows what that number may be. Doc has always found a good balance at finding that number.”

“The pressure I’m putting on myself is far greater than anybody can put on me,” said Pierce, who isn’t worried father time will catch up to him as he approaches his mid-30’s. “I expect to go out and perform well every year, I expect to go out and play at a high level, and I expect to go out here and be one of the best players in the NBA every year that I step out here.”

Like Kevin Garnett’s 5-5-5 minute plan from last season, Rivers has toyed using a similar approach with Pierce.

“We’ve talked a lot about our minutes with those two, in particular, as a staff, and we’ve come up with a lot of things,” said Rivers. “But they all sound great and then you get in the game. Like I said last year, it only works if it works for the player, and it worked for Kevin. We’re going to try some things with Paul in the preseason and just see how that goes.”

As the Celtics walked off the court for the final time last year in Miami, Pierce feared Garnett would not be back for the next go-around. KG had hinted to him several times throughout the season he was going to hang them up at the end of the year.

“I wasn’t confident he was coming back. He said this was it for him,” said Pierce.

But then he came to the realization that in his five years with Garnett, “no” usually means “yes,” and vice-versa.

“I realized, he’s been in the NBA since he was 18; he doesn’t know anything else. What is he going to do? He has to come back,” Pierce said, adding he would like to retire alongside Garnett when that time comes. “This is in his blood. This is what he was born to do. For him to be playing at a high level and to talk away from the game with his competitive spirit, inside I knew he wasn’t going anywhere.”

Pierce had told Garnett if he retired, he too would consider it. But Rivers knew Pierce wasn’t going anywhere either..

“Paul wouldn’t have retired,” Rivers said confidently. “I saw his contract, and I don’t think he was going to retire.”

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