The star that shone backwards
I woke up this morning to find InsideHoops claiming that, beknownst only to them, Paul Pierce was headed to Denver for Andre Miller and Nene. Within a few hours, the language had been changed to the Nuggets' "known interest" in the deal, with some sports talk station having already gotten a resounding denial from the Celtics brass, and I'm guessing that Boston was more concerned with the Bald Redhead's imminent death. But I'm a little hung up on this Pierce rumor, not only because it would make the Nuggets into a team that could challenge the Spurs, and put Gerald Green that much closer to getting the "next J.R. Smith" rookie campaign he, and we, so rightfully deserve. It made me do some hard thinking about the man whose nickname is second only to AI's when it comes to prophetic decisiveness—and who, as a player and personality, might be the most elusive star in the league.
Paul Pierce is nearly impossible to get a handle on, which might be why I was mildly obsessed with him for a few years. He's still that "pick #10" underdog, despite regularly landing in the All-Star game, putting up serious numbers, and drawing triple-teams. Humble and self-effacing, but known to talk shit and forget to pass the ball—often with dramatic, game-saving results. He's of only average athleticism, but so reckless in the lane that getting inside is never a problem for him; only AI and Wade subject themselves to more punishment inside. His build verges on doughy, but he carries himself with a swagger you'd expect from a musclebound brute like K-Mart or an ethereal figment like T-Mac. He grew up tough in L.A. and survived a brutal stabbing early in his career, but is oddly lacking in street cred. His attitude's taken a variety of beatings over the last couple of years, from "he needs Toine to be human" to "he's immature and selfish," but he was thrown into the abyss of rebuilding when he was on his way to achieving the only thing he ever talks about: a return to the great Celtics Basketball tradition of winning a lot. Blamed for the U.S.'s end at the Worlds, but could have saved last year's Olympic team (outside shot, guts, and not on a one-man campaign for legitimacy)(should he be? does he even know the answer to thise?). He's probably the best player the Celtics have had since Bird, but no one considers him a franchise guy—even less than they did Toine. He's a triple-double threat who puts in a lot of work for a two-guard, but gets unfairly typecast as "just a scorer." Takes this much space to figure out, when really he might be as ordinary as his name (which is actually so normal it's exotic). And while his stats, winning with no team, and rep for big games are as impressive as anything in recent memory not belonging to Kobe, Iverson, KG, Duncan, or Shaq, no one seems comfortable with acknowleding that he's a full-fledged star, much less considering him for the upper echelons.
(really, do you see this goofy white dude dressing up as KG for Halloween? maybe, MAYBE, if he were six years old, but even the kids recognize: you don't dress up as The Man, you aspire to it in your hearts of hearts.)
My reaction to having finally put all that down in one place—a mixture of awe, indifference, respect, boredom, rote enthusiasm, sadness, empty fascination, insular pride, and outright disgust—makes me think that there must be something there. Or is there so little that I can project an entire world of meaning onto him?
Or maybe it all comes down to the nickname. Deep down inside, I'm assuming that no one simple, shallow, or slight could ever get handed the nickname "The Truth" (one thing I think I know about Pierce: he didn't come up with that) and have it really stick.
"I want you to meet my new poodle, Space-Time Continuum"
"I don't understand it, all my teenage daughter wants to do is hit the mall, drink wine coolers, chat on IM, and complain about her give name, 'MEGAFILTER.'"
"He named his dick what?"
"Eternal Recurrence of the Same."