Of all of the reasons the Celtics currently stink, one stands out more than any.
Paul Pierce has been atrocious.
If he's going to snap out of it sooner rather than later, he needs a breather.
Which means if Pierce is named an Eastern Conference All-Star when the reserves are announced on Thursday night, it wouldn't be so great.
As was pointed out at this site on Wednesday, over the course of the Celts' four-game losing streak, Pierce is shooting just 31 percent and has gotten to the line an average of just over three times per game. Those are unacceptable stats for a player who is your go-to guy on offense.
So what's the answer? It's not that Pierce needs to be benched or traded. It's that he's old. Players his age aren't particularly adept at being the man night in and night out. And Pierce, who is clanging most of his jumpers off the front rim and rarely foraying into the lane and to the basket lately, is no exception. But this Celtics' roster as presently constituted doesn't give Pierce much wiggle room in that regard.
Jason Terry has either forgotten what made him a perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate, is washed up or simply doesn't fit on this team. Jeff Green, for all of his natural talent and ability, is an inherently passive player who does not seem capable of changing for more than a game or two at a time. Kevin Garnett is even older than Pierce, has his minutes rationed nightly and was never meant to be an offensive focal point anyway. And your guess as to when Rajon Rondo is going to use his unbelievable skill to control the tempo and take over games that need to be taken over is as good as anyone's.
That leaves Pierce, who again, is no spring chicken anymore. So, unless the Celts are planning on making a major deal to bring in someone who can dependably score 15-20 points per game (note: they aren't, even if they wanted to), Pierce needs to get some help from within.
Maybe that means he has to be put on a minutes count as well, a la KG. Whether that happens remains to be seen. But if Celtics' fans really want to see the Captain get some much needed rest, they'd better count their blessings that he's not named to the All-Star team.
ESPN.com's brilliant NBA analyst Zach Lowe wrote earlier this week that he thinks Pierce belongs on this year's Eastern Conference squad. That point in itself is arguable given the Truth's struggles not just over the past week but all month, including at times when the Celts were rolling, beating supposed contenders like the Knicks, Hawks and Pacers.
But wouldn't it be nice for the long in the tooth Pierce to have the entire stretch from about 10 p.m. on Wedensday, February 13, until 9 p.m. on Tuesday, February 19, off? The C's head out for the break after playing the Bulls on that first date and don't resume their schedule until that second one when they play Denver in the first game of their annual winter Western road swing. Wouldn't five full days without having to travel, practice and play be a huge help to Pierce?
If the Celtics are going to blow up the team and maybe even consider trading Pierce then who cares? But if they are only going to tweak the roster here and there, if at all, in the hopes that this group finally figures it out and gets its act together, then lord knows if anyone will need the All-Star break to truly be a break, it's Pierce.
It's tough to imagine Pierce being dealt or ending his career in any uniform but the Celts'. He's easily one of the top five players in franchise history and is still, even at his advanced age and during his current slump, arguably the best player on the team.
But there's no need for him to make another All-Star roster. He's made 10 of them already.
He's old. He needs the rest.