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Will The Real Paul Pierce Please Stand Up?

Celtic Nation is really starting to polarize on the issue of Paul Pierce. Depending on who you talk to, he's either the cornerstone for the future of the franchise, or he's the albatross around its neck. There are fewer and fewer standing in the middle ground.

Paul is the best all-around player on the team. He does so many things so well, that it would seem logical to assume that he could learn this system that Doc is putting in place and thrive within it. I don't even care if his scoring drops a bit, because he does so many other things well. He's one of our best rebounders, he's one of the toughest players on the team, and he's one of the best in the league at getting to the line (putting other teams in foul trouble). He works hard at his craft and he really wants to be a leader and a winner for the organization and its fans.

On the other hand, you can't watch a whole game without witnessing 2 or 3 Paul-plays. You all know the ones I'm talking about. He's often the best player on the court, yet he makes some of the worst decisions. The isolation plays are downright painful to watch. He talks about defense (echos of OB) yet the guys he guards seem to have career nights. I guess Artest isn't around anymore this year, but it always bothered me the way our best player could be so owned by another team's player (no matter how good a defensive wiz he was). Oh yeah, and he's taking poor shots and missing them. These things don't add up to a career year for Paul.

Still, Paul is hard to put a finger on. He openly defies the coach in a game, but apologizes then next day and works to make things right. He clearly yearns for his old coach and teammates, but he won't publicly admit to wanting to go elsewhere. In fact, he seems to have embraced the city and the tradition of the Celtics; which is no small accomplishment for a Cali guy. He's the face of every hope the Celtics have at competing in the near future, but he's also the poster boy for what is wrong with the team in the present.

The "trade Paul" movement is taking on momentum, but I'm not jumping on that bandwagon just yet. Clearly Paul has some work to do to live up to the burden and privilege of being a "star" player. He needs to adapt his game to the system that is being implemented. He needs to break the bad habits he formed under the prior regime and take his game to the next level. Basically he needs to swallow his pride, listen to Doc and Gary, and just do it. Not that Doc and Gary are above reproach either. I would love to see the team stress and play a lot more defense, but that's another article.

However, if/when he turns the corner and "gets it," he's better than any player we could acquire by unloading him. Sure, there are big names on the market right now, but they all seem to have more baggage than Paul. Vince anyone? If you don't get a star for Paul, you must get prospects and contracts. Are we really willing to start over yet again? It is easy to say "trade Pierce," but it is significantly harder to figure out a way to do so that would actually benefit the team on the short or long term.

So what will it be Paul? Will you fall into the same traps that Vince and other inflated stars did and start a downward spiral into self-serving defeatism? Or will you listen to the many great basketball minds around you (I'm including the legends like Red, Cousey, etc.) and refine your game to become a dominant team player like those legends of old? Only time will tell; but we should know the answer to these questions by the end of the season. I still believe that he can be the star here. However, if he can't, I'm sure Danny will give him a shot to try it somewhere else.

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