Paul Pierce hopes to play Tuesday night against Celtics, his old team
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Paul Pierce insists he's over his breakup with the Celtics, that there will be no overflowing emotions bubbling inside him when he sees that familiar green jersey Tuesday night. To him, it's no different from being detached from an old flame.
"I'm a person that's always -- when it's time to move on, you move on. You can ask any girlfriend I've ever had,'' Pierce said after practicing Monday for the first time since being diagnosed with a non-displaced fracture of his right hand Dec. 2. He indicated there's "a good chance'' he'll play when the Nets (6-14) host the Atlantic Division-leading Celtics (10-12).
Given that Deron Williams is set to return after sitting out nine games with an ankle injury, if Pierce can go, the Nets will have their starting five intact for the first time since Nov. 15.
It just so happens that it would come against Pierce's former team, the franchise for which he played 15 seasons, winning a title in 2008 with the other key component in the Celtics-Nets trade, Kevin Garnett.
"It's no hard feelings. I'm here,'' Pierce said. "This is where I'm at now and you've got to move on. You can't mourn or put your head down. This is what it is.''
Pierce was supposed to be sidelined for anywhere between two and four weeks, according to the original timetable, but Tuesday marks only the 11th day since he got banged up. Before the injury, he struggled to find his groove, which, paired with Garnett's sluggish start, has many believing the Celtics got the better end of the deal.
The Nets, who parted with three first-round draft picks, are hamstrung for the next two seasons and likely won't have any true cap space until 2015. They've been an early-season disaster, unable to win consecutive contests through 20 games.
Pierce, still searching to find a comfort zone within the Nets' scheme, is averaging only 12.7 points per game, is shooting a career-worst 36.8 percent from the field and has hit only 26.8 percent of his three-pointers.
"I'll figure it out," he said. "I've figured out things throughout the years. I'm not a selfish player. If it's something that's best for the team and it's going to help us win ballgames -- whatever it is. If I've got to come off the bench, if I've got to not play, if I've got to be a cheerleader on the sideline, if it's going to help us win, I'm willing to do that.''
Coming off the bench would signal a true commitment from Pierce, who's started all but three of his 1,117 games. Jason Kidd said it's a "possibility'' that Pierce will do that at some point.
As he shifts into the latter part of his career, serving as a role player instead of his team's go-to guy, Pierce didn't deny that sliding out of the starting lineup would be an adjustment.
"I mean, it's a change,'' he said. "Everybody's role has got to change for what's good for the team. And you've got to understand that. It's all on the coaches, man. When we come to our huddle, when we talk at the end of practice we all say, 'All in.' I'm all in.''
"If I've got to sacrifice whatever I've got to sacrifice for the betterment of this team, then I'm willing to do it.''
If Pierce eventually comes off the bench, it might help alleviate some of the scoring droughts that have become commonplace when Kidd has dipped into his reserves. At times, he has Joe Johnson leading the second unit, but having Pierce play with them instead could give Johnson more time to rest and might be beneficial for the Nets in more ways than one.
"We'd have a scorer,'' Shaun Livingston said. "We'd have a scorer off the bench. And then I think [lowering] some of those minutes and a decreased workload, the pounding taken off his body, where he can come out and be fresh and be more productive for a longer period of time over the course of the season.''
Pierce just wants the Nets to get back on track as soon as possible. He remains confident that the Nets can be as good as they thought they'd be when they were bursting with confidence in the preseason. Having Pierce snap out of his funk would surely help.
"I've had my ups and downs, but it's not about me,'' he said. "It's about getting the team healthy right now and trying to see if we can reach our potential.
"Our goal before the season was to try to win a championship. We haven't got off to the best start and I probably haven't been playing the best basketball due to some minor injuries I've been dealing with. But I feel like as we continue to get healthy and the guys come back and we start developing our chemistry, we are going to be there toward the end.''
Notes & quotes: Williams couldn't put an exact estimate on how his body feels. "It's hard to tell when you're not practicing,'' he said. "That was the thing with the first time I came back . Either I use games as practice or I don't because we're an older team, and we're not going to practice that much. And when we do, we really don't have enough to scrimmage. It's kind of a dilemma. So I have to come back and kind of use these games to get back into a rhythm.'' . . . Jason Terry (knee) and Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) didn't practice and are out Tuesday night.