When asked about the knee braces that were in full view of
the questioner during last season's playoffs, Pierce would wrinkle his eyebrows
and ask, "What knee braces?" When he was clearly hobbled against
Andre Iguodala and LeBron James, two of the NBA's most athletic small forwards,
the Celtics captain would brush off inquiries about his health and insist he
With last season in the rearview mirror, though, Pierce has
been more open about the physical ailments he dealt with in the abbreviated
66-game season. He opened the year with a bruised right heel and ended it with
a sprained medial-collateral ligament in his left knee, making the fact that he
appeared in 61 games during the regular season and did not miss a playoff game
all the more remarkable.
"I'm 100 percent now," Pierce declared Friday.
"I think it was maybe Game 3 against Atlanta that [the knee] really
limited me, because no treatment I could've gotten at the time was going to
make it better. It limited me as far as lateral movement and jumping ability,
not that I had a lot of jumping ability anyway."
Pierce's self-deprecating humor suggested he really does
feel better after looking ragged throughout last season. He was visibly thinner
on Friday than he was at any point in 2011-12, which could be a good sign for a
team counting on its aging veterans to stay on the court.
Among the Celtics' key players are Kevin Garnett, 36; Jason
Terry, 35; and Pierce, who turns 35 on Oct. 13. All three have played through
an assortment of maladies in recent years, but most importantly they have been
able to avoid long-term injuries. The Celtics hope that remains true for a
couple more years, at least, and that they avoid another ill-timed strike like
the one that toppled Garnett in 2008-09.
"I'm just glad that's behind me," Pierce said of
his knee injury. "I think the key for us, if we're going to win another
championship, is going to be our health. You have to be good. You have to be
lucky. Sometimes those are things you can't control. As you saw, from the first
year we won it, we haven't been lucky enough to be healthy. If we're healthy
this year, then we can make another run at it."
The knee injury that supposedly never existed is no longer a
problem for Pierce, and the Celtics hope that any pain Pierce feels this season
is also a figment of his imagination.