BOSTON — The last time Paul Pierce stayed home for NBA All-Star Weekend, the Celtics’ record made it difficult to whine about the snub. The Celtics went 24-58 in the last year of the pre-“New Big Three” era while Pierce, for the first time in his career, spent more than a month watching with major injury as his team give away game after game.
There is no serious injury this time for Pierce, but once again the Celtics’ team-wide struggles prevented Pierce or anyone else from making a fuss when his name was not among the All-Star reserves who were announced Thursday.
“We knew this day was going to come,” said Pierce, 35, who has played in 10 All-Star games in his 15-year career. “We’ve got a lot of great, young players in this league and they all deserve it.”
The Eastern Conference All-Star team is stacked at Pierce’s position. Luol Deng and Paul George were the threes picked to back up LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, who will start in the frontcourt alongside Kevin Garnett despite both also being natural small forwards. Last week, Garnett made cases for both Deng and Pierce, insisting that Pierce deserved to make the squad more than he did.
Rajon Rondo was voted in as a starter, too, giving the Celtics two All-Stars despite a 20-22 record after Thursday’s loss to New York. The Celtics are the only team with a losing record that has multiple All-Stars, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers felt his fellow coaches, who vote for the reserves, may have found it hard to justify giving a losing team three All-Star representatives.
“Our record had a lot to do with it,” Rivers said. “He played well enough to make it, but we’re two games under .500, and we already have two guys on the All-Star team. I think the coaching by-laws say we can’t put three guys on, so that’s probably the reason.”
If Pierce is looking for a silver lining, he can just look across the locker room. Garnett was left off the All-Star team for the first time in 12 years last season, and he came back rejuvenated for a dominant second-half run. Perhaps this is just the prelude for an All-Star finish for Pierce, minus the official All-Star endorsement.