The 29-year-old swingman, who was voided as trade bait less than a month ago due to a surgically repaired knee, entered Wednesday's game against the Mavericks with 1:25 left in the first quarter as a roar went up from the crowd. The newest Celtic's defensive intensity was immediate, and on offense he appeared to be almost excessively eager to get a touch and hoist one of those 3-pointers he's never been shy about taking.
One minute into the second quarter, Pietrus got his chance. More than nine months removed from his last meaningful basketball game, Pietrus took the shot and nailed it, knifing into the Mavericks' then-double-digit lead.
With Pietrus' input, the Celtics battled back from several large deficits to tie Dallas with 25 seconds remaining before suffering a 90-85 loss. Pietrus' steal and dunk with 18.4 seconds left in the third quarter set the tone for Boston's fourth-quarter surge, and he played small forward for much of the fourth quarter until Paul Pierce subbed in and drilled a game-tying trey with 25 seconds left. That energy, that free-shooting spirit, is exactly what the Celtics signed Pietrus for.
"He was phenomenal," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought he was one of our best players in the game. Clearly, he gave our team energy. Played hard, turned the ball [defensively]. He's exactly what we need."
Pietrus was eager to play and eager to speak with the media after the game, which truthfully says all that needs to be said about how happy he was to be back on the court. Despite his good humor, the word he uttered most often in the postgame interviews was "fight."
"I know I'm ready to fight for my teammates," Pietrus said. "I'm going to fight for the coaches. I'm going to fight for the Celtics."
Although Rivers was thrilled with Pietrus' play, the 6-foot-6 guard/forward known as "Air France" has established himself in his career as more than just an 18-minute, five-points per game player, which he was Wednesday. Pietrus has consistently scored, rebounded, defended and shot 3's at a 36 percent clip in his nine-year NBA career.
He might only get better for Rivers and the Celtics.
"Even if it didn't [get better], I'd take it," Rivers said. "Really. He was terrific. He brought joy to the game. You could see it. He was so happy to play and the only reason he came out was because he was dying. He was tired, so I had to take him out."
Fatigue was not going to slow down Pietrus on Wednesday, though, and he swore that would hold true for the entire season.
"Every time I step on the floor, I try to give the team my heart," Pietrus said. "That's why I picked the Celtics, because they play with heart. That's what I'm going to bring every night. I'm not going to lie to you. I'm here to win a championship."
There are teams in Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City and elsewhere who will probably challenge Pietrus on that. If so, he's ready for the fight.