WALTHAM, Mass. -- Paul Pierce is living proof of his own claim that health will be something of an X-factor for the Celtics this season. He enters training camp fully healthy, which is a far cry from his physical state when camp opened last December.
The start to Pierce's lockout-shortened season last year was derailed by a bone bruise in his right heel -- an injury that healed slowly and left Pierce scrambling to get back into game shape. He's grateful to not have to face those early season obstacles.
"It's definitely an advantage just to be able to come out here, be already in shape. Last year, injuries hampered me coming into training camp," Pierce said after the team's first official practice Saturday. "So, I can get off to a better start this year, hopefully, knock on wood, that I can get through training camp, get through preseason without any injuries, so I can get off to a better start this year. I think it's important that we stay healthy, it's important that we get off to a good start."
Pierce said it took him nearly half of the season last year to finally feel healthy again.
"Probably after the All-Star break, truthfully," Pierce said. "I got a good rhythm after the All-Star break, I got my legs up under me. First half, I was pretty inconsistent because of the lack of practice time and the injuries. Last year, with the way things went, we didn't get a lot of practice time, so I thought after the All-Star break I really got into a rhythm, and hopefully the way I played after the All-Star break, I can start off that way this year."
The numbers support Pierce's observation. A quick glance at Pierce's stats last season shows an uptake in points, rebounds, free throw percentage, 3-point field goal percentage, and overall field goal percentage in the 33 games he played in after the All-Star break compared to the 29 games before it.
As much as Pierce wants a strong start to the season, he'd prefer an even stronger showing in the postseason, meaning he'll have to take the necessary care of his body over the course of an 82-game season once again.
Pierce was mum on his desired number of minutes on Friday, but when he was asked about coach Doc Rivers' employing the same 5-5-5 minute strategy utilized on Kevin Garnett, Pierce said he'd be open to it, with one minor stipulation.
"You know, Doc is the coach around here," Pierce said. "I trust his judgement in everything he does. ... I think, me and Doc, we'll figure things out, because if I'm on fire the first five minutes, I can't come out."