WALTHAM, Mass. -- Paul Pierce admitted Friday that the sprained MCL in his left knee he suffered in the first round of the playoffs last season was beyond immediate treatment, but affirmed he's entering the 2012-13 season at 100 percent after an offseason of conditioning and strengthening.
Pierce initially suffered the injury at a team shootaround prior to Game 3 in the Celtics' quarterfinal series against the Atlanta Hawks, further aggravated it during the game that night, and then was limited for the remainder of the postseason.
"I'm 100 percent now," Pierce said at the team's annual media day. "But I think it was maybe Game 3 (against) Atlanta. ... It really limited me because it was like no treatment that I could have done at the time was going to get it better. It limited me as far as lateral movement and jumping ability. Not that I had a lot of jumping ability anyway. And there's times when you get up out of bed and it's really stiff, you've got to get on the bike to warm it up. It was definitely a mental grind at that point. I'm just happy that's behind me."
With a new season about to begin and Pierce not getting any younger, the conversation quickly turned to minutes. Pierce said he doesn't have a number in mind that he would like to play each night, opting instead for allowing coach Doc Rivers to monitor that part of the equation.
"I'm going to listen to my body," the soon-to-be 35-year-old Pierce said. "(Doc is) going to kind of watch how the game is going, how I'm playing. If I can still play at a high level, who knows what that number may be. Doc has always found a good balance at finding that number."
Rivers doesn't have a set number of minutes in mind for Pierce, either, but he did acknowledge he might experiment with the 5-5-5 minute structure he already has employed for Kevin Garnett.
"We may even do a little bit of it with Paul. It's hard to do it with two guys like that, honestly," Rivers said. "But we've talked a lot about our minutes with those two, in particular, as a staff, and we've come up with a lot of things. But they all sound great and then you get in the game. Like I said last year, it only works if it works for the player, and it worked for Kevin. We're going to try some things with Paul in the preseason and just see how that goes."
The Celtics managed to get through a relatively injury-free season when they won the championship back in 2008, but each season since, they've been plagued by various maladies to crucial rotation players. Not surprisingly, Pierce pointed to health as something of an X-factor for this year's team, even with a host of younger, more athletic additions.
"I think the key for us, if we're going to win another championship, is going to be our health," Pierce said. "You have to be good, you have to be lucky, sometimes over things you can't control, as you saw. Since our first year we won it, we haven't been lucky enough to be healthy, so hopefully we're healthy this year and we can make another run at it."
As with each new season, the idea of Pierce being a year older and, perhaps, more prone to injury, was raised. But the captain quickly shot down the notion of his game deteriorating now that he's in his mid-30s. He has standards for himself and expects them to be fulfilled.
"The pressure that I'm putting on myself is far greater than anyone can put on me," Pierce said. "I expect to go out and perform well, every year. I expect to go out and play at a high level. I expect to go out and be one of the best players in the NBA, every year that I step out there."