Pierce has unique perspective on Laker-Celtic rivalry
LOS ANGELES – Paul Pierce wears his Boston Celtics' green jersey with pride but it hasn't always been that way for the veteran NBA star.
Growing up in the south central Los Angeles suburb of Ingelwood, Pierce's favourite team was Los Angeles so he has fond memories of the 'Showtime' Lakers of the 1980s led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
"I had dreams of wearing a Laker uniform at (age 12)," Pierce said. "But I am able to be in the NBA and continue on with the rivalry that I grew up watching and the rivalry that got me interested in basketball.
"I am one of the few that accomplished my dream of going to the NBA."
Pierce, an eight-time NBA all-star, will lead his Celtics into their second NBA finals in three years when Boston visits Los Angeles for the first game of the best-of-seven series Thursday.
Heading into the 2010 NBA finals, the Celtics and Lakers have met 11 times with the Celtics winning nine including a dominating six-game victory two years ago.
The 32-year-old Pierce was selected by the Celtics 10th overall in the 1998 entry draft. This is his second appearance in the NBA finals after being named MVP of the championship series in 2008.
Pierce said he normally gets a lot of ticket requests from family and friends whenever he returns to Los Angeless but that gets magnified in the finals.
And being from Los Angeles also gives him a unique perspective on the crowd at Staples Center arena.
"A lot of celebrities come here just to get out of the house," said Pierce who is averaging 19.1 points per game in the post season. "It is an interesting crowd.
"Whereas our fans actually watch the games. I am more biased knowing that our fans are, I want to say, a little bit more knowledgeable about the game."
Being a recognizable NBA star in Los Angeles can have its upside and downside. You never know who you are going to run into, like the time last summer when Pierce bumped into Lakers coach Phil Jackson on the street.
"I was walking my dog and I ran into him," Pierce said. "He was at a stop sign when I was crossing the street. If I saw him walking I wouldn't have crossed the street.
"I congratulated him on the (Lakers' NBA title) win. He said something like 'all right, peace out'.
"I didn't want to run into Phil, I know that. They had just won the championship."
Pierce said it is important for him to stay focussed because he expects to be matched up against Lakers Ron Artest a lot during the series.
"Ron Artest is a guy who tries to get in your head throughout the game," Pierce said. "He will grab you, scratch you and you have to expect those things.
"I can't get caught up where I am taking technical fouls and get into shoving matches. My mentality doesn't change."