The Diesel and The Truth: Together at Last
Paul Pierce has long wanted to play with Shaquille O'Neal on his team. Shaq, in return, is responsible for coining Pierce's nickname "The Truth" after a particularly devastating performance by Pierce against the Lakers some years ago.
The two never played in the same conference together before this year, Shaq having shipped out West from Orlando two years before Pierce was drafted by the Celtics. Shaq by then was already in his seventh season so there was no way the two could have played even on a mixed rookie/sophomore game.
In 2002, Pierce represented USA Basketball in the Men's World Championship Team, playing with athletes like Jermaine O'Neal and Ben Wallace, but no Shaq. Shaq had been on the second Dream Team, the one that won gold in Atlanta in 1996, and was on the Men's World Championship Team in 1994, nearly a decade prior. Pierce was also on the 1995 U.S. Olympic Festival West Team but at the time he was entering his freshman year in Kansas.
The two never intersected. Father Time saw to that.
But Mother Nature has brought them together at last.
The nature of Kobe Bryant led to Shaq looking to leave the Lakers. Kobe was not one of Shaq's all-time favorite teammates, for a variety of reasons not worth rehashing. Kobe was younger and the Lakers decided to build around him so they sent Shaq to Miami, with his blessing. If Kobe had had a different nature, perhaps Shaq would never have left. Even if Phil Jackson had departed, the two of them could have continued their dynastic run with another head coach.
The nature of Shaq brought him to the sunny climate of Miami, Florida, and to the Eastern Conference. Shaq had okay'ed several possible destinations where he would not object to being traded. Shaq's agreement was necessary because no team wanted to sacrifice a lot of its upside potential to receive an angry Shaq who wouldn't play through injuries as much as he could and who wouldn't sign an extension when it came time. Shaq liked Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade and the warm weather and the party atmosphere. It was his nature that brought him to the Heat.
The nature of Pierce made him an All-Star-caliber player. He has always been among the league leaders in scoring and is one of the best rebounding guards in the game. He also has excellent court vision and can rack up assists with the best of them. He is a versatile player who can and has played four positions, depending on which lineup Boston head coach Doc Rivers is running at the time.
The nature of the balloting kept Pierce off of the All-Star starter list. Because fans must vote by position and positions were fairly arbitrarily fixed, fans voted in the flashier Vince Carter and the more heartwarming Grant Hill to start ahead of arguably more talented choices such as Pierce, Gilbert Arenas, Dwyane Wade, and Hill's teammate Steve Francis. They almost had no choice: Pierce was listed as a guard and could not be voted for as a forward. Pierce came in ninth in voting for the starters.
But it was the nature of the basketball coaches that brought Pierce back as an All-Star reserve for the fourth consecutive year. The coaches appreciate his tenacity, his clutch performances, and his overall play. He is undeniably the best player on the best team in the Atlantic division. Sure, the Celtics are only at the .500 mark so far this season, but just imagine where they would be without him. Their roster would be similar to Charlotte's. They would be firmly in lottery land.
You can expect to see quite a treat when these two are on the same team in Denver. But you better not blink because it won't be for too long.