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06/03/2010 - 15:43
Born in LA, Heart in Boston
by Evelyn Lau

Growing up in California, Paul Pierce dreamed of one day winning an NBA championship.

In 2008, that dream finally came true as he helped the Boston Celtics win their 17th title -- the most for any franchise in NBA history -- with a four to two series victory over his hometown LA Lakers.

Fast forward to 2010, and the Captain has a chance to further cement his legacy if he can lead the Cs to another title against their biggest rival. Of course, the series takes on added meaning anytime Paul faces the team that he grew up rooting for -- particularly now that he's part of the pantheon of talent to come from Southern California.

As the Boston Globe wrote:

"There have been some great players from the Los Angeles area, including Marques Johnson, Gail Goodrich, Byron Scott, Reggie Theus, and Paul Westphal, and Pierce has joined that group."

However, Paul's accomplishments as a Celtic have separated him from the rest:

"He is on the verge of the 20,000-point mark. An eight-time All-Star and the 2008 NBA Finals MVP, he could be poised to join the Mount Rushmore of Celtic greats. That arguably makes him the best player ever to emerge from the Los Angeles area."

Paul has gained the ultimate respect from his LA counterparts for what he's been able to do in his time with the Celtics organization.

"He will return to his hometown Thursday for Game 1 of the NBA Finals as arguably the city’s greatest basketball product.

"In terms of what he’s done as a pro, I would say there’s none better," said Stevie Thompson, a standout at Crenshaw High and Syracuse University in the early 1990s. "There have been guys who have won championships, but I am not sure if there has been one who has won it as the No. 1 guy. When it comes down to the fourth quarter, he’s going to get the ball. So I would have to say Pierce is the best."

Marques Johnson admires not only Pierce’s team accomplishments but his overall game, and he saw hints of that player as a developed 12-year-old 20 years ago.

"That’s why I respect him as a player. He does things efficiently," Johnson said. "There’s not a lot of dunks. Not a lot of flair, not a lot of double clutches. It’s just pull-up jumpers, just real efficient moves. It’s a sign of a guy who has put in a lot of work on his game. I think we are living vicariously through Paul, whatever he does, we back in LA are proud of him. He represents us."

But despite being a native of the LA area, Paul recently told ESPN.com, he believes that Boston fans are some of the best in the world:

"Our fans are, I want to say, a little bit more knowledgeable to the game," said Pierce, a Lakers fan growing up in Inglewood. "I think a lot of celebrities come here to get out of the house (rather) than to watch a game -- to see the other celebrities. It's an interesting crowd, whereas I think our fans really come to watch the actual game."

When the Truth came to Boston in 1997, people weren't sure what to expect but Paul has undoubtedly done his part to help the franchise achieve success, as written in Sports Illustrated:

"And now on the cusp of a second title in three years, Pierce is enjoying a second career, his narrative rewritten from petulant anti-captain to caretaker of a proud franchise -- a franchise that until 2008 hadn't recovered from the twin deaths of Len Bias and Reggie Lewis, from its inability to adjust to the free-agent era and, of course, from the pingpong-ball unluckiness of the 1997 lottery that put Duncan in San Antonio instead of Boston.

In the most unexpected of twists, Pierce revived himself and his team in 2008, outplaying the Cavs' James in the conference semifinals and the Lakers' Bryant in the Finals to win an elusive championship. This year, to win, as he continues to fight to belong, he has had to go through Dwayne Wade and defending conference champ Orlando, as well as James again. And now, Bryant once more."

PAUL DRAWS ARTEST
With LA's offseason addition of Ron Artest, the Lakers have a new test for The Truth during this 2010 version of the series.

The two have had many a fierce hardwood battle over time, as the LA Times reports:

"Maybe Artest will get excited to play against Pierce, who tore the Lakers apart in the 2008 NBA Finals on his way to being named most valuable player?

"He's [Pierce] in the championship," Artest said. "Those other small forwards are not. He's been there a couple of years already. He's been in big games and he's hit a lot of big shots."

Paul averaged 21.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds a game in the 2008 Finals to claim the MVP trophy and Artest promises to make repeating those feats a difficult task.

However, having played against Artest when he was in the Eastern Conference as an Indiana Pacer, Paul said he knows what to expect, telling the Boston Herald:

"He likes to bang you, get in your body, grab you, hold you, pull your shorts down. He’s going to try anything,” Pierce said. "You guys know that just from watching him over the years. He’ll try anything just to try to get into his opponent’s head. I think just playing against him over the years I’ve become used to the things that he tries to do. I just try to go out there and play my game and really not get into the antics.”

NEXT UP
Boston makes its 21st appearance in the NBA Finals against the LA Lakers, where the C's are 9-2 all-time.

Paul and company travel to LA to take on the Lakers in Game 1 at the Staples Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. EST tonight and the game will be televised nationally on ABC.

RELATED STORIES

Pierce’s game is city slick (Boston Globe, May 31, 2010)
http://www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/articles/2010/05/31/pier...
Ron Artest sees pieces fall together in matchup with Paul Pierce (LA Times, June 1, 2010)
http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-lakers-fyi-20100602,0,6989161.story
Paul Pierce, Ron Artest do battle (Boston Herald, June 2, 2010)
http://bostonherald.com/sports/basketball/celtics/view/20100602paul_pier...
Jedi Knight of Hoops (Sports Illustrated, May 26, 2010)
http://joeposnanski.si.com/2010/05/26/jedi-knight-of-hoops/
Lakers, Celtics chase history with multiple titles (Boston Globe, June 3, 2010)
http://www.boston.com/sports/basketball/articles/2010/06/03/lakers_celti...
In sports history, nothing can rival it (Boston Globe, June 2, 2010)
http://www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/articles/2010/06/02/in_s...