Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce and coach Doc Rivers had another spat last night.
It came in the first quarter with just a few seconds remaining before the buzzer. Rivers pulled Pierce out, and the all star went to the bench cursing. He yelled in the direction of Rivers: "There's only seven seconds left," and continued to curse, according to the Boston Herald.
On most teams, this type of occurrence is so common that it would hardly be worth mentioning. But this is Pierce, the Celtics' golden boy, noted for his easy-going demeanor. Pierce is the guy who stayed in college for his junior season when the NBA clamored for him. He's the guy who beat death after a near-fatal stabbing. He's the guy who has buoyed the once-dominant franchise through its leanest years.
Even his nickname, given to him by Shaquille O'Neal, implies purity: The Truth.
But Pierce is also the guy who has snapped at his coach several times this season. He spat on opposing players last fall and entangled himself in a heated verbal exchange with Phoenix Suns coach Mike D'Antoni two weeks ago after mocking a Sun player.
In the Celtics 120-113 victory, Pierce had grown weary of the way guard Quentin Richardson throws his fists over his head after every point he scores. Pierce began mocking Richardson by performing the same ritual, and D'Antoni seethed.
Pierce refused to back down. He told reporters that if it was okay for Richardson to show up other teams with this display, Richardson and his team should be willing to accept it in return.
When he has talked about his seven-year career in Boston, Pierce points out the many frustrations.
He endured a boot-camp like atmosphere under much-maligned former coach Rick Pitino. He grew to love Pitino's replacement, Jim O'Brien, but was devastated when O'Brien walked out after he and Danny Ainge, the Celtics' director of basketball operations, disagreed over the club's direction.
Then came Ainge's trade of teammate Antoine Walker in 2003. Pierce faced last season without Walker -- the club's other leading scorer and co-captain -- or O'Brien. Pierce says he became disenchanted.
"It's all part of the business, man, when you go through new coaches, new players," Pierce said last month. "It's definitely humbling, you know, when you got a guy that's been around for a few years and is not with you, or a coach steps down. Having success one year, not having success the next year, it's definitely a humbling experience."
The transformation from congenial to combative Celtic is not complete. Unlike many of his peers, during the tough times, Pierce has refrained from demanding a trade.
"I think I was more frustrated than anything with all the changes with what happened last year," said Pierce. "A lot of times I spoke out of frustration, but I'll always want to be a Celtic or never ask them to trade me or do anything like that."
Ginobli Out With Nagging Injuries
San Antonio Spurs all-star Manu Ginobili missed last night's game against the Phoenix Suns because of soreness in his hip, shoulder and groin, the team said yesterday.
The nagging injuries flared up after Tuesday's victory over the New Jersey Nets, according to the Arizona Republic.
The 6-6 guard, who is from Argentina, joined Spurs forward Tim Duncan on the bench. Duncan sprained his right ankle on Sunday and although he played Tuesday night, Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich said he did not want to play him on consecutive nights.
With their two top players out, the Spurs fell to the Suns, 107-101.
When told that Ginobili and Duncan were sitting out, Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said: "What? Did they have a bus accident on the way over?"
The Suns have their own injury problems. Guard Quentin Richardson suffered a mild concussion last night after being hit accidentally by the Spurs Brent Barry in the first quarter. He did not return to the game and the Suns have not said whether Richardson will miss any games.
Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson will miss three games to be with his wife, who is recovering from surgery. He will turn the team over to assistant coach Avery Johnson for the second time this year, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Johnson led the Mavericks to a 7-3 record when Nelson was out earlier in the season due to shoulder surgery. The Mavericks are grooming Johnson to replace Nelson, the second-winningest coaching in NBA history, when he retires.