In case you were wondering, John Havlicek — Hondo — is the Boston Celtics’ all-time leader in points scored. So he brings a lot of cache when he talks about the game’s best scorers. During the recent Hall of Fame induction ceremony this past weekend, Hondo told the Boston Globe‘s Gary Washburn that recently traded Paul Pierce is the best one-on-one player in Celtics history.
The Celtics are one of the most storied franchises in NBA history, winning 17 NBA championships, one more than the Lakers for the most all-time. They’ve had a number of different all-time players throughout their storied history, and Paul Pierce’s 2008 NBA Finals MVP award and 15 seasons of excellence permits inclusion in the “Best Celtics of All Time” discussion.
Hondo agrees and that’s why he’s like a lot of Boston fans these days after Pierce was traded — along with Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry — to the Brooklyn Nets this offseason as Celtics GM Danny Ainge attempts to rebuild around Rajon Rondo and a coterie of young talent and draft picks.
Hondo understands why Pierce was dealt, and he expressed hope Pierce gets a ring in Brooklyn while talking to Washburn. But it’s the little nugget at the end of his quote about Pierce that’s got us a little rankled (emphasis ours):
“Well I think he wanted to (stay) but circumstances changed and he was able to sort of give himself another shot (at a championship) so you can’t blame him for that,” the all-time great Celtic said after the Hall of Fame ceremonies Sunday. “It’s like Bill Sharman years ago, left the Celtics and became a Laker of all things. So I wish (Pierce) will and hopes that he gets that ring.”
“That’s what free agency does, it doesn’t allow you to have that continuity. We never made a trade in 10 years (with the Celtics) and all the people remained the same. It’s a lot different today but I wish him well. He’s one of the best all-around players and the thing I marveled at was his one-on-one ability. I think he’s the best one-on-one player of all Celtics.”
Except there’s one player that makes Hondo’s suggestion a bit risky: Larry Bird.
This always happens with the passage of time. Think about all the people who never saw Michael Jordan — or Magic Johnson or Bill Russell — play and yet claim that LeBron James is the greatest basketball player of all-time.
At their respective peaks, Bird was a better all-around player than Pierce — and the best modern Celtics player ever — but when you scale down the argument to only include one-on-one ability, it does get a little trickier. Plus, Hondo’s 26,395 points as a Celtic allows him a lot more leeway in these sorts of arguments: the kind we endlessly debate in the down days of August and September.