Commentary

No picking sides in Pierce vs. Allen

Celtics aren't taking the bait when it comes to handicapping tonight's 3-point duel

Updated: February 19, 2011, 4:58 PM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

LOS ANGELES -- No truth to the rumor that the Boston Celtics considered erecting a divider straight through the middle of their practice facility at the Sports Authority Training Center in Waltham, Mass., last week. It simply felt that way when a team that's rarely short on opinions turned into a bunch of fence-sitters in advance of Saturday's 3-point shootout, a part of festivities at the 60th annual NBA All-Star Game.

The 12 veterans on Boston's roster at the start of the 2010-11 season had 108 seasons of cumulative NBA experience. No surprise then that they typically act like your curmudgeonly grandfather, spouting unsolicited opinions about anything and everything. Coach Doc Rivers has noted in the past that some of his troops will argue just to argue.

[+] EnlargePaul Pierce/Ray Allen
AP Photo/Charles KrupaPaul Pierce and Ray Allen have joked back and forth heading into Saturday night's 3-point showdown.

Yet not a single player had the temerity to choose between defending 3-point shootout champion Paul Pierce and former champion Ray Allen when the question was posed in the days leading up to Saturday's showdown.

In fact, the question reduced most of those same veterans to tongue-tied 12-year-olds at the middle school dance. Heck, the other third of Boston's Big Three, Kevin Garnett, couldn't think of an excuse fast enough when bullied into choosing.

"Well [being in the] NBA, I can't really speak about betting and gambling and I don't want to get in trouble [any more] than you do," said Garnett. "I don't know how to answer that. As a matter of fact, I won't answer that."

He wasn't the only one. Rivers called for a tie; Rajon Rondo acted as if he was being forced to pick allegiances between divorcing parents; and Marquis Daniels might have produced the smartest answer of all, replying to a Twitter query by answering, "Ray Pierce."

Whether the Celtics simply didn't want to hurt a teammate's feelings or it's truly too close to call, all eyes will be on Pierce and Allen on Saturday night when their participation highlights what has recently emerged as the cornerstone of the skills challenges.

It was certainly the highlight a year ago, when Pierce, battling through the bumps and bruises that threatened his participation, arrived with visions of Larry Bird, trash-talking the field and backing it up by topping Chauncey Billups and Stephen Curry in the final round to emerge with the trophy.

Then he proclaimed himself one of the game's top shooters of all time and hasn't stopped boasting the claim since.

It seems impossible to bet against that kind of swagger. Unless, of course, the opposition offers a player such as Allen, the NBA's new all-time leader in 3-point field goals and a former champion of the event.

Allen didn't just surpass Reggie Miller to become the career leader in made trifectas, but he's shooting a career-best 45.7 percent from beyond the arc this season, threatening to annihilate his previous best (43.4 percent, 2001-02 with Milwaukee).

"Both of them," Rivers said when asked who would win. "It's going to be a tie. That's the right answer."

Alas, ties are not acceptable. Just ask Rondo, who engaged in a miniature 3-point contest of his own last season against Kevin Durant after their game of H-O-R-S-E ran late and producers didn't want to settle for a tie.

Rondo doesn't want to see a tie either, but he also isn't taking sides in this trifecta war.

"I hope they don't tie;; someone's got to win," said Rondo. But pressed on the issue, he wouldn't pick allegiances. "I can't pick, since I can't go against my teammate."

Fortunately, Las Vegas doesn't have a conscious and installed Allen as an early favorite. Pierce is using it as motivation. Allen simply smiled at the suggestion.

"It'd be interesting to hear who they say is going to win based on what their opinion is," Rivers said. "[But] it's like shooting arrows in the dark. People are going to say something just to sound good and hopefully they're right. It's just all a matter of who just goes on a streak and feels good at that point in time. That's what it's all about."

Fair enough. But who's going to win, Ray?

"I don't know; It'll be interesting, put it that way," said Allen.

Sigh! Even he's noncommittal. What about you, Paul?

"Ray will be answering all my questions," Pierce joked as he left the practice floor Tuesday. "And he'll tell you the truth."

We sure wish someone would.

Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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