Pierce looking forward to Shaq pairing

Paul Pierce is eager to help Shaquille O’Neal catch up to Kobe

Bryant.

Pierce enthusiastically endorsed the Boston Celtics’ decision to

sign O’Neal after Pierce’s No. 34 jersey was retired at Inglewood

High School on Tuesday.

Boston owner Wyc Grousbeck said the Celtics decided to pursue

O’Neal after Bryant’s playful remark after the Los Angeles Lakers’

Game 7 victory over Boston last June in the NBA finals. Bryant

laughed about having one more championship ring than O’Neal, his

former teammate with the Lakers.

”I’m not at all surprised by it, because (Grousbeck) is a

competitor too,” said Pierce, the 2008 finals MVP. ”Even though

he’s not on the court with us, when we win, he wins, and when we

lose, he loses, because he feels it just as much as we do.”

Pierce, a former high school McDonald’s All-American who played

at Kansas for three seasons, was honored by civic leaders and

community members including Inglewood Mayor Daniel K. Tabor during

a two-hour ceremony. Pierce grew up in Inglewood as a Lakers

fan.

”This is a great day for me,” Pierce said. ”It’s a great

honor. There’s only a few people that have had their jersey retired

at the high school.”

The acquisition of O’Neal was one of several notable offseason

moves made by the Celtics, who topped the Lakers two years ago

before losing the final two games of last season’s finals. O’Neal,

who won three championships alongside Bryant, long ago gave Pierce

his nickname – ”The Truth.”

”I’m excited,” Pierce said of playing with O’Neal. ”He’s one

of my all-time favorite players, and now I have a chance to play

with one of the greatest players to ever play the game.”

The Celtics added O’Neal to give depth to their frontcourt.

Boston center Kendrick Perkins hurt his right knee midway through

the first quarter of Game 6 of the finals and was sidelined for

Game 7, when the Lakers clinched their second straight

championship.

Since then, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has said the Lakers

still haven’t beaten the Celtics at full strength. Pierce

agrees.

”We reloaded this year,” Pierce said. ”We added some more

pieces – Jermaine O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal, a couple other pieces –

so he was right. Hopefully we can get to the finals this year

healthy. We’ll have the opportunity to win a championship.”