''We play them pretty tough, and they're the best team in the league right now," said Pierce. ''I don't know if it's because they don't get up for us or because we match up well. You've got me and Tayshaun [Prince], and Ricky [Davis] and Richard Hamilton. [Kendrick Perkins] is like a young Ben Wallace to me. We don't know if he'll be a great offensive player, but he's taken his strengths and worked to make the most of them. He has long arms. He knows his role getting rebounds. Delonte [West] reminds me of Chauncey [Billups]."
Rip Hamilton doesn't agree. From the Detroit News:
Hamilton just shook his head.
"I'm not even hearing that," he said.
Flip Saunders gave Pierce the benefit of the doubt:
"Paul's a player, not a coach," he said.
"He might not have said it the way he wanted to, but I think he's saying that their strengths are similar to our strengths."
"They have two dynamic wings in Paul and Ricky and we have two dynamic wings in Tay and Rip. Perkins is a center who doesn't get the ball much but does his work on the defensive end, which is how we use Ben. The only place the comparison doesn't work is with Delonte and Chauncey. I don't really see that one."
As the Chris McCosky alluded to, the real irony is that Boston already had their chance to build their team around a young Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups.
Wallace tried out for the team three times but never made the cut -- former Boston boss M.L. Carr even suggested to Wallace that he move to small forward. But Wallace stayed at center, and after a couple of years with the Wizards he finally got a chance to play regular minutes over an entire season in 1999-2000 with the Magic under coach (wait for it... wait for it...) Doc Rivers.
As for Billups, the Celtics drafted him third overall in 1997 but gave up on him after just 51 games by trading him to Toronto. Boston isn't the only team to pass on Billups -- Toronto, Denver, Orlando and Minnesota all probably wish they had him back -- but they were the first, which is the most confusing since they were the ones that had just invested such a high pick in him.