Potential first-round opponent Paul Pierce doesn’t fear a playoff matchup with the Toronto Raptors.
In a revealing interview with ESPN, the Washington Wizards guard said that, despite going 0-3 against Toronto this season, the Raptors simply don’t have the “It” factor that would concern him heading into the post-season.
“We haven’t done particularly well against Toronto, but I don’t feel they have the ‘It’ that makes you worried,” Pierce told ESPN.com. “There isn’t a team I look at in the Eastern Conference that makes me say, ‘They are intimidating, we don’t have a chance.'”
Toronto wasn’t the only team that Pierce mentioned. He also said the first-place Atlanta Hawks didn’t give off an aura where he would be afraid of them. Pierce admitted he is most concerned with the Cleveland Cavaliers because of superstar LeBron James and the depth of veteran players they added to their roster.
As of Wednesday, Pierce’s Wizards are positioned to face off against the Raptors in the opening round of the post-season. The 37-year-old Pierce started in all three losses against Toronto this season, averaging 14.7 points per game, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists on 48.5 percent shooting.
Pierce has had plenty of success historically against Toronto. He played a role in eliminating Toronto from the playoffs last season with the Brooklyn Nets and had even greater success against the club when he was a member of the Boston Celtics. Pierce has scored an average of 20.3 points per game in 60 career games against Toronto.
Pierce also opened up about his strange relationship with former teammate Ray Allen, and why he didn’t enjoy playing in Brooklyn. He signed a two-year, $11-million deal with Washington this past summer as a free agent.
“It was a tough situation (in Brooklyn) last year,” he admitted. “Horrible, really.”
“It was just the guys’ attitudes there. It wasn’t like we were surrounded by a bunch of young guys. They were vets who didn’t want to play and didn’t want to practice. I was looking around saying, ‘What’s this?’ Kevin (Garnett) and I had to pick them up every day in practice.
“If me and Kevin weren’t there, that team would have folded up. That team would have packed it in. We kept them going each and every day.”
Pierce said he expected more from point guard Deron Williams, who he viewed as a legitimate MVP candidate before they were teammates with the Nets.
“I felt once we got there, that’s not what he wanted to be. He just didn’t want that,” he said. “I think a lot of the pressure got to him sometimes. This was his first time in the national spotlight. The media in Utah is not the same as the media in New York, so that can wear on some people. I think it really affected him.”