Paul Pierce takes heat for insisting LeBron James isn't a top-5 NBA player

Paul Pierce takes heat for insisting LeBron James isn't a top-5 NBA player

If Paul Pierce is in the news these days, it's usually for one of two reasons: 1) It's the anniversary of one of his great performances; or 2) He delivered a highly questionable basketball take.

Tuesday night brought us No. 2.

During a spirited debate on ESPN's "NBA Countdown" about the best NBA players of all time, the former Boston Celtics star listed several players who weren't LeBron James.

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"Bill Russell built up the organization in Boston. He should get way more credit than we give him, and a lot of times he gets left out of the conversation," Pierce said. "So in saying that, Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), Magic (Johnson), (Michael) Jordan, Tim Duncan, Kobe (Bryant), (Larry) Bird. These guys are all-time top 10 players who either helped build up their organization or continued the tradition."

In Pierce's view, James doesn't belong in that same conversation because he loaded his championship teams with stars rather than build them from the ground up.

"He went and put together a team in Miami, and in some ways, he came back to Cleveland to put that team together, and then he went to the Lakers, where a tradition has already been made," Pierce said.

So, is Pierce really saying James isn't one of the five best basketball players of all time? Why yes, he is.

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"You wanna hear my top five? You want to hear it again?" Pierce continued. "Jordan, Kareem, Russell. And you know who the fourth one is? Magic. Now you know who’s in my top five? Kobe Bryant.

"That’s my top five. Argue with it."

The internet happily obliged, as professional athletes and casual fans alike ripped Pierce for his anti-LeBron slander.

As many pointed out, Pierce isn't exactly an impartial observer: His Celtics had several playoff battles with James' Cavaliers and Heat teams, a handful of which LeBron won.

James also effectively broke up Boston's "Big Three" when he scored 31 points in Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, as Ray Allen signed with Miami that following offseason.

So, "The Truth" may have an agenda in leaving James out of his top five -- and the internet is letting him have it.

Celtics will return to limited practice routine starting June 1

Celtics will return to limited practice routine starting June 1

The Boston Celtics will move one step closer towards preparing for the remainder of this season, with voluntary individual player workouts beginning at the team’s practice facility on June 1. 

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Friday that professional teams in the state could resume practicing soon. 

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“I know we still aren’t to the point where we’ll have our pro sports teams back playing anything yet,” Baker said in a press conference at the State House. “The leagues are obviously working hard to host games again. And I think we all hope that at some point, opening practice facilities will help make that happen a little sooner.”

Danny Ainge, the Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations, echoed similar sentiments on Friday. 

“We’re happy that our players will now have the option to work out individually in a safe environment at the Auerbach Center,” Ainge said. “And we hope it signals a step back towards playing basketball again.”

The Celtics added that the workouts will adhere to strict protocols that include but are not limited to the following:

  • Workouts are voluntary & will be conducted in strict accordance with city, state, CDC, and NBA requirements and guidelines.
  • Symptom and temperature checks will be done by team medical staff before anyone enters the facility.
  • Workouts will be limited to individual (1-on-0) shooting, strength and conditioning work, and medical evaluation and therapy as needed.
  • Only essential areas will be accessed. There will be no access to locker rooms, showers, hydrotherapy, medical exam rooms, cafeteria, and offices.
  • Only four players will be able to work out at a time, each working with only one staff member at a time. There will be no more than one player per half court at a time.
  • All staff members will wear masks in the building, and any staff member working with a player must wear gloves. Players will wear masks except while engaging in physical activity. Players and staff will adhere to CDC and NBA compliant social distancing standards at all times.
  • Social distancing will be required in the building except in limited specific instances  (e.g. physical therapy), when PPE will be used.
  • A thorough cleaning and disinfection of all spaces and equipment, including basketballs, will take place before and after each player uses the building.
  • Only staff members essential to these workouts will be present at the Auerbach Center. There will be no access for general staff, public, or media. 

While no definitive date has been set for the NBA to resume play, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has reportedly told owners that the league is targeting July 31 as a return-to-play date. 

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NBA rumors: July 31 is a target date for 2019-20 season return

NBA rumors: July 31 is a target date for 2019-20 season return

Could we see the return of NBA basketball at the end of July?

The Athletic's Shams Charania has reported the league told its Board of Governors on Friday that July 31 is a potential target date for the resumption of the 2019-20 season.

Charania also reported the league discussed four return to play scenarios ranging from going directly to the playoffs with 16 teams to bringing back all 30 teams and having them play 72 regular season games (most teams already have played around 65) before the postseason. The latter scenario doesn't seem likely, though.

If the season does resume, the remaining games (including the playoffs) could be played at one location to minimize travel and maximize the safety and health of players, team employees and everyone else involved. One such location reportedly being considered is Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida.

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It's important to remember nothing has been announced by the league, and plenty of details must be sorted out before games can start up again. This news of a potential target date for a season return is encouraging, though.