I'll admit that Paul Pierce's rapid return from the roundball grave tonight made for superb entertainment. But it also gave more ammunition to the conspiracy theorists who think that NBA playoff games are scripted by the same people who plot the spontaneity of professional wrestling. Had he just made an appearance a la Willis Reed, that would have been one thing. To come back so quickly from what looked to be a season-ending injury and pick right up where he'd left off, however, was almost too improbable to be true. I'm leaving that "almost" in because I want to believe, but my reason is leading me down a thornier path. Indeed, the Celtics' own team physician seems to have had a skeptical take on the whole affair:
"Athletes in that situation always think the worst," said McKeon, who would not comment on the specifics of Pierce's injury. "He doesn't know. He's a player, not a doctor.""McKeon told him it was time to play," is the sentence that raises the most red flags for me. Doctors usually err on the side of caution, after all. Maybe McKeon was just holding out for a bigger kickback. Wait, did I say that? It sounds libelous. I'd better make it clear that I was kidding. You know, exaggerating for effect. Kind of like Paul Pierce. . . I'd better end this now.
McKeon said an athlete's natural reaction is to fear the worst and try to minimize more damage. So he didn't draw any conclusions about the injury until he got Pierce in the training room.
"An injury is an emotional time for any athlete. There's so much adrenaline involved," McKeon said. "So you have to get them in an isolated situation. You have to calm things down."
Once Pierce was able to get back up on his feet, he located the pain and tried to move from side to side. When he put his weight on it, he knew he could at least give it a try.
McKeon told him it was time to play.
Pierce said: "Let's do it."