Last season Mickael Pietrus struggled to make much of an impact for a lottery Phoenix Suns team.
This postseason he was the only reserve the Boston Celtics trusted with regular rotation minutes (once Avery Bradley went down and Ray Allen returned to the first unit at least), as the Celtics came a game short of the NBA Finals.
Rewind five months and the Phoenix Suns couldn’t give Pietrus and his $5.3 million expiring contract away.
They tried to trade him to Toronto for a conditional second-rounder, but his balky knee prevented it from going through. They eventually agreed to a buyout that made him a free agent, and the Frenchman signed a deal with the Celtics.
On his way out the door, PBO Lon Babby told The Arizona Republic,“Both Mickael and us realized it’d be beneficial for both parties to part ways. There’s an expression that, ‘All’s well that ends well.’ In this case, all’s well that ends.”
Head coach Alvin Gentry added, “In order for it to be a good fit, you’ve got to want to be here and I’m not sure he was ever fully engaged about being here.”
In Phoenix, Pietrus jacked up bad threes at will and didn’t always seem to have his head in the game. He irked Gentry for getting himself ejected for no reason during a March game in which the Suns were shorthanded and then missed the final 12 games with a knee injury, largely staying away from the team as the season wound down.
He was supposed to be a perfect fit with his defensive prowess and three-point shooting, yet his defensive intensity wavered (oddly enough one of his best moments came in standing up to KG during a win over the Celts) and he shot 34.2 percent from distance.
From what I saw of him, the guy was just a complete goofball who didn’t seem to take much seriously. Based on those comments from Babby and Gentry, despite his talent it wasn’t worth rostering a player who may not have been pulling in the same direction as the rest of the team and just did not care quite enough.
I don’t know if it was a personal thing or if he was just frustrated playing for a team that would miss the playoffs, but from afar Pietrus seems to have largely been a different player mentally with this veteran Boston group.
I’m sure the Suns’ brass must be wondering what an engaged Pietrus could have done for them either on the court or in a trade.
Pietrus did not shoot particularly well in the playoffs, knocking down just 32.9 percent of his shots and 22.2 percent of his treys.
However, according to the NBA’s stats tool, the Celts outscored the Hawks by 8.0 points per 100 with him on the floor (compared to 4.3 without him), and they were 5.0 per 100 better than the Sixers with him and even without him.
Boston played Miami about the same with Pietrus on the floor and on the bench, and while he was largely invisible in that series he hit a few clutch threes in the Celts’ Game 5 upset and fouled LeBron out with a timely flop.
So while his shooting was as abysmal as it was in Phoenix, he still gave some solid minutes to a Celtics squad severely lacking bench depth.
Normally when you think of a “one team’s trash is another team’s treasure” kind of situation you envision Channing Frye going from backing up LaMarcus Aldridge to spacing the floor for Steve Nash. In other words, the player’s new opportunity offers a much better role or system that leads said player to surprising levels of success.
But to me the reason Mickael Pietrus flopped in Phoenix and played a key role in Boston all comes down to his own intrinsic motivation.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.
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