Sunday Notebook: Paul Pierce At WSOP, Shaq to TNT, Wafer Talks Free Agency
Posted by Brian Robb on Jul 10, 2011
We’ll start with the debut of the C’s captain Paul Pierce at the World Series of Poker main event in Las Vegas. Both Bluff Magazine and ESPN’s Poker Blog did a solid job covering The Truth’s survival through the 1c section of day one of the $10,000 dollar buy-in event. Pierce finished the day with an above-average chip stack as he outlasted over 800 others in the crowded field of 2,100 plus on Sunday. Here’s a few highlights from ESPN’s coverage on Pierce:
The NBA superstar blends in with the field well, quietly raising, folding and calling with the rest of the masses in the Pavilion Room. Unless you see his huge green shoes, striped white and green socks, NBA championship ring, hat with the green 34 on the back or watch him stand up and tower over the rest of the players at his table, he basically is just another player in the room. Although that description might scream that he’s standing out, it isn’t the case at all.
The idea that he’s just one of the guys is just one of the great reasons that the WSOP main event is a spectacle unlike any other. Anyone with $10,000 can play. Just like comedians Brad Garrett (still in, 60,000 in chips) and Ray Romano (eliminated) who also entered on Day 1C, Pierce isn’t judged or perceived differently than any other player. It doesn’t matter what the celebrities in attendance can brag about throughout their professional careers; they’re only judged on their actions at the felt.
Since the start of the day, Pierce’s chip counts have consistently been on the way up. He’s been focused on the task at hand, quietly keeping to himself and offering a more-serious demeanor at the table. His tablemates, including WSOP Circuit champion and Oklahoma City Thunder fan Huy Nguyen, are making small talk, but it’s really all business. At the same time, Pierce has had no problem talking to those on the rail and even taking pictures if he was asked. Unlike most players, he was willing to miss a few hands in order to talk with some fans. He’s an outsider here at the Rio and while it’s probably not what he’s used to, perhaps stepping into the shadows for a little while has allowed him to concentrate on making it through the day.
After spending some time watching him play, it’s clear that he’s comfortable. With headphones on, he acts with precision, but his general demeanor is intimidating and adds an element to his game that not many others possess. The nine-time NBA All-Star failed to make the money in a preliminary event a few weeks ago. He had never played in poker’s biggest event before, but perhaps this year will be the start of a tradition that everyone in the industry was excited to see.
And here are a couple of quotes via Bluff Magazine on the captain staying humble after finishing out day one:
A few big name celebrities also found their way to the felt on Saturday. Former Everybody Loves Raymond stars Ray Romano and Brad Garrett were in action as was Boston Celtics superstar Paul Pierce. Romano busted out the second level of the day but both Romano and Pierce managed to advance to Day 2. Garrett finished with 68,000 but it was Pierce who surprised most observers with his play. The NBA all-star bagged up 63,750 despite having what he describes as limited playing experience.
“Solid day. I’ve gotta pick it up if I want to compete. It’s a good first day. It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” said Pierce, who wore his NBA championship ring at the table. “Regardless of who I am in the NBA I’m everybody’s equal at the table. I’m fair game. You’ve got to be able to play.”
Clearly the right attitude to have by Pierce here, knowing the gauntlet he has laid out in front of him if he hopes of making it deep in the biggest poker tournament of them all. Luckily, the buy-in is merely chump change for PP, which if anything, should only help his psyche. And while Paul may have “limited playing experience” in tourney play by his own description, make no mistake, the man likes to play cards and has done so for years with his C’s teammates.
Let’s take a quick flashback to a candid interview Ray Allen gave to Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub (via: Sports Radio Interviews) in Boston during this past season after the Tony Allen/O.J. Mayo gambling debt fight broke in the news. Pierce isn’t mentioned by name here, but make no mistake he’s one of the regulars in card games on the plane.
On whether he and his teammates play card games on the plane and have ever had any sort of incident like the one involving former teammate Tony Allen and O.J. Majo recently:
“Yeah, it’s tough because if you think about our schedule, we’re on the plane probably two or three hours, probably some of the most time of our time together is on a plane. You watch movies, you read, you play cards. … There’s so many things that you do to pass the time and cards is one of them. … Your competitive juices never turn off and it turns into playing cards. It all about the culture of the team you have. I would never try to fight one of my teammates.”
On people who think those games should be banned:
“It’s hard to really say. It takes a mature group of guys to be able to deal with a situation like that. There are cases that on some teams, that’s possibly something you should do, but for us, we have a mature group of guys. … We know how to take care of ourselves and be men and make sure that certain things don’t take place. We’re responsible for each other. There’s some teams that just aren’t capable.”
On how the Celtics handle things when someone is owed money:
“We just have a committee. We always talk about, you have this amount of time to pay your debt, whether it’s the next trip or whatever. So if you’re playing cards and you lose, everybody’s like, ‘You owe this dude that much money, you’ve got to pay him by the next time we get on the plane.’ It’s kind of like out of shame that we get guys to pay each other back. I, personally, stopped gambling.”
I love that committee tidbit at the end. You know, especially over this past season, with that roster, there was plenty of money to be thrown around in poker/card games on those flights. Here’s hoping that experience translates over to Paul while he’s in Vegas.
We transition from Pierce to the C’s latest retiree Shaq, who according to CNBC’s business reporter Darren Rovell has inked a deal with Turner to be a commentator with the Inside the NBA crew of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson and Chris Webber. Given the candid nature of Shaq throughout his career in interviews, the best NBA show figures to be even better with The Big Shamrock filling a rather large chair in what will be a crowded studio.
Finally, Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld caught up with Von Wafer recently in the midst of the ongoing lockout. The former C’s swingman, who lost his number 12 already to JaJuan Johnson, had a few interesting nuggets during his conversation with Kennedy, who first reported the C’s signing of Wafer last summer:
“The free agency process is always kind of hectic,” Wafer told HOOPSWORLD. “I’ve been a free agent before, after leaving Houston, and that was a lot of chaos. But this time around has actually been easier for me because I’ve been through it before and I know what to expect.”
“My first option is going somewhere I can play,” Wafer said. “I’ve worked hard and been in the league for five seasons. I know I belong here and I can be a productive NBA player if given the opportunity. I’m 25 years old and starting to enter my prime so I want to find the right situation. I would love to go back to Boston. I loved it there and it would be perfect if I have the opportunity to be a part of the rotation.”
In the meantime, he’s not limiting his options to NBA teams. The last time Wafer was a free agent, he made headlines by signing with the Greek powerhouse Olympiakos. He has contemplated the possibility of returning overseas during the lockout, and has received inquiries from a number of international teams.
“Even before the lockout, it’s definitely something that I thought about,” Wafer said. “Now that we are in a lockout, it’s definitely an option because I can go overseas and have a larger role. It’s a way to make money and I could really be a contributor for a team.”
Wafer didn’t stay in Greece for the duration of his previous contract, and he regrets how the situation played out.
“If I could do it all over again, I would have never left Greece,” Wafer said. “It was really hard, but I gave up on it too early. The mistake that I made was going over there all by myself. I should have brought my family or friends so that it would have been easier. Other than that, the experience was great. I definitely think going back over there is an option. It’s a good situation, a competitive league and it’s a chance for me to play during this lockout.”
We’ll have more on Wafer’s past and potential future with the C’s this week, as we begin to kick around a number of debates here at CelticsHub. Happy Sunday everyone.