Almost nine years after his last NBA game, Mickael Pietrus (40 years old, on February 7) is today a fulfilled retiree, who had the chance to play more than 500 games in the league (for 8.3 points on average), between Golden State, Orlando, Boston, Phoenix and Toronto .
A full career, to which we already returned in 2014, and made up of excellent moments, but also of some hard knocks, for the one nicknamed “Air France”.
After a promising debut at Pau-Orthez, alongside his brother Florent and a certain Boris Diaw, Mickaël Piétrus was selected in 11th position by the Golden State Warriors, during the famous 2003 Draft. Behind LeBron James, Darko Milicic , Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Chris Kaman or even Kirk Hinrich, but ahead of Nick Collison, Luke Ridnour, “Babac”, Kendrick Perkins or even Leandro Barbosa.
And the debut in the NBA of Guadeloupe is laborious.
Injuries delay its flight
Used 14 minutes in his first career game (5 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal), he then injured his left ankle and missed almost a month of competition. Back at the end of November, Mickaël Piétrus is used sporadically by his coach, Eric Musselman. He rarely plays more than 5 minutes and even collects 19 “DNP” during the season…
For a “lottery pick”, the failure is total. However, on March 5, when the 2003/04 season was already lost for the Warriors, Eric Musselman integrated the Frenchman into his starting lineup and gave him substantial playing time until the end of the countryside. The 22-year-old full-back/winger is showing some great things, for example running at 8.9 points on average (45% on shots) over this period.
Despite this good end to the season, Mickael Piétrus’ first year in the NBA remains a failure.
In the middle of summer, the native of Les Abymes then injured his shoulder and was forced to forfeit the “training camp” and the preseason. Two crucial periods for a young player, for the start of the regular season. However, on his return, the Guadeloupe took on the sixth man’s costume and began to earn a reputation as a solid defender. But it is above all his flights in attack that will earn him his nickname: “Air France”.
With 9.5 points on average over the 2004/05 financial year (43% on shots and 34% at 3-pts), the tricolor “swingman” is on the right track. During his third year in the league, in 2005/06, Mickael Piétrus once again missed a good part of the campaign, ie around thirty games in total.
“We Believe [in Mike Piétrus]”
When he returned from injury, in January, he was catapulted into the starting lineup for Golden State following the injury to Jason Richardson, and he then performed very well. The player trained in Pau-Orthez finished ten times with 10 points or more and he even relegated Mike Dunleavy Jr. to the bench, once Richardson was back on his feet.
But several bad performances made him lose the confidence of his coach, Mike Montgomery, and Mickaël Piétrus ended the season as a substitute.
And it is in 2006/07 that the brother of Florent Piétrus will know his most beautiful campaign. He only misses ten games, something that had never happened to him before, and he spends nearly 30 minutes on average on the court. Participating greatly in the feat of the Warriors in the first round of the 2007 playoffs, against the Mavericks, who were however the best team in the league in the regular season.
With 11.1 points and 4.5 rebounds on average over the year (49% on shots and 39% at 3-pts), there is reason to believe in the future of “Air France”, whose takeoff seems inevitable. “We Believe”, as the players of the Bay would say.
However, Mickaël Piétrus saw his impact drastically reduced the following year. His playing time is back under 20 minutes and his point average (7.3) is the lowest since his rookie exercise. Left free in the offseason by the leaders of Golden State, the Guadeloupe then engages with a big team: the Magic.
Unforgettable Florida epic
Despite this change of air, the rear / tricolor winger remains a regular in the infirmary. He misses nearly 30 games for his first season in Orlando, due to various injuries: ribs, thumb, wrist, knee… Suddenly, although benefiting from the confidence of his coach, Stan Van Gundy, his integration is slowed down by these repeated absences and his level of play stagnates.
In the playoffs, Mickaël Piétrus, however, participates in the excellent course of his team, led by Dwight Howard and beaten only by the Lakers, during the Finals !
After a mediocre first round against Philadelphia, the Frenchman manages to raise his level of play against Boston, Cleveland and Los Angeles. In order to shoot more than 10 points on average during the rest of the playoffs, bringing as a bonus its external address on the campaign (36%). While exercising an iron defense on seasoned players like Paul Pierce, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant…
In 2009/10, in this now expected Florida squad, Mickaël Piétrus played no less than 75 games (his career record), mainly in the role of sixth man and “Minister of Defence”. And the following year, after starting the season with the same role of blaster off the bench, he was traded in mid-December to the Suns, a team in full reconstruction.
But in Arizona, the passage of “Air France” is tasteless. Substitute, he plays more or less long depending on the evening, but he especially has difficulty integrating into the collective of the franchise, always guided by Steve Nash.
Boston and Toronto as last stops
Cut by Phoenix on December 22, 2011, a few days before the start of this exercise delayed due to “lockout”, the French player signed up for a year with the Celtics, a week later.
There, he relays a certain Ray Allen, but also Paul Pierce. At almost 30 years old, Mickaël Piétrus is at a turning point in his career. As part of an experienced team that is aiming for nothing but the title, as in 2008, and despite some physical glitches, he brings his share when coming off the bench and he notably achieves very good playoffs, under the orders of Doc Rivers.
Despite everything, Boston leaves him free during the offseason and the Guadeloupe finds himself in the water. He did not find a buyer before the start of the 2012/13 campaign and he refused to return to play in the NBA.
Except that he finally receives a call from Toronto at the end of November. Immediately integrated into the Canadian starting five to supervise a group that is still very young, where we find DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas or Terrence Ross, the Frenchman sees his performance diminish over the matches.
Worse: Mickaël Piétrus was injured again on January 9, 2013 and, on his return from injury, he was no longer in the plans of Dwane Casey, who preferred to give young people from Toronto a chance. Finally, it was on March 20 of that same year 2013, against Charlotte, that the 11th choice of the 2003 Draft appeared for the last time on an NBA floor.
Soft landing for “Air France”
Logically left free by the Raptors, the man with 44 selections in the French team does not manage to find training for the 2013/14 season and he will finally end his professional career in France, with Nancy, in 2015/16.
On arrival, the career of Mickaël Piétrus seems difficult to judge.
If we consider the glass half full, he will have remained in the NBA for almost 10 years, much more than the average of a lambda player, and he especially knew the joy of the playoffs on several occasions. Both in 2007, during the feat of the Warriors, in 2009, for the Finals of the Magic, or in 2012, for the conference final of the “Big Three” of the Celtics against the “Big Three” of the Heat.
On the other hand, considering the glass half empty, he probably could have aimed even higher had he been able to stay healthy throughout his career, as injuries have too often sidelined him. .
Nevertheless, Mickaël Piétrus will have established himself as one of the most outstanding French basketball players of his time, earning the respect of Kobe Bryant with his defense and serving as a model for the young…Stephen Curry.
i’m going to practice that michael petrius corner 3 right now…money maker in the league
—Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) May 27, 2009
🗨️The sayings of Mike Piétrus
In the artistic vagueness of translations between French and English, Mickaël Piétrus also liked to invent his own sayings.
– “I hope to stay a Celtic for many years to come. I’ve seen the other side of the sea, and the fish there is different. I don’t want to go back there. “
– “I am smiling again, because I am playing again without pain in my right knee. I’m like a new car registered in WW. “
– “I am always without pressure. Like Vittel water. Without pressure. “
“It means a lot to me. I read Serbian, Greek and Lithuanian too. It’s not bad, you see? They call me Google. I translate everything. “