WALTHAM, Mass. -- Members of the Boston Celtics will pause twice during Sunday's visit from the Brooklyn Nets to honor Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett during their first game back at TD Garden, but don't expect Boston players to get overly emotional. Boston players have moved on from the departure of the two Celtics legends and are more focused on how to get this team back to contender status in the future than dwelling on past success.
The Celtics are expected to run two video tributes with Garnett first (likely at the game's first timeout) then Pierce (likely after the first quarter). Celtics first-year coach Brad Stevens said he'll hurry his team in and out of the huddle at those breaks in order to appropriately acknowledge what those players meant to the organization.
But no need to save a box of tissues for Rajon Rondo, the only holdover from that Big Three era and the guy who won a title with Pierce and Garnett.
"Have you seen me tear before?" asked Rondo. Told no, he smiled and offered, "OK then."
Rondo admitted that Pierce and Garnett laid the blueprint for how to be a successful team and taught him how to be a professional. But, like most of his teammates, the sight of those two players in Brooklyn's black-and-white uniforms is no longer staggering and Rondo is more focused on finding a way to slow an opponent that has won nine of its last 10 overall.
"Just like I played against [Oklahoma City's Kendrick Perkins on Friday] night," said Rondo. "There might be a lot of [expletive]-talking, but it’ll be fun. They are competitors, they compete. And I’ll do the same."
Truth be told, these Celtics players are rather divorced from the emotional aspect of Sunday's meeting and they are hoping to take advantage of any loss in focus for Pierce and Garnett.
"It's not a big deal for us; this is a big deal for [the media]," said Brandon Bass, who spent two years with Pierce and Garnett. "It’s more of a big deal for Paul and Kevin, we understand that. ... Hopefully it helps us get a win. That’s what really matters for us."
Echoed Jeff Green: "For me, I've already seen them [in Brooklyn], we already talked, [the emotional aspect is] more for them than for us. It’s going to be emotional for them, coming back for first time. But, for me, we’ve already said our hellos and talked. That has already taken place. It’s just another game against Brooklyn. I'm pretty much over it now."
Stevens reaffirmed that he doesn't know Pierce and Garnett personally, but, "just being a member of the organization, you're thankful for what they did." Stevens acknowledged there will be emotions for those players, and maybe for some of the veterans players still on Boston's roster (at least more than they'll admit), but, "we still have a game to play and that’s what we’re going to prepare to do."
It's important to Stevens to allow his players the opportunity to watch the tributes, just like he did when former coach Doc Rivers returned to Boston in December and when Bill Russell was honored at the home opener in November.
"We’ll get into the huddle and out of the huddle pretty quickly so that they can appropriately honor those guys and it’s what you have to do," said Stevens. "At the same time, then we’ve got to turn our mindset to playing as well as we can against them. Because those guys, first and foremost, achieved what they achieved here because they are competitive guys and they want to do well, too. We’re going to have to be in that mindset, too."
Added Stevens: "There are moments that are big, obviously, in a game. I think we all get caught up in a game. There are bigger things than the game itself. So, again, I don't think it’s anything out of the ordinary that we would do [stopping to watch the tributes]. We’ll get in and out of the huddle as quickly as we can."