Boston Celtics: Paul Pierce
NEW YORK -- Kevin Garnett went over to Doc Rivers and hugged his former coach before tipoff.
It was an emotional reunion for Garnett, Rivers and Paul Pierce, the trio that guided the Boston Celtics to the franchise’s latest championship their first season together in 2007-08.
“It was a bit weird. I said something to ‘Truth’ [Pierce], like, ‘Man, this feels weird,’” Garnett said after his and Pierce’s Brooklyn Nets defeated Rivers’ Los Angeles Clippers, 102-93, Thursday at Barclays Center.
“We kind of had like a little conversation about it, but I’ll always have a special place for Doc. I thought he helped me [not only] grow as a player, but as a young man," Garnett said. "Telling us a lot about basketball and the philosophies of it and about being a young man -- a young black man -- understanding our responsibilities because we are men and we were starting our families at the same time.
“And just overall [he’s] a great role model. No one’s perfect -- all humans have their flaws -- but he’s damn near close to it. I’m just grateful that he just came into my life and I’m able to share that experience with him.”
Added Pierce: “It was just fun to go over there, say hi to him, and seeing how he’s doing. I asked him how was Boston [Wednesday night], he was like, ‘You’re next.’ He was very emotional. But it was fun. I actually went over to him and told him I know all his plays, and I’m going to give them away, so it was fun.”
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“I’ve already been past that a long time ago,” Pierce said Monday. “I’m a person that’s always been when it’s time to move on, you move on. You can ask any girlfriend I’ve ever had. That’s just the way it is. There’s no hard feelings. I’m here. This is where I’m at now, and you’ve gotta move on. You can’t mourn or put your head down. (You) just go to work.”
Pierce has had a tough time adjusting to his new team. In 15 games with the Nets (6-14), he’s averaging just 12.4 points on 36.8 percent shooting.
Pierce has missed the last five games due to a broken bone in his right hand. He thinks there’s a “good chance” he’ll play against the Celtics on Tuesday night at Barclays Center, but isn’t certain.
“I’ve had my ups and downs, but it’s not about me,” Pierce said. “It’s about getting this team healthy right now and trying to see if we can reach our potential.
“One of our goals before the season was to try and win a championship. Unfortunately, we didn’t get off to the best start, and I probably haven’t been playing the best basketball, due to some other minor injuries I’ve been dealing with. But I feel like as we continue to get healthy and guys come back and we get our chemistry, we’re gonna be there toward the end.”
Pierce still thinks the Nets have the potential to be a championship team.
“It’s just putting it all together, developing chemistry, getting healthy and then seeing what we’ve got,” he said. “We’ve seen flashes of it at times, but it’s tough when you don’t know who’s going to be in the lineup and who’s going to be out. But injuries happen to every team and it’s something we have to deal with. But I’d like to see us when we get fully healthy and see what our potential can possibly be.”
Pierce will make his regular-season return to Boston Jan. 26. He travelled there for Brooklyn’s preseason game, but was not at the arena while the game was played.
“I think the emotions are already behind me,” Pierce said. “We played them in the preseason. We had our press conference. I probably won’t have any more emotions until I get back into the arena that I played in. But I’ve moved on, they’ve on, Doc (Rivers) has moved on, Ray Allen (has) moved on. So it is what it is.”
WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets are tangled like a strand of old Christmas lights this season given their summer dealings and especially with the first matchup of the regular season coming up next Tuesday at the Barclays Center. But apprised that Paul Pierce had suffered a broken hand that will sideline him for 2-4 weeks (forcing him to miss next week's tilt), Jared Sullinger politely wondered why his post-practice interview on Monday had opened with chatter about a former Boston player.
Members of last season's Celtics squad were disappointed to learn of Pierce's injury, but they were more concerned with licking their own wounds after losing to Milwaukee on Saturday night. The Bucks, with two of their three wins this season coming against Boston, visit TD Garden for a third encounter on Tuesday night.
Courtney Lee raved about Pierce's professionalism, particularly how he was one of the first players in the weight room and on the practice floor last season. But asked if he was disappointed the Celtics wouldn't see Pierce next week, Lee was brutally honest.
"If he’s not playing, then that betters our chances of winning, so let him sit down," Lee said.
Like Lee, Brandon Bass sympathized with Pierce, lamenting the missed opportunity for him to play against his former team. But asked if had been looking forward to playing his old teammate next week, Bass likewise downplayed the significance.
"Nah, not really,” Bass said. “It’s just another game. I think all of us that played with him for a couple of years will be happy to see him or whatever, but it’s another game. We approach each game with the same competitive spirit."
That could make the Nets' visit to Boston on Jan. 26 the first time Pierce suits up against his former team during the regular season. Pierce played against the Celtics during a preseason game in Brooklyn in October.
Pierce is averaging a career-low 12.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists over 29.1 minutes per game in 15 appearances this season. The Nets are 5-12 (tied for the third worst record in the Eastern Conference).
Eventually Rivers accorded Paul Pierce the same latitude. He wasn't as insufferable as Garnett when he was injured, but if KG didn't have to come when he was hurt, Pierce was due the same treatment.
That's how it was in Boston, anyway.
And it appears that's how it'll be in Brooklyn, too.
Instead of a reunion between Rivers and two of the men he'd forged such a deep bond with in Celtic green Saturday night at Staples Center, we got a reminder of just how much things have changed.
Rivers is in Los Angeles now, trying to make winners out of the Clippers. Garnett and Pierce stayed home, resting various injuries. The Nets were trying to win without four of their starters, still wondering if this grand experiment they've leapt headlong into is all going to work out.
The Clippers ended up winning the game 110-103, but that was just the official accounting. Nothing else was settled here Saturday night, and you get the feeling nobody involved in the massive transactions that sent them all to their new homes this summer has a real idea yet how it's all going to work out.
Rivers has bonded with his new stars, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but is it as deep as the relationship he had with Garnett and Pierce?
New Nets coach Jason Kidd had a bond with Garnett and Pierce as a player, but will that translate into a coach-player relationship?
The Celtics let them all go before it was too late, but how long will it take to reboot? And even if they can, will it ever be as good as what they had?
It was telling that Kidd went along with a system established for Garnett and Pierce on nights they didn't play. Did he come to the same realization Rivers had? Or was he just choosing which battles to fight?
"That was something we set up in Boston, now the Brooklyn Nets have to deal with it," Rivers said with a laugh. "That was kind of funny.
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Oh sure, he's adjusting to life in the Big Apple just fine. The traffic is as bad as advertised, but he's embracing this first bit of NBA change after 15 seasons in Boston and knows his new team has a chance to compete for the league's biggest prize. Heck, he might even be used to the sight of himself in Brooklyn's black-and-white colors.
But Pierce misses Boston. He didn't say it explicitly when the Celtics visited the Barclays Center on Tuesday, but he didn't have to. How else do you explain how Pierce has made sure to watch a couple of Boston's exhibition games (most New Englanders aren't even watching these games)? Or why he got Jeff Green's phone number and plans to communicate with him during the season to help him navigate an increased role in the absence of Pierce and Kevin Garnett?
Pierce didn't seem in any hurry to leave, either. At one point he retreated into the shower area in search of other familiar faces. When the game started, Pierce used a stoppage in play to catch up with Rajon Rondo near the Boston bench after missing him in the locker room. Then, after the game, Pierce had even started to back off his decree that he might not come to town next week for an exhibition game at TD Garden, suggesting he'll talk it over with Nets coach Jason Kidd to decide the best plan of action.
Pierce misses Boston. And though he knows his return will be an emotional night -- and one he'd probably prefer to save for the regular season -- the chance to come hang out at his old stomping grounds probably intrigues Pierce.
"It’s definitely going to be a lot different when I get into the Garden, the first time I go to Boston," he said. "Because you’ve played your entire career there, made so many friends, so it's definitely going to be emotional. I don’t know if I’m looking forward to it because I already know I’m going to shed a tear or two. But it’s the business. I’m here in Brooklyn now and I wish everybody there good luck."
Pierce, traded to Brooklyn with Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry as part of a nine-player, three-draft pick blockbuster swap this offseason, circled the room to greet former teammates as well as team staffers. After spending the first 15 years of his NBA career with the Celtics, Pierce will play against the team he helped to a world title in 2008 for the first time on Tuesday night.
Pierce did not talk to reporters before Tuesday's game. Former teammate Jeff Green said it was good to see Pierce again, but remained focused on the game.
"He’s got to go do what he’s got to do, but it’s good to see his face," Green said. "I haven’t seen him in a while."
Nets coach Jason Kidd admitted it will be different for Pierce seeing the Celtics on the visitor's side.
"Probably seeing that green jersey on the other side will kind of be different," Kidd said. "But I think he is a professional and he will handle it well."
Kidd also confirmed that Kevin Garnett (begrudgingly) would not play against Boston after suiting up for the first night of a back-to-back on Monday in Philadelphia. Garnett already balked once this preseason about being asked to sit out the second night of a back-to-back. Kidd said the conversation went only slightly better this time.
"When you talk about KG and just his will, he’s a professional, he loves to compete, and you love to have those guys on your team," Kidd said. "And any time there is a game, he wants to compete. But also for him, this is his night off."
As for having Pierce and Garnett on his roster after years of competing against the duo, Kidd offered, "I always respected those two playing with KG and playing against Paul. But now seeing them up close and their work ethic and coming to practice, if it is 10 [a.m.], they are there at 8:30. They are understanding what it takes to be a professional, but also to be great at their craft. I do respect them even more seeing it up close."
One other note from pregame:
* SAME STARTERS FOR C'S: The Celtics will stick with the same starting lineup from Saturday's win over the Knicks featuring Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford, Green, Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger. Asked if the team is getting more settled with their lineup, coach Brad Stevens said, "We could still get a number of different ways in either [the frontcourt or backcourt]. The one place that [Kris] Humphries hasn’t gotten a ton of run at is the 4, so hopefully we get him a little bit of that over the next two games. Obviously, things are not settled. But we had a better rhythm and we also had two groups that played well together last game, although our starting unit is small."
ESPNBoston.com's Jackie MacMullan sat down with Brooklyn Nets newcomers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for a "SportsCenter" conversation, and the former Celtics stars reflected on what leaving Boston means to them and how the future looks playing for the Nets.
"You spend your whole, almost half of your life in one city, you get used to it," Pierce said. "For you to make the move, it's a huge adjustment. I mean, I know nothing else but Boston."
"And that changed, it's almost like you've got to deal with it. It's not time to be emotional, it's not time to be reflecting. Now you've got to make a decision on for what's best for you in going forward. And that was the most difficult out of all of this -- that things were pushed on, I felt like forced on us a little bit.
"You didn't see the fairy tale ending like this."
Pierce echoed the notion that leaving Boston wasn't something that he had envisioned, but he did acknowledge that he knew it was a real possibility.
"That's the only thing about this whole ordeal, you just wish that -- you look at other players like [Spurs big man] Tim Duncan, [Lakers guard] Kobe [Bryant], [Mavericks forward] Dirk [Nowitzki] ... those guys, they won a championship there, similar to what I've done, been there their whole career," Pierce said.
"It really kind of hurt, when you look at the news throughout the season, when [Mavericks owner] Mark Cuban says, 'We're never trading Dirk,' or when they say, 'We're never trading Tim,' or 'We're going to re-sign Kobe.' Nothing's really being said about me; I'm in trade rumors. So that part, you think about it, kind of hurts.
"But then, after so long, you have to understand that this is a business, and it's not like that for everybody."
NEW YORK -- Paul Pierce felt like the writing was on the wall. The Boston Celtics were headed in a different direction, particularly after the departure of coach Doc Rivers, and Pierce had resigned himself to the fact that he would likely be traded from the only NBA team he’d ever known.
Pierce went into recruitment mode with a chance to bring a bit of familiarity to his next NBA destination, and he knew the Nets had an honest-to-goodness chance to compete for a title if they were able to lure away Boston’s veteran core.
On Thursday, Pierce, Garnett and Jason Terry were introduced in a glitzy ceremony before a cluster of cheering season-ticket holders at the pristine Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Pierce, despite mentally preparing himself for the moment, spent much of the early portion of the ceremony looking ill at ease, uncertain how to receive the next chapter of his career.
“It's really starting to sink in, now that it is real,” Pierce said at the podium. “I'm no longer a Boston Celtic. I’m a Brooklyn Net. That’s what it is right now.”
Pierce later detailed the process by which the Nets came calling, and how he phoned Garnett in hopes of convincing him to join him in Brooklyn.
“It was a situation where [the Celtics] were going to make a move, and once the deal with the Clippers didn’t go through for [Garnett], it was like, the Celtics were trading me, Doc was leaving, so what was left for Kevin?” explained Pierce. “I talked to [new Nets coach] Jason Kidd, and he was warming me to the fact of coming to Brooklyn, then he started warming me to the fact that they were trying to get Kevin, too.
“That’s when I called Kevin and asked him what he thought about coming to Brooklyn, he immediately said, ‘Well, what pieces are they going to give up? Who is going to be left? Is it going to be possible for us to win a championship?’ He was excited when I talked to him after warming him up, just to have the opportunity to come and win a championship and be alongside a young prospect like Brook Lopez, who he can try to take to the next level. And once I warmed him up to that, he was all in for it.”
The Nets ultimately traded Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks and Kris Joseph to Boston, along with three first-round draft picks, in exchange for Pierce, Garnett, Terry, and DJ White. The Nets maintained All-Star-caliber talent in Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez to pair with the Boston veterans.
Garnett, famous for his resistance to change, still had to be convinced of the switch.
“It was one long, long phone call,” Pierce said with a laugh. “Probably like an hour-and-a-half, two hours. I just remember I was standing outside and it was 100 degrees, and I just remember after the phone call I was dripping sweat.
Los Angeles Clippers -- Ainge said he wasn’t sure if this summer would usher in a full-blown roster overhaul for Boston.
“I’m anxious to go through the [rebuilding] process,” Ainge admitted. “We don’t know when that’s going to happen, if that’s going to happen this summer or if that’s going to happen next summer. We’ve been ready, we’ve been gearing up for that possibility.
After allowing Rivers out of the final three years of his contract to pursue the Clippers coaching vacancy, the assumption has been that Boston might be as tempted as ever to turn over its roster. It’s likely that decision ultimately hinges on what the Celtics can fetch for their aging stars this summer.
“I love Paul and KG and we haven’t made that decision yet,” Ainge said when asked if he wanted to bring both players back. “KG’s under contract, and Paul we have an option on in five days from now, and those are very big decisions for us. But those decisions, I’m not certain about either one of those.”
Initial trade discussions with the Clippers included a potential secondary swap that would have sent Garnett to Los Angeles in exchange for DeAndre Jordan. The league shot the idea down, noting its connection to Rivers’ hiring in L.A. made it look as if the teams were circumventing the collective bargaining agreement, which states that no trade can be contingent upon another exchange between teams.
Sources confirmed to ESPN that the league has told the teams that they cannot make any subsequent trades until after the 2013-14 season because of the Rivers’ deal, essentially squashing any chance Garnett ends up in L.A. (at least not without being waived).
The Celtics would have to find another destination for the 37-year-old Garnett, who also owns a no-trade clause.
Boston is on the hook for only $5 million next season if Pierce is waived before June 30. But sources indicated the team is willing to stomach the entire $15.3 million due in the final year of his deal while exploring trade options with the goal of acquiring a first-round pick. Those sources also noted that the Cavaliers and Bucks were among the interested suitors for Pierce, but the Celtics were willing to work with their captain to get him to a contender if they did part ways.
Ainge noted the futures of Pierce and Garnett are not tied to each other, nor the departure of Rivers.
“From my perspective, none of the decisions have anything to do with the other,” Ainge said.
But sources told ESPN.com that Pierce is most likely headed to neither one of those teams if he leaves the Celtics this week.
The Celtics do remain hopeful of acquiring a first-round pick for Pierce this week in conjunction with Thursday's draft. But sources said the Celtics have shown an inclination to try to work with Pierce to get him to a favorable destination -- which essentially translates to a contending team -- if they indeed decide to trade him by week's end. The team faces a June 30 deadline to either pick up Pierce’s $15.3 million option for next season or buy him out for $5 million.
If no such deal materializes, sources said, Boston is leaning toward picking up Pierce's option to buy more time to decide how to handle the exit of such a prominent player in modern Celtics history. Despite persistent speculation that the Celtics might buy Pierce out this week, sources say team officials believe Pierce would have trade appeal all the way up to the 2014 trade deadline in February and likewise privately hope that Pierce's ongoing presence on the roster would warm Kevin Garnett to the idea of playing on with Boston as opposed to retiring or forcing his way out, even though coach Doc Rivers has departed to join the Clippers.
The Boston Globe reported over the weekend that the Cavaliers are offering multiple second-round picks for Pierce. The Celtics, sources say, are holding out for a first-rounder.
The possibility also remains that Pierce could be dealt this week to a team that agrees to buy him out of the last remaining season on his contract for $5 million. That would make Pierce an unrestricted free agent -- assuming he clears waivers -- and potentially create an avenue to get him to the Clippers to reunite with Rivers. ESPN.com reported earlier this month that the Clippers, when they initially hatched their plan to go after Rivers, were hoping to acquire Pierce and Garnett as well.
The Los Angeles Clippers believe they have the trade assets to reunite Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in L.A. if those prominent members of the Boston Celtics all prove open or able to leave the perennial Eastern Conference power, according to sources close to the process.
CLICK HERE to read the full news story.
CLICK HERE to read Chris Forsberg's column on how the Celtics are stuck at a crossroads, but might be able to facilitate a faster rebuild by acquiring some young talent from the Clippers in exchange for Rivers & Co.
While there was much more roster uncertainty last summer, at least in terms of the amount of unrestricted free agents, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was adamant that re-signing Kevin Garnett was Plan A, and the team was able to hit the ground running when Garnett inked a three-year extension before the start of free agency.
This year? You can believe Ainge when he says he's not really sure which direction the team is headed. An early playoff exit makes it an extra long crawl to the NBA draft later this month, which serves as the sort of unofficial start of roster construction for the 2013-14 season.
Over the next month, we'll hear an endless amount of speculation about which direction the Celtics might be leaning -- like the out-of-town report this week that suggested the Celtics were ready to buy out Paul Pierce -- but the truth of the matter is that it's a fluid situation, and all Ainge can do at this point is gather information about potential moves and be ready to activate his plan of choice when the moment arrives.
There seems to be four main scenarios in play this offseason:
- Keep the band together: Minimal changes, bank on health
- Goodbye, captain: Roster tweaked with Pierce departure
- Out with the old: Moving on without both KG and Pierce
- Complete teardown: Extreme makeover: Celtics edition
Over the next four days, we'll take a closer look at each possible option, gauge the potential for it to occur, determine some moves that might go along with it, and debate whether it's the best course of attack. First up: We're putting the band back together.
"We don’t feel like we have a championship team [at the moment]; It’s pretty obvious, we lost in the first round," said Grousbeck. "We have to see who is with us, we have to see what offers there are for people, we’ve got to decide what to do. It might be a multi-year plan. We’ve never intentionally lost games and we don’t intend to trash things now. We've got players -- [Rajon] Rondo, [Avery] Bradley, [Jeff] Green, [Jared] Sullinger, Brandon Bass, the younger guys are not going to let us win the lottery anyway. That’s a good roster. We hope that Paul [Pierce] and [Kevin Garnett] are back with them and we hope we can reload along the way.
"I don’t know what will happen, I’ll know more about the plan in early July. At the moment, we just have to see what the options are."
Grousbeck gave a bit of a behind-the-scenes glimpse, noting that management and the front-office staff huddled this week to gauge the direction of the team. He stressed that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will examine the trade and free-agent markets and that the team likely won't make any firm decisions until late June when it knows all the potential options.
"By the end of June, we’ll have different options to go in with this team," said Grousbeck. "Keeping it all together just as it was is one option, but we lost in the first round, so there is an obvious possibility that we ought to start making some changes. And we’re going to have to make those decisions. They won’t be made in May."
FACT: The Celtics would be highly unlikely to sign Pierce to a new contract for the 2013-14 season after waiving him before June 30th due to their salary cap situation.
Remember all that committed money Ainge has on the books for next year? That’s incredibly limiting in this situation. If the C’s wanted to bring back Pierce on a smaller deal for 2013-14 after waiving him, they probably wouldn’t be able to do it, since without bird rights on Pierce, there is no real flexibility to sign him. The mid-level exception would be available, but Pierce is likely to command much more than that on the open market. Plus, it’s unclear if the team would even want to use an exception like that on Pierce when they don’t have to. However you slice it, unless Danny does so major wheeling and dealing of the rest of the roster to create salary cap room, this scenario isn’t happening.
FICTION: The Celtics will use the amnesty clause on Paul Pierce
Even if you put aside the bad vibes about amnestying a Celtics legend, doing this to Pierce really doesn’t make much sense for the Celtics, unless it’s accompanied by a couple other moves, that clear MAJOR cap space. Those scenarios are highly unlikely to happen, for a multitude of reasons I will get into in later posts this offseason. Without that possibility, amnestying Pierce still leaves Ainge at the cap ($58 million roughly) and provides ownership having to pay a fat check for a good player to play somewhere else. It’s not happening.
Robb and I disagree a bit on the idea that the amnesty clause is completely out of play. If the team is going to go the nuclear route, it can't worry about hurt feelings and has to look out for the best long-term interest of the team. Sure, it potentially exposes ownership to being on the hook for more than the $5 million guarantee it would owe if the team simply waived Pierce (part of Pierce's $15.3 million salary would be defrayed by a team that signed him), but it has to be considered when coupled with other potential moves to completely overhaul the roster. All that said, the amnesty route likely remains a long-shot option as trading Pierce would clearly be the preferred option if the team desires to move on without him. Regardless, check out the article for plenty of excellent insight into a sticky situation for Boston and its future direction.
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