And for the first time in his 16-year career, Pierce was not.
He entered the visitor’s locker room before the game as just that: a visitor.
“It was just tough looking over there, seeing the green and me not in it,” Pierce said following the Nets’ 82-80 preseason victory over the Celtics. "But you know, I’m here in Brooklyn now, moved on and it’s time to get better. Tonight we took a step forward in getting better and it’s just the preseason, but hey, we got the win.”
Paul Pierce said seeing old teammates during his first game against the Celtics was "tough."
Added Kidd: “I thought he handled it well, as any professional would. I joked with him before the national anthem and said to kind of think about it like a scrimmage, green against white.”
Pierce, 36, isn’t exactly eager to return to Boston.
“It’s definitely gonna be a lot different when I get into the Garden, the first time I go to Boston,” Pierce said. “Because you’ve played your entire career there, made so many friends, so it’s definitely gonna 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.”
During the summer, Pierce was adamant that he would not go back to Beantown until Jan. 26, well after the regular season begins. Now, he’s not so sure. The Nets face the Celtics at TD Garden on Oct. 23.
“I don’t know if I’ll play. We played against them tonight,” Pierce said. “I don’t know. Maybe I will. I’ll talk to Jason and figure it out from there.”
Pierce wanted to finish his career in Boston. He took the news he had been traded to the Nets hard. He looked like he was still shellshocked as he spoke to reporters after being introduced to the media.
But he feels more comfortable in New York now. Another chance to win a title before retirement can rejuvenate anyone.
“I think I’m past that now,” Pierce said.
During player introductions, the crowd at Barclays Center gave him a rousing ovation.
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Then it was business as usual. Well, not exactly. You see, Pierce is no longer the star he once was. These days, Pierce likes to refer to himself as “a glorified role player.”
On Tuesday night, he served as a point-forward, facilitating the offense. During one possession, Pierce faked as though he was going to take a perimeter jumper, then lofted a pass into center Brook Lopez for an easy layup.
Pierce had just four points on 1-for-6 shooting during his 27 minutes on the court, but he also provided 10 rebounds and five assists as a complementary player still making his presence felt.
“I’m still trying to find my niche here,” Pierce said. “I know I have the ability to score the ball, so it’s nice to get [rebounds and assists] when my shot’s not going to fall. I try to do other little things. We have so many great scorers as a team, and I’m just trying to show that I can do other teams to help this ball club win.”
As the Nets were about to attempt a pair of free throws, Pierce went over to the Celtics' bench and began chatting it up with the guy who used to feed him, Rajon Rondo.