Sunday night was hard for Paul Pierce, really hard.
He knew it was coming. It’s been on the schedule since last summer. But when the moment finally came, the former Celtics captain said it was the most difficult game to play in for the obvious reasons.
He just could never picture himself playing against Boston and accepting all the love showered upon him all at once..
“I was telling Kevin, and everybody this was the toughest game I ever had to play,” Pierce said after scoring just six points but helping his team to an 85-79 win over his former Celtics. “Tougher than any championship game, or any game seven. This game was just really hard to focus and concentrate on what was at hand. At the end of the day we had a game to play but it was so hard to really focus.
“I saw so many friends, so many people I’ve known for years. Ugly cornbread Maxwell back there, my man, my main man. It was hard to really get into my routine, you have a routine when you come and get ready for a game and it never settled in and you thought about the time, the friendships, the relationships and it was just, you get showered with love the whole game. You look up and see so many Kevin jerseys, my jerseys, posters and its every second you are on the bench and in the game people were calling your name. I’m happy we got it over with and I can go back to playing basketball right now.”
Pierce acknowledged that he, Garnett and Rajon Rondo got together for dinner Saturday night before the game.
“We didn’t really bump into anybody in the street but we had a chance to go to dinner with Rondo [Saturday] night,” Pierce said. “We talked to him about his situation here and the things we went through when we were in his situation before. It was good to see him and really, that was pretty much the only guy he had a chance to see. Other than that I really just tried to focus and get back to the hotel and try to get some rest and couldn’t think about anything but today really, it was even hard for me to sleep. Laying in a downtown hotel in Boston when I’m used to being at my house. Getting into the arena, coming in the backside, and making a left instead of a right. Everything was so different, and it was great though.’
Pierce’s video tribute came at the end of the first quarter, like the one to Doc Rivers on Jan. 11. Pierce looked up and all the memories came rushing back.
“Just all the great moments,” Pierce said. “From on the court to on the court, just all the great moments that’s all you can think of. That’s pretty much what the videos showed, just everything, just me being in the community, the difference I was able to make not only on the court but in the community. You build so much, not only on the court but in the community. I have relationships with organizations in the community that I built, been able to change different lives, being and inspiration in this community and a lot of that you thought about.
“I’ve seen a lot of the kids I brought to games and that’s what I think matters the most to me, the lives you can change. The basketball is great and understanding you’re a role model and it made me think of being an inspiration in the community here.”
Pierce had a huge impact on Boston, as evidenced by a woman in a Celtics shirt, crying as he waved a Pierce Celtics jersey No. 34.
“I did notice that,” Pierce said. “It was tough, it was tough for me to swallow. I was probably about five seconds from shedding, five seconds I’ll admit to it. No words that can really describe the shower of love here.”
There was also an interesting moment as Pierce had some perspective on his successor – Rajon Rondo – as Celtics captain.
“I think he’s ready now,” Pierce said. “Rondo is mature, he understood what was coming. Before he had me and Kevin to lean on and now he’s the guy. He’s the captain. He is who everybody looks to for leadership and I think he’s ready. He’s grown, he’s matured, he’s sent he bottom. He’s seen the top. He’s got to understand that this is his team to lead through good and through bad. I think he understands that and he is ready for that role. And he’s ready to deal with it.
“It was just a special thing for me, through my bad times through my immature times through my growing up becoming a man for this city and winning a championship. Everybody sticking with me, I would just like to tell them, thank you.”
Now Pierce and Garnett apparently will go out together with the Nets.
“I think for me, it’s just made the transition so much easier, just not only being my teammate, but being my friend,” Pierce said of Garnett. “It makes things more comfortable. You know, when you go to a different place and everything’s foreign to you and you go by yourself, it’s a little difficult. But when you have somebody to go with you, that you know, that you can be with, that can help you understand it with you, it makes the transition a lot better. A little bit easier to walk. And I wouldn’t trade anything in the world, just to have, I like to call him ‘ even though we’re the same age ‘ he’s like a big brother to me.”
“I am a big brother to you,” Garnett replied, before giving Pierce a rub on his neck of brotherly love.
“It’s just like having a big brother with you and going through the journey,” Pierce added. “We’ve known each other since high school and we have so many stories with each other together. And if it’s going to end, if our ride is going to end in Brooklyn, I wouldn’t want it to be with nobody else.”