After Paul Pierce led the Celtics to the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals, and before he led them to the 2008 title, he wanted out of Boston, and he nearly got his wish.
Speaking to Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast, Pierce explained how he helped nix a deal to the Blazers and pushed for a trade to the Mavericks that would’ve altered Celtics history.
“It was just discouraging,” Pierce told Mannix, courtesy NESN.com. “It was just like I want people to know who Paul Pierce is, what type of player he is, but the only way to do that is to be on the big stage, be in the playoffs with a shot at the championship. It was discouraging playing so well and not reaching the team success that I wanted to reach. Because at the end of the day, that’s how you’re going to be measured on how your team does more than what you do as an individual. When I didn’t see that, the results of that, it created doubts where maybe I could go somewhere else and find that.”
Trader Danny Ainge, who long lusted after point guard Chris Paul, worked on the framework of a deal that would swap the two young stars. But Pierce wanted none of it.
“It was just like, (the Blazers) weren’t going to the playoffs, they had a young team, too, players always getting in trouble, and I was just like, I’m not going to Portland,” Pierce said on the podcast. “I think I made the announcement. I think I did an article in the paper saying I wasn’t going to Portland if I got traded there. I might as well stay in Boston if I go to Portland. I know that was the one trade I knew about that was on the table that they were really close to pulling.”
Pierce had another destination in mind: Dallas, where he would join his fellow member of the draft class of 1998, Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavs boasted a committed owner in Mark Cuban, and a young roster that would eventually win a title in 2011. Maybe it would’ve happened sooner with Pierce.
“If you can get me to Dallas, that’s where I wanted to go at the time,’ Pierce said. “I thought Dallas was a player like me away from winning. They were 50-game winners. Dirk was pretty much by himself. I even ran into Dirk and Mark Cuban that summer. It was like, ‘Mark, you’ve got to find a way to get me over there. I want to get over there. I think I could help you all get over the hump.'”
It never happened, and for that, the Celtics should be grateful.