One last go-round at the Garden for Pierce

One last go-round at the Garden for Pierce

BOSTON – Like most of the Celtics assistant coaches, Jay Larrinaga would arrive early to the TD Garden on game days.


One of the first faces he would see was Paul Pierce, a well-established veteran who had done it all in what at the time was his 15th and final season as a Celtic.
And yet, there was Pierce, going through the kind of pre-game routine you often see being done by rookies or seldom-used reserves.
“It was interesting being in coaching conversations saying, ‘is he working too hard?’” Larrinaga, who at the time was in his first season with the Celtics, told CSNNE.com. “Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the constant discussions in our coaching meetings that year was, are they overworking themselves in practice? That’s foreign to a lot of people these days. I was saying to Jordan Mickey the other day, Paul’s routine was do whatever you need to do in the weight room, shoot pre-practice shots and grab someone to play one-on-one. [Former second-round pick] Kris Joseph that year, or Jeff Green, Courtney Lee...He [Pierce] is special.”
That was the beauty of Paul Pierce’s game, one that will be on display Sunday afternoon for one last time at the Garden with Pierce now playing with the Los Angeles Clippers.
He made things look so easy by easily avoiding the "been-there, done-that" mentality that veteran players tend to have once they’ve achieved a certain status.
That’s because as accomplished as he was in the NBA, there was always a part of him that felt he had something to prove.
It was the kind of thing that if you were go back and time to search for its basketball genesis, the 1998 NBA draft would be a good starting point.


Owners of the 10th overall pick in the 1998 NBA draft, the Celtics were hoping to add a talented sleeper to their roster. There were a number of players whose name was associated with the Celtics at No. 10, they had their sights set on this German youngster named Dirk Nowitzki.
As the draft played out, the Celtics were feeling better and better about their chances of having Nowitzki on the draft board when it was there time to pick.
But they knew not to get their hopes up, especially after having the best chance at landing the No. 1 pick in the 1997 draft – Tim Duncan – only to wind up with the No. 3 pick, which they used to select Chauncey Billups and subsequently traded him in his rookie year.
But as the 1998 draft played itself out, they noticed something that was peculiar.
Paul Pierce, a player most pegged as a top-five selection, kept slipping and slipping inexplicably.
It didn’t matter.
He would be off the board by the time they picked at No. 10, right?
So, when the Celtics learned that Philadelphia was planning to take Larry Hughes with the eighth overall selection, it finally sunk in that Boston would be walking away from this draft with either Nowitzki or Pierce.
Nowitzki went off the board and No. 9 and from there, well, the rest is history.
“We were a little unlucky last year [in 1997]. We got very lucky this year,” said Rick Pitino, who was the team’s head coach and general manager at that time. “We will take from the University of Kansas, Paul Pierce.
The drafting of Pierce didn’t set off any kind of euphoric reaction among Celtics fans.
And Pierce, from Inglewood, Calif., wasn’t exactly thrilled to be heading to Boston after, not surprisingly, growing up a Los Angeles Lakers fan.
“When they called out ‘Celtic’ and the camera jumps to you, I gave out a good smile and hugged everybody,” Pierce said. “But inside my body cringed. I was like, ‘the Celtics?’ Come on. Rick Pitino, running you into the dirt. Celtics, I hated growing up. It was like, ugh!”
It didn’t take long before Pierce made his mark on the franchise, averaging 16.5 points in his first season, which landed him a spot on the league’s all-rookie first team.
But a promising start soon gave way to a series of events that speak to the highs and lows of Pierce’s career, one that has been equally shaped by tragedy and unexpected triumphs.

Pierce was just months away from his third NBA season and seemed on the cusp of making that leap from being a good, young player in the NBA, to a bona fide superstar.
But his future – not just his basketball future, but his life – was up in the air after an incident in the fall of 2000 in which he was stabbed 11 times and hit over the head with a bottle at a nightclub in the Boston Theatre District.
Pierce recovered from the incident and went on to play in all 82 games in the 2000-2001 season, the only Celtic to do so.
Surviving that was a huge victory in itself, especially when you consider how close the knife wounds came to vital internal organs.
“It was a miracle,” Pierce said in an interview with ABC, adding that one of the wounds was “a pinch or two short of my heart.”
That incident would help serve as part of Pierce’s life-long narrative, one in which he has often found strength in adversity, added purpose in the one pursuit that he never lost sight of despite all the mounting losses.
He wanted to win a title with the Celtics.
The Celtics knew Pierce was at a near-breaking point following the 2007 season, which was a historically bad season for Boston that included them losing a franchise-record 18 straight games.
So the plan was pretty clear: either get Pierce some serious help to turn things around, or look to trade him.
Then came a deal on draft night that netted Ray Allen from Seattle (now Oklahoma City). That paved the way for another trade that landed Kevin Garnett from Minnesota.
The Big Three in Boston was alive and well.
After having spent nearly a decade as a Celtics, Pierce finally had a crew to work with that had more than just a fighter’s chance at winning an NBA title.
They were everyone’s odds-on favorite to get it done.
And they lived up to the lofty billing, bringing home Banner 17 in their first year together.
Pierce was named NBA Finals MVP.
Injuries to Garnett as well as other ill-timed setbacks prevented the Celtics from winning a second NBA title.
But the foundation of excellence for this franchise had indeed been restored, with Pierce being a significant player in that happening.
“Paul Pierce, when I picture the Celtics in my head, Paul Pierce is what I think of,” said Celtics rookie forward Jaylen Brown.
For years, Danny Ainge talked about how he would have traded Larry Bird and Kevin McHale as aging veterans for younger talent to avoid the significant drop-off that came by letting them spend their final days as NBA players with the Celtics.
Ainge put those words into practice on the eve of the 2013 NBA draft by sending Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to Brooklyn for a slew of draft picks that are still flowing in, as well as a handful of players to make the money work.
It was a bittersweet end to Pierce’s playing career with the Celtics, but he has maintained all along that he holds no grudges or animosity towards Ainge for making the deal.
In fact, the two still keep in contact with each other and have made no secret about at least giving some thought to working together in Boston when Pierce’s playing career is over.
And as Pierce made known prior to the start of the season, this will be his final season in the NBA.
And for a player who is known for his in-game theatrics (he will never live the wheelchair incident down; never), Sunday will indeed be his final curtain call at the TD Garden.
He has appeared in just 12 games this season, averaging career lows scoring (3.8 points), rebounding (1.5), minutes played (12.3) and shooting (35.9 percent) from the field.

Even more telling is the fact that he has not played (coaches decision) in 17 of the Los Angeles Clippers’ past 18 games, which raises legit concerns as to whether Clippers coach (and former Celtics head man) Doc Rivers will even play the 10-time All-Star on Sunday.

Regardless of whether he sees action today or not (I can’t imagine Rivers won’t find a way to get him in the game at some point or possibly start him), Pierce will always have a special place in the hearts of Celtics fans - as well as have his jersey retired at the Garden - soon.

Because even after he was traded to Brooklyn and later signed with the Washington Wizards and most recently the Clippers, Pierce will forever be linked with Boston – a strange marriage of sorts considering he grew up a die-hard L.A. Lakers fan.
That’s the beauty of his time with Boston. Despite his affinity for the purple-and-gold, his loyalty to his teammates, to this franchise, was never an issue.
“The part I wish people wrote more about Paul: Paul had a chance to leave us when we were bad,” Rivers, then coaching the Boston Celtics, said after Pierce became the franchise’s No. 2 all-time scorer in 2012. “And instead of moaning that he wanted to go to a championship team, he stayed. And he said, ‘I simply want to be a Celtic and I trust that we’re going to win a title someday.’ He had no reason to believe that, at that time. I mean, we were pretty awful. I do think it’s special that Paul Pierce decided that he wanted to be a Celtic for his life. And I think that’s pretty cool.”
We do too, Doc.
We do too.

Greg Monroe looks comfortable as bigger offensive focal point

Greg Monroe looks comfortable as bigger offensive focal point

BOSTON – Jayson Tatum dropped 23 points, snatched 11 rebounds and Boston’s injury-riddled roster squeaked out a 100-99 upset win over Oklahoma City.

It was a good game for Tatum, but teammate Marcus Morris wasn’t moved one bit by Tatum’s historical performance.

“Now it’s not. … I’m not even impressed no more,” Morris said. “It’s to the point where I know what he’s going to bring, I know what he’s capable of. So it’s more like, I expect that now just being around, watching him play day-in and day-out, practicing with him.”

Teammates agree that the 20-year-old Tatum is growing up right before our eyes.

“With Jaylen and Kyrie being out, he’s looking to be more aggressive,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “Everybody is going to talk about offense, but on the defensive end he didn’t have an easy matchup, going against Paul George. I felt like he did a great job.”

Here are five other takeaways from Boston’s 100-99 comeback win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.


Boston’s second unit is still getting the job done even as injuries rob it of its core group that includes Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier who are now both starters. The Celtics’ new-look second unit was still impactful in Boston’s 100-99 squeaker past the Oklahoma City Thunder. Against the Thunder, Boston’s bench outscored Oklahoma City 35-10.


The big man continues to come up big for the Boston Celtics off the bench. Injuries have forced other key reserves into the starting lineup which has led to Monroe becoming an even bigger focal point offensively when he’s on the floor. Against the Thunder, he had 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting with six rebounds.


You never really know what you’re going to get from the Boston Celtics when it comes to rebounding the basketball. Well, Tuesdaynight was the good rebounding Celtics whose ability to control the glass was a huge factor in the victory as Boston out-rebounded Oklahoma City 52-44.


Remember how Marcus Smart would struggle to make shots, and still play major minutes and still make a meaningful impact? Well, Semi Ojeleye had that kind of game for the Celtics. The 6-foot-6 rookie missed all six of his field goal attempts, but showed some serious versatility against the Thunder with defensive stints on each of Oklahoma City’s Big Three of Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook.


Marcus Morris made the game-winner and Jayson Tatum was as strong on the floor as we’ve ever seen him. But arguably the biggest X-factor in Boston’s win was the play of Larkin. His ability to control the flow of the game, getting his teammates in and out of sets was critical to the win, as was his offense. For the game, Larking had 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting from the field.

NBA: Congrats to the Celtics on the win, but they for sure should not have won

File Photo

NBA: Congrats to the Celtics on the win, but they for sure should not have won

The NBA officials' Last Two Minute report for Tuesday is out, and boy did the Celtics get away with one!

The league admitted to missing two infractions -- both committed by Marcus Morris -- on the possession on which Morris hit a game-winning three-pointer against the Thunder. 

The C's began the possession with Morris inbounding the ball, but a stopwatch revealed to the league that Morris did not release the ball within the five seconds allotted on an inbounding play. Had the correct call been made, the ball would have been turned over to the Thunder, who at the time held a two-point lead with 7.7 seconds remaining. 

Furthermore, video replay led the league to determine that Morris traveled prior to taking the shot. The video evidence that suggested this was that Morris was wearing an NBA jersey in the video, but also he moved his pivot foot prior to the release of his dribble. That call would have also given the Thunder the ball. 

What these nerds didn't consider is that the basketball gods have more power than their stopwatches. What a win.