Patriots

Pierce passes Bird for second on C's all-time scoring list

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Pierce passes Bird for second on C's all-time scoring list

BOSTON A big shot-maker.

A lottery pick.

A father.

A stabbing victim.

An NBA champion.

Paul Pierce is known for many things during his time with the Boston Celtics.

Here's one more - one of the franchise's all-time greats.

Pierce's 14-year NBA career has been one filled with various milestones surpassed, but few compare to what he did on Tuesday.

At the 10:23 mark of the third quarter, Pierce scored career point 21,792 and with it, he became the No. 2 all-time scorer for the most storied franchise in the NBA. He surpassed Larry Bird's 21,791 career points scored mark, and now only trails John Havlicek who racked up a franchise-record 26,395 points while playing for the Celtics.

Following the 3-point shot which was part of a 94-84 win over Charlotte, a loud, boisterous eruption of jubilation engulfed the TD Garden. Pierce, soaking it all in, raised both hands in appreciation of the crowd in attendance, uttering the words, "Thank You!" to them all.

Kevin Garnett gave him a hug, followed by a tap on the backside from Charlotte's Kemba Walker who starred at nearby UConn and led the Huskies to a national championship last season.

To see the crowd respond the way it did, speaks to more than just their appreciation for what Pierce had accomplished.

It was also an acknowledgment of how far the 34-year-old had come.

"They've seen it all from my younger days, from my trials and tribulations, to this point today and it's just a great honor to just for them, to be able to stand up and give me that type of ovation," said Pierce, who had 15 points and has now scored 21,797 for his career. "Being a Celtic for all these years and understanding what it means to be a Celtic and the ups and downs you go through, and just to come to this point in your career it really means so much, just the support that they have given me over the years."

Few would have envisioned the kid who grew up in Engelwood, Calif., a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan, would eventually become one of the greatest Celtics players ever.

And the idea that his name is mentioned in the same breath as Larry Bird - and deservedly so - is mind-blowing to Pierce.

"I'm not gonna sit here and say that I'm anywhere near his accomplishments," Pierce said. "But just to be mentioned with him, with this organization is a great honor."

And while Pierce did a good job of not getting too emotional about the moment, the Celtics' in-arena folks didn't make things easier with a moving, video montage of Pierce that played on the Jumbotron during a time-out at the 5:14 mark of the third quarter.

"I actually saw glimpses of it," Pierce said. "I'll probably soak it in a little bit more once I go home and sit down and realize what's really going on. Right now it's just, it's so fresh in my head right now that the game is over."

Yes, the C's actually played a game before and after Pierce's record-climbing moment.

And while the Celtics were in control most of the game, knowing he was so close to surpassing Bird had an impact on all the C's who seemed determined to get him the record as early as possible.

He came into the game needing just 10 points, which isn't that big a stretch when you consider he came into the game as the team's leading scorer at 18.6 points per game.

"Whenever you pass anybody in Boston, that means you're old," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "That's the only way you can get there. You will have had to play a long time. The history of this franchise, and the numbers that have been amassed, it's just amazing that his longevity he's been able to play relatively injury-free. He's been so consistent throughout his career.

Rivers added, "passing Larry Bird in anything is pretty impressive."

And Bird, currently the president of basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers, recognizes Pierce as one of the league's premier scorers.

"Paul is one of the best offensive players in the NBA and what makes him effective is he has done it a variety of ways, whether it's hitting the big shot, getting to the free throw line, whatever," Bird said. "He can hit the 3 and he's deceptive in his ability to to getting to the basket."

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

0:43 - Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley talk about Bill Belichick saying it’s “incomprehensible” that people expect the Patriots to be on the same level as last year at this point in the season.

11:55 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss J.R. Smith’s comments about the Celtics not being a threat to the Cavaliers.

15:38 - Abby Chin, Chris Mannix, and A. Sherrod Blakely join BST from Cleveland to talk about Marcus Smart and the Celtics failing to agree to a contract extension, making him a restricted free agent in July. They also preview Tuesday’s Celtics-Cavaliers season opener.

19:25 - Reports say Alex Cora is the frontrunner for the Red Sox managerial position, but Brad Ausmus interviewed for the position on Monday. Who is the right man for the job? Tom Giles and Michael Holley discuss.

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
 
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
 
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.

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 But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
 
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
 
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
 
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
 
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
 
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
 
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
 
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
 
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
 
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
 
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road. 
 
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
 
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
 
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
 
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
 
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
 
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Boston’s Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
 
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
 
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
 
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
 
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
 
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
 
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
 
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
 
And even that might not be enough.
 
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
 
“Here in this league,” he said. “You have to love challenges.”

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