Celtics

In retirement, Pierce looks back at a banner career

In retirement, Pierce looks back at a banner career

BOSTON -- Paul Pierce, looking relaxed as ever behind his dark-tinted sunglasses, has a flashback to an old R. Kelly song, resulting in the Truth humming a few lines that are slightly different. 
 
“Your body’s telling you no, but your mind is telling you yes,” a grinning Pierce croons.
 
He’s talking about being retired after 19 seasons, a time when Pierce’s mind remains sharp as ever while his body has gone the way of all NBA bodies after such a long and illustrious career.

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Pierce finished his Celtics career, which spanned 15 seasons, second to only John Havlicek in points scored (24,021). In addition, the 10-time All-Star finished tops in several team categories such as 3-pointers (1,823), free throws made (6,434) and steals (1,583).
 
For some, it’s about finding closure on a life of basketball that has been all they’ve known. 
 
But for Pierce, it’s not about shutting one door but rather opening himself up to opportunities that will keep him attached to a game that he’ll be the first to tell you has been so good to him for so many years. 
 
He signed (and was immediately waived) on July 17 by Boston so he could retire as a Celtic.
 
“I’m completely satisfied with my 19 years,” Pierce said in an exclusive 1-on-1 interview with CSN. “It made it easier for me to come to peace with it. It’s made it easier for me to walk away from the game. I had a competitive spirit that boiled in me for a long time. But I’m at peace with that now.”
 
It certainly helps that Pierce won’t be that far away from the game as an analyst for ESPN. 
 
“I’m trying to find other ways to direct that energy,” he said. “But the good thing is, I’m still around the game.” (Continue reading below link to podcast.)

LISTEN TO A. SHERROD BLAKELY'S FULL INTERVIEW WITH PAUL PIERCE


 
Last week, Pierce was at the Celtics’ practice facility, reminiscing over the hours spent on that floor, the blood, sweat and tears shed so that he could one day be considered one of the all-time greats in franchise history. 
 
And then he looks to the sky, sees the 2008 banner that he helped bring to Boston. 
 
Putting up banners. 
 
For all the praise and accolades a player can receive being a Celtic, winning titles is what it ultimately comes down to if you are to be among the immortals for the most storied franchise in NBA history. 
 
It is a message Pierce doesn’t hesitate to share with this new generation of Celtics, which includes young players such as Jayson Tatum.
 
Taken by Boston with the No. 3 pick in last June’s NBA draft, Tatum’s versatility as a scorer has often been compared to a young Paul Pierce when he came to Boston.
 
While there are similarities, Pierce sees the 19-year-old rookie as being more advanced from an offensive skills standpoint, than he was when he came into the NBA from Kansas. 
 
“When I’m watching him, he looks like a mature version of my game, like my sixth, seventh, eighth year,” Pierce said.
 
Words of encouragement to impart upon the young men donning the Green and White who will walk the paths that he and so many others have already traveled, is another benefit to retirement for Pierce. 
 
“I feel I can help out this young generation and impact that way,” Pierce said. “I can still talk about the game. I enjoy talking about the game, being around it; traveling to see games. It’s always going to be in my blood. It’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. So, it’s gonna be hard to completely pull me away from the game.”
 
But helping ease that process will be the knowledge that he’ll get to spend more time with his wife and three children significantly more now than he did as a player. 
 
“I want to stay home, spend some time with my family,” Pierce said. “Catch up with them for lost time, missing them on holidays like Christmas or birthdays, their first this or first that. I missed all of that from playing the game. So I want to be able to enjoy that. I just want to get to know my family all over again . . . I gotta make up for some lost time.”
 

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The next Clint Capela? Plenty of parallels with Robert Williams

The next Clint Capela? Plenty of parallels with Robert Williams

BOSTON – On a draft night when there was very little drama, intrigue or surprises to speak of, the Celtics landing Texas A&M’s Robert Williams certainly qualifies as an unexpected pairing.

Williams was seen by most as a potential lottery pick (top 14). who might slip into the late teens.

But all the way to 27?

To have such a precipitous fall, there are likely factors weighed by NBA teams that passed on him that go beyond his ability.

Of greater concern for the Celtics, is how good can he be in Boston?

As far as the floor for him as a player, you can go in a lot of directions, from Stromile Swift, who was one of the bigger draft busts in recent memory, to former Celtic Amir Johnson, who has been a solid-but-not-spectacular pro for more than a decade.

In looking at current NBA players who seem very similar to where Williams is now, Houston’s Clint Capela in many ways mirrored the promise and potential problems that many see in the 6-foot-10, 241-pound Williams.

Here’s a look at five traits that give the Celtics reason to be cautiously optimistic that they may have landed this draft’s version of Capela:

Late first-round picks

Clint Capela was considered one of the best athletes to ever come to the NBA, from Europe. Despite some impressive physical traits, he slid down the board before ultimately landing with the Houston Rockets, who selected him with the 25th pick in 2014. Williams is talked about in a similar vein when it comes to having elite athleticism. And, like Capela, he, too, saw his stock take a draft-night dip to where he was finally scooped up by the Celtics at 27.

Rim-runners

The term “rim-runners” is relatively new to the basketball lexicon, but it has been around for a while and it really does matter. Players who can run the floor effectively not only create shot attempts for themselves, but also puts stress on a defense that allows the teammates of elite rim-runners to get great looks at the basket. As talented as James Harden and Chris Paul are, they benefit from Capela’s ability to get up court in a hurry. Williams has a similar skill to his game, but wasn’t surrounded by the type of quality shooters to which that strength of running the floor was on display enough. In Boston, he’ll make the guys around him better offensively by doing what he does best and that’s run the floor and, when given the opportunity, play above the rim.

Defensive Mindset

Since coming into the NBA, Capela has been a stabilizing force for a Houston team that has steadily improved collectively on defense. He has great timing, above-average length, and instincts at that end of the floor that has served him well. His 1.9 blocks per game last season ranked fourth in the NBA. Williams comes into the NBA with similar potential at that end of the floor. In both his seasons at Texas A&M, Williams was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year. In addition, he led the SEC in rebounds (9.2) and was second in blocked shots (2.6 per game), despite playing just 25.6 minutes per game.

Bad free-throw shooters

When you fall as far in the first round as Capela and Williams, you know there are some warts to their overall game. The one thing both share unequivocally is a knack for not making free throws. Capela is a career 48.2 percent shooter from the free-throw line, but the good news for Rockets fans is he made a career-best 56 percent last season and has actually improved from the line every year he has been in the NBA. Williams has been just as woeful from the line. In his two seasons at Texas A&M, he shot 54.1 percent from the line, but that included last season when he connected on just 47.1 percent of his free throws.

Established, successful franchises

When the Rockets drafted Capela, they were coming off a 54-win season with a roster that included Harden, Chandler Parsons (when he was healthy), Dwight Howard and Jeremy Lin (who like Parsons, was healthy then). So, he knew early on that by playing to his strengths – rebounding, defense, running the floor – he would be a contributor in a year or two. Williams is walking into a similar situation. Boston has established veterans ahead of him in the frontcourt, but the strengths of his game – rebounding, defense and running the floor – provides an element that Boston won’t get from anyone else. And by playing to his strengths, he’ll only enhance the success of a team that has already built to contend for an NBA title this season.

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Celtics draft big man Robert Williams in first round

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Celtics draft big man Robert Williams in first round

1:24 - A. Sherrod Blakely, Brain Scalabrine and Kyle Draper break down the Celtics' selection in the 2018 NBA Draft and are joined by the man who made the pick himself, Danny Ainge.

7:49 - The Nets and Dwight Howard have begun buyout talks, which means the veteran center could soon be a free agent. Michael Holley, Danielle Trotta and Luke Bonner debate if Howard would be a good fit in Boston.

11:59 - Brad Stevens fields questions from the media immediately following the Celtics selection of Williams.

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