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.”