Celtics

Boston runs through Paul Pierce's blood

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Boston runs through Paul Pierce's blood

BOSTON – If the Paul Pierce jersey retirement ceremony on Sunday is anything like Saturday’s press conference in his honor, those in attendance should prepare to bring some tissue because tears of joy are sure to be in order for many – Pierce included.

“To see all the people, and be with all the people who helped me on this journey to get to this point to where I finally put a close on my career and leave a legacy … it’s good to bring all those people in one room because it wasn’t me myself to get to this point," Pierce said. "It’s going to be great for me to acknowledge those people … it’s going to be emotional."

And full of stories recounting Pierce’s illustrious 15 years with the Boston Celtics, culminating with bringing home Banner 17 in 2008 which was the final piece to a stellar playing career.

Pierce remembers many days looking upwards at the practice facility and see the retired numbers of Celtics legends, hoping that he would be around the franchise long enough to where he too could be immortalized as one of the franchise’s all-time greats.

“That was inspiration,” Pierce said. “Those numbers, those banners. One day, I want to be up there.”

And he will on Sunday, becoming the first Celtic to have his number retired since Cedric Maxwell’s number 31 prior to the 2003-2004 season.

The fact that Maxwell’s number was retired and Pierce’s wasn’t, has been a running joke among the two for years.

“I’ve always been able to tell Paul, ‘you’re a pretty good player but your number’s not retired,’” Maxwell recalled. “So now I’m going to have to say something different, and it’s going to be a pleasure.”

Maxwell added, “There’s Springfield (the site of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame) … but you look up at the rafters and that is the real Hall of Fame.”

Pierce’s career numbers rank among the best ever by a Celtics player, but it was the team’s 2008 title that elevated him from being a good player in Boston to an iconic legend.

But his impact extended far beyond the court.

Celtics assistant coach Jamie Young shared a story about one of his early interactions with Pierce.

“One story about Paul that a lot of people don’t know, is when we traded for Kevin (Garnett), my dad passed away that same day,” said Young who was then an assistant video coordinator. “And Paul actually begged me to pay for the funeral. And I was against it at first, but he ended up doing that.”

It was one of the many examples of how the Boston Celtics were more than just the city he resided in and the team he played for.

They were his family.

NBC Sports Boston’s Mike Gorman recounted one of his early encounters with Pierce.

“Paul and I had this little secret,” Gorman said. “He said, ‘before every game, could you tell me the names of the officials so I can communicate with them?’ I said, ‘sure.’ So before every game he would give me a hug and I would say something like Joe … and Sam, and Sam’s the white guy.’ And I watch and he’d go, ‘Sam, how you doing? Good to see you tonight. Joe, how you doing? So that was my link with Paul in getting him set for the officials for every game.”

And there were more stories from others like ex-teammate Antoine Walker, or Celtics legend Robert Parish who believes Pierce is the greatest offensive Celtic to ever play – better than Larry Bird and John Havlicek.

“I just feel that Paul was more creative, he was a better scorer than Bird or John Havlicek,” Parish said. “I think Havlicek and Larry and Paul were probably the best offensive players the Celtics ever had. I think Paul tops that list.”

Where Pierce ranks among the best scorers in Celtics history is a debate for another day.

One thing that isn’t up for discussion is the fact that Pierce has earned a place among the greatest Celtics to ever play the game.

And while asking Pierce about being among the all-time greats like Bill Russell, Havlicek, Bob Cousy …

“I know wow! That’s crazy,” Pierce said.

Crazy?

Maybe once upon a time.

But more than anything else, it’s real.

You wouldn’t expect any less from the Truth, right?

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Jayson Tatum on overhyped talk: 'I'll stick to my job'

Jayson Tatum on overhyped talk: 'I'll stick to my job'

A story earlier this week from Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes calling burgeoning young Celtics star Jayson Tatum one of the NBA's five most overrated players has expectedly ruffled some feathers in the Boston sports stratosphere. 

But Tatum himself is taking the high road. In a conversation with ESPN's Chris Forsberg centered around his recent workouts with future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, the 20-year-old forward, who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting this past season, said he wasn't bothered by the article:

While Hughes acknowledged that Tatum could be a franchise player, his reasoning for inclusion on the list was that he could be a victim of the stacked team for which he plays, saying, "Kyrie has never been one to take a backseat, and with him back on the floor, it'll be much harder for Tatum to build on his postseason takeover."

As for the session with Kobe? Tatum clearly absorbed a lot:

Hughes also named Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, Bulls foward Zach LaVine and Suns forward Josh Jackson in the company of overhyped players.

It's been quite a week for Tatum, the former No. 3 overall pick out of Duke University. Earlier in the week, the St. Louis native had his jersey number permanently retired at his high school alma mater.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Anything is Podable Episode Four: Building the Roster

Anything is Podable Episode Four: Building the Roster

Even with three All-Stars in Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, Danny Ainge and the Celtics knew that, in order to win a championship, the team needed a strong supporting cast of role players.

Episode Four of NBC Sports Boston’s “Anything is Podable” takes a look at how Ainge constructed the rest of the roster and how one word, “ubuntu,” set the tone for a memorable season.

Giving the team a shooter off the bench, as well as another veteran presence in the locker room, Eddie House was perfect for the 2008 Celtics.

“I remember going to a practice when he was a young player,” said Ainge regarding House. “Just watching him shoot, and shoot, and just amazed at what a great shooter this kid was.”

“I saw him have his 56 and 60 back-to-back point games in the Pac-10 and it was amazing.”

Long a fan of House, Ainge went out and got his guy, but he wasn’t finished yet.

James Posey, a veteran wing who had experience both starting and coming off the bench, was nearing a deal with the Nets, but one call changed everything.

“I actually told my agent, I’ll just go to New Jersey,” said Posey. “Then Eddie House called me.”

House convinced Posey to spurn the Nets in favor of the Celtics, giving Boston another veteran off the pine.

With the roster taking shape, what the team needed now was an identity.

Ubuntu.

Mentioned to Doc Rivers at a trustee meeting at Marquette University, the word that means “I am who I am because of you,” became the team’s mantra.

“I looked this word up and I spent, no exaggeration, hours and days on this word,” said Rivers. “Everything about the word epitomized what we had to be.”

Ubuntu was the rallying cry of the 2008 Celtics and it all started with a Board of Trustees meeting at Marquette.

Anything is Podable is a ten-part series diving into the story of the 2008 Celtics and their championship season, with exclusive, never-before-heard interviews with team executives, former players, and media members.

Narrated by Kyle Draper, it’s the perfect way for Celtics fans to pass time this offseason and get excited for 2018-19, a season in which the Celtics have as good a chance at raising their 18th championship banner as they’ve had since that magical 2008 season.

Fans can subscribe to the podcast through the link below and check out the other nine episodes for a look at this exclusive series.