Celtics

Celtics

BOSTON — Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge couldn't toast Dwyane Wade’s career without slipping in at least one little jab.

In a quiet ceremony in the bowels of TD Garden before Monday’s Celtics-Heat game, Ainge presented Wade with a plaque featuring a piece of the famed Garden parquet and praised Wade for all the battles these two teams engaged in during his career.

Then, without breaking eye contact, Ainge added, “And I now forgive you for messing up [Rajon] Rondo’s elbow.”

Rondo dislocated his right elbow after being taken hard to the parquet by Wade in the third quarter of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals in 2011. When Wade defiantly denied wrongdoing in the aftermath, he became one of TD Garden’s biggest villains and was routinely booed during visits here.

Which is why it was jarring when Wade received a loud ovation when he first subbed into the game with 5:27 remaining in the first quarter. Some of it could be chalked up to the large contingent of Wade fans that invaded for his final game in Boston, but the rest was simply Boston fans biting their tongues and paying respect to a future Hall of Famer.

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But clearly even Wade was wowed by the generosity he received in Boston.

“I appreciate [the parquet] from Danny Ainge and the owners of the team,” said Wade. “We’ve had so many battles in the playoffs. I appreciate the respect they showed me as a player to present me with that plaque, present me with a piece of the history of the Celtics. That was so cool. I definitely didn’t expect it at all. I just want to thank them for that gesture.”

 

With a dinged-up Miami squad fighting for its playoff life, Wade said he tried to keep his focus on the game. But knowing this would be his final visit to Boston certainly resonated with him.

"We’ve had a lot of playoff battles, a lot that I’ve lost and a lot that I’ve won,” said Wade. "This is another one of those franchises that helped myself and this organization know what it took to win and get to that next level. 

"We had to beat this organization to get there once [Miami] developed the Big Three [with LeBron James]. Appreciate them for pushing us. They were the big brother for a long time and then we initially were able to match a little bit. We’re thankful for what they did for us from their standpoint.”

Wade, who had already swapped jerseys with Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris earlier in the season, didn’t do an on-court jersey swap. Instead, he stopped near a jam-packed visitor’s tunnel where he autographed a bunch of jerseys and posters for fans craning for his attention.

Inside the Miami locker room, he inked jerseys and shoes, one pair of which at least made its way to Jayson Tatum. The Celtics dance with Wade one final time on Wednesday night in Miami — barring some wild playoff upsets — and the theme on Monday night was celebrating the meaningful games he played here in Boston.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens noted Monday how Wade has been playing like he’s got a few more seasons left in him but then playfully joked that he’s happy Wade is choosing new adventures.

Kyrie Irving celebrated Wade’s decision to call it a career.

"I think that the most important thing as you go through your life, but especially your professional career, you’re the one that’s going to know when it’s time,” said Irving. "As long as you’re at peace with yourself, I’m fully supportive of that. I think he’s invested a lot of time. He’s sacrificed a lot of his life dedicating himself to being the best basketball player he can be. 

"I mean, let my man ride off in the sunset on the white horse. If it’s time for him, then it’s time. We’ll probably see him playing in some 40-and-over summer leagues.”

Irving, who has often suggested that he’ll disappear off the map when his playing days are finished, seemed to appreciate Wade reaching the end of his NBA journey. And he liked the way Boston received Wade.

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“If he’s at peace with it and he’s happy with his career then, by all means, he deserves an ovation,” said Irving. "He gets a bunch of claps and congratulations from me because, to do it the way he did it was very special, coming in with [James], [Chris Bosh], [Carmelo Anthony], that whole class, and he separated himself early on. 

 

"He’s been a winner in this league. Of course, you’ve got real life that he’s dealt with outside of the court and he’s handled himself like a true professional and I idolize someone like that. He’s really taken his brand to another level, became a very savvy business man, and won championships while doing it. So I have nothing but great things and praises for D-Wade and his career.”

The Celtics presented Wade with a plaque that read, “We will always remember the epic battles played on the parquet,” with a green slab of parquet next to it. Below a picture of Wade in Boston, it read, “And congratulate you on a Hall of Fame career” with a list of Wade’s accomplishments (3x champion, 2006 Finals MVP, 13x All-Star, 2010 All-Star Game MVP, Olympic gold and bronze medalist).

Eight years ago, it was unfathomable that Wade would be cheered here. But, like Ainge, fans were able to recognize this as a day to celebrate and not begrudge.

"You try to enjoy when the crowd does an ovation, but you have to play the game,” said Wade. "That’s all I was doing, was trying to help my team get a win and trying to figure out how to do that. 

"Now you look back on it. Obviously, just a lot of moments with this organization. … Once they made that trade in [2007] to bring in Ray [Allen], to bring [Kevin Garnett] here -- I think the year before they lost like 20-some odd games in a row and immediately they were the team. I lost to them in the playoffs a few years, it taught me something. We were able to put a team together to try to compete with them because, if we didn’t, they would have continued to be winning the East for a while. They definitely had a big impact.”

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