Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce 'never thought (Celtics) were in a bad position' after Kyrie Irving's departure

Paul Pierce 'never thought (Celtics) were in a bad position' after Kyrie Irving's departure

The Boston Celtics went through a lot of change during the 2019 offseason. The team lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to free agency, and while they added Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter to their squad, many have been bearish on the Celtics' chances of finding success in a wide-open Eastern Conference.

However, not all have viewed the team as a candidate for regression, and Celtics legend Paul Pierce thinks the team will be fine moving forward. He said as much in a recent interview and didn't think the team was much worse for wear after Irving's departure.

“I never thought they were in a bad position, even with Kyrie leaving,” Pierce said to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. “I mean, you’ve still got a chance to develop the young guys. And I think Kemba Walker is a great pickup. They’re still a threat in the East. But even before they signed Kemba, I thought they were all right.”

Pierce's confidence likely stems from the fact that during the team's 2018 playoff run, the young players on the team -- like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown -- stepped up big-time when more was asked of them. Despite their success, the team struggled to find roles for all of their talent during the 2019 season. That led to some of the locker-room friction and chemistry issues that ultimately derailed the team.

And as Pierce pointed out, while the team may look less talented on paper, they still could fit well together and exceed expectations.

"I mean, talent don’t always win," said Pierce to Bulpett. "We’ve seen that plenty of times. It’s about fit. Who knows if Kemba’s going to be the right fit, because it’s always about more than basketball. It’s about how you get along with your teammates and how the chemistry is. And that’s a strength of Kemba’s, so hopefully it’ll work out.”

If Walker can provide close to what Irving provided on the court while strengthening the locker room, the Celtics will be more than pleased with their decision to sign him. The team made his four-year, $141 million contract official on Saturday when the moratorium on acquisitions was lifted.

Walker will wear No. 8 with the Celtics. That number had previously been worn by Antoine Walker during his stint with the team in the early 2000s.

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Paul Pierce throws shade at ESPN cohost Jalen Rose on Twitter

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USA Today Sports

Paul Pierce throws shade at ESPN cohost Jalen Rose on Twitter

Paul Pierce's legendary 19-year NBA career has put him in the top-20 in all-time points scored, threes made and minutes played. He'll always reside on lists next to the names of the very best basketball players ever.

But there's one list he'll always get left off of: John Stockton, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson and Reggie Miller.

Those are some of the many great NBA players who, unlike Pierce, never won a championship. Pierce feels sympathy for this group, which includes NBA Countdown cohost Jalen Rose. 

Of course, Rose's trophy case isn't necessarily empty, just lacking the big one. Rose played 16 seasons himself and earned a spot on the All-Rookie second team as well as the 1999-00 Most Improved Player award.

Pierce, on the other hand, has a Larry O'Brien trophy and a Finals MVP award on his mantel thanks to Boston's 2008 title run. Pierce's tweet was likely nothing more than a lighthearted jab at a friend he developed great on-air chemistry with on NBA Countdown this year. 

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Paul Pierce defends Al Horford's decision to explore opportunities outside of Boston

Paul Pierce defends Al Horford's decision to explore opportunities outside of Boston

With Al Horford likely on his way out of Boston along with Kyrie Irving, the Celtics are put in a tough spot in the near term.

Horford, unlike Irving, was mostly expected to remain a Celtic for at least another season. Instead, the veteran big man opted out of his contract and is expected to sign elsewhere when free agency begins June 30.

The C's reportedly offered Horford a sizable four-year contract, but rumor has it there's even larger four-year deal on the table from the Mavericks. Former Celtics great Paul Pierce, who was in Boston to promote his new line of CBD products on Saturday, has no issue with Horford potentially leaving the C's to chase the money.

“A lot of these guys when they get in their late 20’s or early 30’s and they know there’s light at the end of the tunnel, they try to maximize their dollars,” Pierce told John Karalis of MassLive. “So if there’s an opportunity for Al Horford to get more money, I’m sure that’s something you have to look into.”

Pierce notes that the Celtics failing to win a title during Horford's tenure likely factored into the 33-year-old's decision to pursue other opportunities.

“It might have been different if they won a championship with him here, but they didn’t win a championship and now he’s at the point where this is his last big contract,” Pierce said. “You gotta understand the player is always going to do what’s best for them and their family.”

Horford's potential departure hasn't received nearly as much criticism as Irving's. Much of that has to do with the polarizing point guard changing his tune from committing to the Celtics before the 2018-19 season to reportedly "ghosting" the team with free agency looming.

There's also the recent report from ESPN's Jackie MacMullan, who stated Irving didn't like living in Boston. But Pierce isn't buying that as the reason for players like Irving, Horford, and now-Lakers superstar Anthony Davis opting to play elsewhere. 

“I don’t think a lot of this stuff has to do with the city,” Pierce told MassLive. “I think it has a lot to do with what direction you’re going to, the point of your career you’re at as a player. So I don’t really buy into those things because every player that I know that’s played for the Boston Celtics, 99 percent of them say ‘I didn’t know Boston was like this, this is one of the best franchises’ and they really liked playing for the city of Boston.”

Though it may feel like the sky is falling in Boston, Danny Ainge remains confident following the NBA Draft that the Celtics won't be in as bad of a spot going forward as most think. Perhaps the C's general manager has another trick up his sleeve for when free agency comes around next week.

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