Since he was picked 10th overall by the Boston Celtics during the 1998 NBA Draft, Paul Pierce has been donning the Celtics’ green, white and black team colors for 15 consecutive seasons. After being dealt to the Brooklyn Nets during the 2013 NBA Draft as part of Boston’s rebuilding process, the 36-year-old veteran forward returned to the TD Garden on Sunday night to face his old team.
Pierce received a warm reception from the Boston fans, which reached fever pitch when a video tribute was shown of his Celtics career between the first and second quarters. The Celtics also honored Nets forward Kevin Garnett who was a key component during the team’s 2008 championship run.
“I was telling Kevin (Garnett) and everybody this was the toughest game I ever had to play,” said Pierce. “Tougher than any championship game, or any Game 7. You look up and see so many Kevin jerseys, my jerseys, posters, and it’s every second you are on the bench and in the game people were calling your name. I’m happy we got it over with and I can go back to playing basketball right now.”
Pierce finished the game with just six points on 2-of-10 shooting in an 85-79 Nets victory. It wasn’t injuries or lockdown defense that hampered his effectiveness, but the emotion of playing on the signature parquet floor of the TD Garden again.
“This game was so hard to just focus and really concentrate on what was at hand,” said Pierce. “At the end of the day, we had a game to play, but it was so hard to really focus. I saw so many friends, so many people I’ve known for years. It was hard to really get into a routine. I just never settled in. You just thought about the times, the friendships, the relationships.”