HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Just because Paul Pierce wears the black and white of the Brooklyn Nets these days it does not mean he isn’t Boston Celtics green at his core.
And I’m not mad at him. In a day and age when loyalty in professional sports is strictly a seven-letter word, it’s refreshing to hear Pierce, a Celtic for his entire NBA career prior to this summer’s trade between Brooklyn and Boston, speak as fondly as he does about the city he called home for the bulk of his adult life.
Pierce didn’t roll off to chase championships in Brooklyn with a bitter taste in his mouth. Sure, he and Kevin Garnett and the rest of the Nets will be on a mission this season. But a veteran like Pierce is wise to think about life after his playing days are over. And as he told Boston Globe columnist Gary Washburn, Boston will play a prominent role in his life when he’s finished playing:
Pierce said he wants to be a fixture in Boston following his playing days, not just showing up for his retirement ceremony and heading to Malibu, Calif., the next morning. Pierce said he wants to establish something substantial in Boston, having grown attached to the city despite growing up in Inglewood, Calif., as a Lakers fan.
“Ultimately, what I would like to do is have a business in Boston,” he said. “Maybe like a sports bar. I would love to do something like that here. None of the former Celtic great players have come and done that. I thought about it, and why hasn’t anyone come and opened up a nice restaurant? You see the Don Shula restaurant, the Michael Jordan restaurant, and Magic [Johnson] got the theaters in LA. Why nobody here? All this history, all these championships and love, why has nobody done that?
“I am going to still have relationships here. I’m always going to come to this city. Every year, when I’m done, I’m going to have a reason to come here.”
Pierce said he holds no grudges toward the Celtics, and again pointed to a future relationship with the organization.
“Who knows? I may be working for Wyc Grousbeck or Danny Ainge,” he said. “A lot of players don’t understand it. I’ve always understood it. And [other players] let their pride and ego get in the way. I’ve made a lot of money here, I’ve built relationships, won a championship here, I thank y’all for everything y’all gave me. How can I be mad for everything they’ve given me. I’m thankful.”
The prospect of reaching the championship pinnacle again with the Nets is intriguing.
“Me and my best friend growing up were talking and he said, ‘Man, what if you win a championship in Brooklyn? Then what?’ ” Pierce said. “It’s another level then. There’s a chance I could move up in the [all-time] ranks if I get another championship. So I am still going. And they’ve given me more tools and I’ve got something to build.”
Pierce said the Celtics should have no trouble attracting major free agents. “The city of Boston has changed so much since I’ve been here,” he said. “There are so many more things to do and the city has grown. I think it would be a great place to play.
“I enjoyed it here. Hopefully, the fact that guys like me and Kevin liked it here is a sign to other players that it’s a good city to play in. I’m excited about playing in Brooklyn, though. There weren’t too many places I wanted to go if I had to leave Boston, but Brooklyn is one of them.”
The Nets, at least on paper, should have a much more manageable road to the postseason this season than the Celtics, who are fully rebuilding. But Pierce is right, the work done during his time in Boston helped change the perception of that city for many.
Pierce left town a winner, as a vital piece in the timeline of one of the most storied franchises in the history of professional sports in this country. That can’t be a bad way to go out, especially when you consider what his profile was prior to the assembly of Boston’s Big 3 of Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen.
Allen made it clear that there is indeed plenty of glory left to chase elsewhere when he departed for Miami and added another title to his Hall of Fame credentials. But he’ll never be received in Boston the way Pierce and even Garnett will years from now.
Pierce will go down as one of the Celtics’ all-time greats not only for his accomplishments, but also for the length of his service to the Celtics and their fans. Fifteen years … that’s an eternity in professional sports.
So if Pierce says he’s not done with Boston yet, that’s probably a good thing for all involved.