BROOKLYN — His emotions were on his sleeve, obvious despite his silence. Paul Pierce looked up at the videoboard at Barclays Center and saw a large photo of he, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry with donning Brooklyn jerseys, a superimposed image that surfaced when the trade to Brooklyn became official last Friday.
But the moment was here. The moment Pierce held a mesh jersey that didn’t read “Celtics.” The moment that he realized that Boston was part of his past and Brooklyn was part of his present. He was sedate during the press conference introducing the trio while Kevin Garnett tried getting the audience riled up with a “what’s up Brooklyn?”
Thursday’s introduction was more like a reflection for Pierce, who after 15 years in Boston was obviously moved by the reality of being gone.
“I’ll always have love for Boston but maybe you figured this day would probably come,” he said. “(Leaving) definitely crossed my mind more than others in the last couple of years, especially when you look at the team and you look at the direction they were going, me getting older as a player and the amount of new, younger guys coming in, that maybe one day it could happen. Mentally I kind of prepared myself for the last few years that this could be a possibility.
“Now that it happened. It’s real. I understand it, it’s the business and between me, (present of basketball operations) Danny (Ainge) and the owners, there are no hard feelings. They’re going in one direction, I’m going in another. It’s just a mutual thing. I’ll always have love for Boston, but you figured maybe this day would probably come.”
Pierce said he never talked with Ainge about bringing back the Big Three for one more run, saying that the Celtics were salary cap strapped and improvement would have been difficult. When he signed his four-year deal in 2011, Pierce said he thought he would retire a Celtic.
“I thought actually when I did sign the last contract, I didn’t think I’d get traded,” he said. “But I thought more so when Kevin signed his contract (in 2012) I wouldn’t get traded. We were going to be linked together pretty much the rest of our careers in Boston and as you can see we pretty much linked together, just not in Boston.”
Pierce said his agent, Jeff Schwartz, called him on draft night to discuss the Brooklyn possibility. When the trade came down to Garnett’s no-trade clause, Pierce said he called his childhood buddy to convince him to sign off on the deal.
“It was a situation where they were going to make a move and once the deal with the Clippers didn’t go through with (Garnett), the Celtics were trading me, Doc (Rivers) was leaving, so what was left for Kevin?” Pierce said. “I talked with (Brooklyn coach) Jason Kidd and he was warming me of the fact of coming to Brooklyn and then he was warming me of the fact of getting Kevin too. And that’s when I called Kevin.”
Pierce said the phone call lasted nearly two hours and by the time Pierce got off the phone outside his Las Vegas home, he was dripping in sweat. Pierce said he told Garnett, “I know you don’t want to retire. I know you don’t want to retire. You have too much in the tank, you love the game too much.”
Garnett initially resisted but then approved the contract later on the evening of June 27. Pierce said regardless of whether the Brooklyn deal was consummated, he knew the Celtics were trading him.
“I thought the writing was on the wall,” he said. “You saw Doc was leaving. Rondo was hurt, probably not going to back until probably December or January. If I was a GM and I looked at the situation, one day I probably plan on being a GM if that’s possible, I think I probably would have made the same decision. There’s some sentimental things that go along with me and Danny being together for so long but at the end of the day, he works for the Boston Celtics, he doesn’t work for Paul Pierce.
“He works for a franchise that’s going to be around a lot longer than me and he has to make the best decisions he can for that franchise. If I was in his position moving forward, I would have probably done the same thing.”
Finally, Pierce was asked about returning to Boston for the first time as a Brooklyn Net. He didn’t hide the fact he’s been thinking about that day the past three weeks.
“I’ve already pictured it in my head about 100 times, thousands of times and every time I’ve pictured it, I’ve shed tears,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult. Just seeing all the relationships, when I go there, I knew a lot of people that sat in the stands, sat in the front row, the ballkids I saw grow up that I give shoes to who come out to the arena early with me. It’s definitely going to be emotional. My life was there. I spent almost half my life in Boston, I’m 35 and I spent 15 years in Boston.”