Sunday night. TD Garden.
Paul Pierce. Kevin Garnett.
Emotions. Lot and lots of emotions. Loud, long standing ovations. Crying.
“I’m gonna embrace it for whatever it is,” Garnett told reporters after his Brooklyn Nets’ 107-106 win over the Dallas Mavericks Friday. “I’m sure it’s gonna be … the emotions are gonna be very high, and I’ll react accordingly.”
For Garnett and Pierce, it will mark their first game back at the Garden to face their former team since the two Celtics icons were traded to the Nets last summer.
“It’s going to be special,” said Pierce, who spent 15 seasons with the Celtics, the team that drafted him. “I don’t know how I’ll react, what emotions are going to be going through my head.”
Both of them dove into the topic Friday night, and they spoke from the heart, especially Garnett, who opened his interview on a rather light-hearted note.
“It’ll be good to be back in Boston,” said Garnett, who spent six seasons with the Celtics. “I hear it’s freezing as [expletive]. No different from New York. East Coast is East Coast. But, for the most part, it should be fun to go back and see what happens.”
But just how special will it be to Garnett that he’ll make the return with Pierce, who is still by his side, a teammate from Boston to Brooklyn?
“To make this whole transition efficient and worthwhile, it’s felt like having someone that’s not only your partner, but your brother, someone who’s been there with you,” Garnett said.
“Someone I’ve recognized a lot of things with, a personal friend, like I said a brother, to go through this whole process with. We’re sort of exiting together … me probably before him.
“But, for the most part, to go through this whole thing, not only with him but with (Jason Terry) also, that’s made it a little more easy. Not that it’s made things simple or less frustrating, but it’s made the whole process worthwhile.
“We’re going there with all good thoughts and open arms. Boston was good to me. Boston was a whole ‘nother episode for Paul because he’s been there for the good and bad. But, all in all, it was good times.”
Said Pierce, “Yeah, we shared so many memories, on and off the court — shared our best memories in Boston. We won a championship and when you talk about the ride we had together and the run, a lot of things go through your head so it’s fun to be able to share it with him.”
Pierce will be in the Garden’s visitor’s locker room — an awkward experience, no doubt.
“I talked to [Celtics’ travel and equipment manager John Connor] today, so I told him I’ll probably sit in the equipment room like I used to always do in my 15 years there, who knows,” Pierce said. “It’s going to be a little weird, though.”
WIll emotions be different because of how well the Nets are playing lately, having won an NBA-best 9 of 10 games this month?
“I don’t even know,” Garnett said. “I just know that the emotions probably will be high because of the success we had while we were in Boston. We had some really good years there, some really promising years. I think it’s going to be forever, embedded in it. People in this era will remember this (in Brooklyn), and the last six years we were there.
“I think anybody who’s part of that run and part of that era will always be remembered. Bostonians, New Englanders, they understand that and they never forget their favorites. We was fortunate to be part of that whole transformation … and some things are forever, man. I’m happy to say I’m part of that era.”
Former Celtics coach Doc Rivers received a roaring ovation from the crowd when he returned last month for the first time since leaving for the Los Angeles Clippers.
It’s worth noting that Rivers didn’t leave the Celtics on the best of terms — some said he quit on the team — but nary a boo could be heard upon his return to Boston.
“You’ve got to understand that everything we put into the six years we were invested in, we put everything into it,” Garnett said. “I think the people of Boston and New England and [Massachusetts] they all understood that.
“I think they saw the appreciation and the hard work that we put into that, the effort more than anything. It’s funny, they have a little pregame thing they used to always say, and in the pregame, I used to always hear Larry Bird. I would never look up, but I would hear it.
“Larry said, ‘You can’t fool the people of Boston. They know when you’re working hard, they know pure basketball.’ And that’s right. When you go all out, they understand that, they root for that, and that’s what they remember. If anything, I would hope they remember that Doc gave everything, along with the players that played there.”
Of course, many memories stick out.
“The obvious ones,” Garnett said. “The winning stands out. But times where some guys were beat up and played through. Small things for me. I can remember Paul playing through the flu in Cleveland. He was throwing up and everybody saw he had to take like two or three IVs and he played. Times where Ray (Allen) had a messed up foot and played, and (Rajon) Rondo gutting through his elbow … Big Baby (Glenn Davis) damn near having a concussion and coming back. Doc sick in Detroit, gutting through it with a hoarse voice and he couldn’t even talk. Small things that I’ll take that I don’t really want to share with you guys for obvious reasons. The ceiling in L.A. … these are certain things that stand out to me that I’ll never forget.”
Pierce, the second-leading scorer in Celtics’ history, was asked if he’s glad to get the night out of the way, given the emotion that it promises to bring.
“Yeah, it’s gonna be a lot of emotions,” he said. “You play your whole life there, you won a championship there, I mean, being the first time coming (back)…I never thought it would happen, but it is and it’ll be here Sunday.”