BOSTON – Paul Pierce may be another year removed from his days in green, but that does not make his visits to Boston any less special these days.
The 37-year-old veteran came out on the losing end of a 101-93 decision on Sunday afternoon to his former team, but Pierce was still happy to reminiscence about the relationships he still maintains in the region following the setback.
“This place will always have a place in my heart,” Pierce said after the game. “Everyone understands when you play for a Boston team, a championship team, no one in this town ever forgets that. Just like we still celebrate Larry [Bird], Kevin [McHale], those guys when they come around here…[Boston fans] are our true fans.
Pierce took some time to greet members of the crowd before the game and also spent a few moments on the floor hugging former teammates Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo after the final buzzer sounded. Both players still hold their old captain in high regard.
“He’s one of my favorite guys,” Rondo said. “He’s one of my favorite leaders I’ve ever played with and he’s a great role model. The older he gets, the more knowledge he has for younger guys like John Wall and Bradley Beal.”
“It’s a mutual respect,” Pierce said of his relationship with Rondo and Bradley. “They understand, just being with this franchise a long time, the things I’ve been able to accomplish not only on the court, but off the court. I think the fans here really value that.”
Rondo may be the last player remaining from Pierce’s Big Three championship days with the Celtics, but the bond among that group still appears to be strong as ever. In fact, it sounds like they talk much more than you might expect.
“Rondo (and I), we still talk,” Pierce admitted. “We text all the time. We have a group text between me, him, Kevin, Big Baby, Perk. We all group text at least once a week.”
No word on whether Ray Allen will get an invite to join the group text anytime soon.
While the return to Boston was emotional for Pierce, the veteran acknowledged he was more ready for the crowd’s admiration than his initial visits last season as a Net.
“I try to focus a lot, you know, last year was really tough for me to try to lock in on what I need to do,” Pierce declared. “This year I just wanted to come in, lock in to the job at hand and focus as much as possible. It’s hard at times when I hear the chants and I hear the people yelling, but when I come in here now, into the Garden, it’s to try and get a win against the Boston Celtics.”
For now, Pierce appears to be content in his new home with an Eastern Conference contender, but will never close the door on returning to Boston, whether it’s before or after his playing days are over.
“We’ll see,” Pierce said. ‘If the opportunity presents itself, you know, maybe. If there’s an opportunity, I would love to.”