Paul Pierce 'thankful' in possible last visit to Garden
BOSTON — Paul Pierce started his career in the shadows of Celtics legends.
When his career ends — possibly one day soon — his name will surely be among them.
As Los Angeles Clippers forward prepared to play what may be his final game in Boston's famed Garden on Wednesday night, 15 years of memories and the idea of it maybe being his final visit here hung over "The Truth" as well.
"Could be," Pierce said before the game. "I'm not 100 percent sure. Like I've been saying the last two years I'm taking it year-by-year. But this could possibly be."
Pierce said in each of his previous visits to Boston since leaving in 2013, the feeling when he returns remains the same.
"It's always special when I step on the Garden," he said. "This has been the bulk of my career. You spend 15 years here...memories of winning a championship here. It's a special feeling. Special fans. Special building. I always savor the moments when I step on this court."
Pierce was given the start by Clippers coach Doc Rivers Wednesday, which resulted in a huge eruption by the Garden fans when his name was announced. Pierce acknowledged them, raising his right hand before his teammates started playfully pounding on him.
When Pierce started his career in Boston in 1998, fans thought there were getting a steal with limitless upside. Ten years later he not only fulfilled that expectation, but delivered the franchise's 17th championship as part of the Big Three tandem of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, himself.
After playing more than 1,100 games and scoring more than 24,000 points in his Boston tenure, he returned Wednesday for his eighth career game against the Celtics as a 38-year-old and role player on a Los Angeles Clippers team that is in the mix to challenge for another title.
He's also reunited with Rivers — his former Celtics coach — who credited Pierce with having the most impact on their title run in 2008.
"He went through more than any of us," Rivers said. "He went through tough times before I got here. We went through tough times together. Yet he's one of those guys that never asked to leave, he never wanted to bail. He stuck it out and he got rewarded for it."
As for his role with the Clippers, Rivers said Pierce has not only embraced the idea of being a role player, but Rivers had leaned on him to help impart wisdom that would normally fall on the coach's shoulders.
"He gives us leadership. He gives us truth. Instead of me using my voice, I can use Paul's voice. That's been nice. It's a different team than the one here. This is a young team and a team that's trying to get over the hump. So Paul's been really good."
This season not only could be the final one for Pierce, but possibly for Garnett, who is 39.
"I don't know what his plans and I don't know what I'm doing," Pierce said. "But this could be the last time, who knows?"
One thing he hasn't ruled out is coming back to Boston once he's finished playing — whenever that is.
"I think all possibilities are open. If that is an opportunity that presents itself I would love to," Pierce said. "Who knows, maybe I'll find a role here someday in the future."