By Frank McLean
Paul Pierce’s last hurrah on the court in Boston couldn’t have gone any better. It was like it went according to script, a special moment in a special career.
“It was really cool,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said pregame in Toronto. “I don’t know what it meant to me, but that was as neat of a thing as I have been involved with that’s not playoffs. It was a fanbased, the way they received Paul was unbelievable.
“If you were a Boston fan yesterday you had one helluva day. The Celtics won, Paul Pierce makes the last shot and then New England wins (the Super Bowl). They had a good day yesterday.
“I look back on (the last play and) everyone got it. End of a game guys usually come down and jack shots, the game was over, but Austin (Rivers) came down, he knew to give it to Paul. Isaiah (Thomas) was guarding Paul, he knew to back up and give him a shot. It was like everyone kind of got it which is rare. Usually there’s that one guy with the ego that ruins the moment and it was funny, everyone got it. That was really nice.
“It was great to see what it’s like when you win something and do something in one city which I think more players should do more of. It’s really cool.
“I was a baseball White Socks fan and I stapled Dick Allen and George on the wall and they stayed there for years. They never left. Now you need Velcro.”
Excuse me a second if I sound like an old fart who thinks that things were better when he was younger than they are nowadays. I don’t think that way, but when it comes to professional sports in general I will make the argument it was better in the old days.
When I was a kid your sports heroes stayed with one team their whole career. If you were fan of a certain team like the Boston Celtics the Larry Bird’s the John Havlachek’s stayed with their team for their whole career. You just knew that when each season started your star guy was going to be in the lineup.
Paul Pierce who was drafted with the 10th pick overall in the 1998 draft never got to stay his whole career in Boston. He lasted 15-years with the green and white but then spent a year in Brooklyn and another year in Washington before playing the last two years with his old Celtics coach Doc Rivers and the Clippers where he is going to hang it up after a stellar 19-year career at the end of the season.
On Sunday Pierce played his last game at TD Bank Garden where along with Rivers as coach he won his only NBA championship in 2008.
His best days are behind him. He has only got into 13-games this year averaging just four points and one rebound a game, but that didn’t matter to the Garden faithful who brought him to tears chanting “we want Paul” and his nickname “the truth”.
Rivers made the class move of putting Pierce in the starting lineup playing the first five minutes of the game. But with the fans still chanting for Pierce, Rivers put him back out there for the last 20-seconds of the game where took a pass from Doc’s kid Austin and hit a 28-foot three-pointer for the only points he would score in a game which the Clippers lost 107-102.
It was kind of like another Boston great Ted Williams hitting a home run in his final at bat in Fenway Park, but the difference here is Pierce was playing for the opposition.
“It’s a tough situation. You’ve been sitting for like the last two hours and then I had to come in there and get a shot,” Pierce said afterward. “But I’m glad I ended it that way. It was a lot of emotion running through. My teammates kind of felt it too. I’m glad I was able to cap it off, my last game in the Garden. At least I can just say I put one last bucket in at the end of the game.”
“I never felt anything like this,” Pierce added. “I truly appreciate my time here. I truly appreciate tonight. Fans really showered me with a lot of love. It was just — you really don’t know what you meant to a team while you’re playing, and you really don’t get a chance to really reflect on it while you’re playing.”
When asked about putting Pierce back into the game Rivers said, “I’m no dummy.
“So once I thought the game was in hand to Boston, we put him back in. And him making that shot just, that’s just, I don’t know what the heck that is. That’s that only happens like here, or, I don’t know what that is. I don’t know who can sit that long and walk in on the floor and make a shot.”
Monday night the Clippers make their only appearance in Toronto this year and Pierce will not be hearing any cheers. It’s more likely he’ll be booed by the Raptors faithful.
In the 2013-14 playoffs in Brooklyn and the 2014-15 postseason in Washington he was the main factor why the Raptors were upset in the first round. His buzzer beating shots and his trash talking made him public enemy number one in the 416.
But when I think of Paul Pierce I think of him as a Celtic, not a Net, not a Wizard and not a Clipper. Too bad he never got a chance to play his whole career in Boston, but he did get a proper send off by the fans that a future Celtic hall of famer is deserved.
You see sports was better when we were kids.