Pierce: The Truth, and now a true Celtics legend

Pierce: The Truth, and now a true Celtics legend
July 11, 2013, 2:00 pm
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BOSTON — Knowing his days with the Boston Celtics were coming to an end probably sooner than he would have wanted, Paul Pierce caught himself at times staring high into the TD Garden's rafters.

The championship banners. The retired jersey numbers.

He wasn't marveling at what he saw, but rather what he will see someday when his jersey number 34 joins the increasingly crowded list of out-of-commissioned Celtics jerseys.

"Man, I've come a long way," a grinning Pierce told CSNNE.com in April. "A long, long way."

There's no doubt that Pierce is one of the best to ever play for the Celtics, a career in Boston that will come to an end on Friday when the blockbuster trade shipping him to Brooklyn becomes official.

Pierce was a good Celtic, but top-five, all-time good Celtic?

Mike Gorman, longtime voice of the Celtics, thinks so.

"He's one of the five best I've ever seen in a Celtics uniform," Gorman, the C's play-by-play announcer for Comcast SportsNet, told CSNNE.com.

Gorman cites Pierce's ability to score in so many different ways that makes him stand out from other Celtic greats.

"If you have five seconds left in the game, and you get the ball in one guy's hands and you just need to get points some way or another, I would nominate Pierce for that job, even ahead of (Larry) Bird and even ahead of (John) Havlicek," Gorman said.

Gorman added, "Mostly because he (Pierce) can hit a 3, he can drive and pull up with his in-between game; he can take it to the basket strong and get to the free throw line. I would put Paul top-5 in terms of Celtics players."

Bird's name is one that seems to inevitably come up whenever there's conversations about Pierce's place among Celtics greats. And like most Celtics fans, Bird would have loved to have seen Pierce's career end similar to how his did in terms of spending it entirely with the Celtics.

But in terms of Pierce's place among the all-time Celtics greats, Bird says that esteemed, select group has to include Pierce.

"He's one of the better ones to ever come through there," said Bird, now president of basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers. "He really is."

Dallas Mavericks coach and former Celtic Rick Carlisle isn't sure if Pierce is one of the five greatest Celtics ever.

"But he's done enough to where he can be and should be in those type of conversations," Carlisle, who wore jersey number 34 when he played for Boston, told CSNNE.com. "He's done all the things that you're supposed to do in order to be thought of as one of the greats."

Carlisle added, "Number one, he was a great player and number two, he brought a championship, number 17. And number three, he did it over a long period of time with a great deal of consistency. As a guy in his mid-to-upper-30s, he's still a phenomenal player."

But Pierce's talents are Brooklyn-bound following a draft night deal agreed to in principle by Boston and the Nets that won't become official until Friday.

Joining Pierce in the blockbuster trade with the Nets will be veterans Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry.

All three won NBA titles, with Pierce and Garnett getting one in 2008 here in Boston, while Terry's title came in 2011 with the Dallas Mavericks.

But of those three players, Pierce was the only one to get it done while spending his entire career with the same team up to that point.

That kind of longevity with the same franchise along with all the records set along the way, puts Pierce's legacy in a different and arguably more special category, than most of his future Hall of Fame brethren still playing the game.

And that legacy is one that is respected by both players of the past and those coming into the NBA like rookie guard Phil Pressey.

Pressey, a guard on Boston's summer league team playing in Orlando, Fla., grew up watching Pierce play all the time.

His father Paul Pressey was a Celtics assistant coach (2004-2006) and later, an advance scout (2006).

"When I was in the like the seventh and eighth grade, I was watching Paul Pierce in awe, watching him play," the younger Pressey told CSNNE.com. "Those were his glory days, just killin' it."

But those days, much like Pierce's time in Boston, are a thing of the past now.

"Legend. A Boston legend," were the first words spoken by Pressey when asked what came to mind when he thinks of Pierce.

And that's why this 15-year basketball marriage coming to an end, is so disappointing for many.

This franchise and Pierce have gone through so many ups and downs over the past decade, from Pierce sliding to the C's at 10, to him being stabbed, to losing 18 in a row and then winning an NBA title the following season.

It's the kind of roller coaster affair that eventually had to come to an end, sooner than most of us have liked to have seen.

But Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, has said many times that he would not hold on to aging veteran players out of sheer loyalty.

And the trade that sends Pierce, Garnett and Terry to Brooklyn - a division rival - speaks volumes to just how serious Ainge was about those words.

Gorman said he will be especially sad to see Pierce playing for another team, but understands that in the long run this is probably the best thing for the Celtics from a basketball standpoint.

"I'm still sad to think about it," said Gorman, adding, "he's had a great career here in Boston. Nothing will happen in the next year, whatever uniform he has on, that will affect his legacy with the Celtics."