BOSTON -- Thomas Robinson grew up watching Paul Pierce. He was just shy of his eighth birthday when Pierce made his NBA debut in 1999, and had seen him play countless games for the Boston Celtics by the time he enrolled in Pierce's alma mater, the University of Kansas.
Two years ago, Robinson, now a rookie on the Sacramento Kings, met Pierce for the first time during the 2011 lockout when Pierce returned to campus. Robinson was preparing for his junior season and was surprised to see the NBA veteran seeking out some competitive action.
"It was pretty cool because guys don't come back sometimes because they're busy," Robinson said. "For him to be Paul Pierce and play with us, it was cool. He was just relaxed about everything, like no worries at all."
Once on the court, though, Pierce's demeanor changed.
"He played like he was in the playoffs," Robinson said. "I expect the same thing (in the Celtics - Kings game), only I'm sure it'll be ten times more."
Pierce lived up to Robinson's expectations on Wednesday night. He posted 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists in 31 minutes during the Celtics 99-81 win over the Kings.
Robinson scored 11 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in his first game at the TD Garden.
"I want to look at is as just another game," he said. "But just to say I played here and I made it to be on the floor that I always watched growing up is cool."
CHICAGO – The Chicago Bulls had already ruled Rajon Rondo out for tonight’s pivotal Game 6 matchup against the Celtics.
If the Bulls managed to win tonight and force a winner-take-all Game 7 back in Boston, Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said Rondo’s availability would still be highly unlikely.
The former Celtic suffered a fractured right thumb injury in Game 2 of this best-of-seven series and has not played since.
At the time of the injury, the Bulls had a 2-0 series lead with Boston bouncing back to win all three games since his absence.
When asked about what Rondo can do with his right hand, Hoiberg replied, “not much.”
Hoiberg added, “it’s pretty much the same. He still has a lot of soreness in that right hand, especially with everything he’s got going on with the torn ligament and the broken thumb. He’s just not able to do enough at this point.”
While his absence has certainly been felt on the floor, Rondo has been a steady focus of instruction and encouragement from the sideline.
“He’s doing as much as he can,” said Chicago’s Dwyane Wade.
In the games Rondo has been out, Wade said that Rondo holds his play cards in his suit jacket.
“So I go over to him over there, look at the play cards,” Wade said. “He’s doing everything from a standpoint as a leader, that you can do when you’re not out there with your guys. He’s in the locker room. He’s the one screaming, getting guys ready because he wants to be out there. His blood is boiling that he can’t be out there, but he’s helping guys. He’s doing his job as a leader.”
In the two playoff games Rondo has played, the four-time All-Star has averaged a near triple-double with 11.5 points, 10.0 assists and 8.5 rebounds per game.
Rondo isn’t the only key member of the Bulls who’s banged up.
Jimmy Butler, who scored a series-low 14 points in Chicago’s Game 5 loss, has been dealing with some knee soreness that doesn’t appear to be getting better anytime soon.
“He’s going to battle. That’s the one thing you know about Jimmy,” said Hoiberg who added that Butler did very little during the team’s morning shoot-around. “Jimmy is as well-conditioned as anybody in this game. He’s as big a competitor as anyone in this game. He does have soreness. There’s no denying that. But he’s going to continue to go out there and give everything he has.”
But at this point, that may not be enough for the Bulls in tonight’s elimination game.
They haven’t won a game in this series without Rondo who isn’t likely to play again this season, and their best player [Butler] is dealing with knee issues that we saw had a significant impact on his ability down the stretch in Game 5 [he took two shots in the fourth quarter and missed them both].
Regardless of what issues the Bulls might be dealing with, the Celtics know they can’t take tonight’s elimination game for granted.
“We just have to prepare to play the best that we've played yet,” said Celticscoach Brad Stevens. “That's the bottom line. I don't think there's a secret formula or magic to it. The magic's going to be in how you play. So our job is to prepare to play our best game that we've played yet.”
CHICAGO – Larry Bird’s decision to walk away from the Indiana Pacers’ front office to become a consultant certainly sent shockwaves throughout the NBA landscape quickly.
And while it’s unclear exactly what it means to the Celtics and their pursuit this summer of Indiana All-Star Paul George, it does add an element of uncertainty as to the direction of the Pacers franchise.
At this point, that’s a good thing for the Celtics because Bird had made it clear both to the Celtics and to league sources that he was not interested in moving George anytime soon.
Of course, Indiana getting swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs may have eventually led Bird to soften his position if he, in fact, felt the Pacers were going to need to rebuild rather than re-tool.
And if you look at that team, the former seems to be a more likely scenario at this point, which could bode well for Boston.
But looking at the team Bird was going to have to re-make this summer, this move looks reminiscent to what the Celtics went through in 2013 when Danny Ainge traded away Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, and then-coach Doc Rivers made it clear that he did not want to start from scratch again.
Rivers had done that as the head coach of Orlando and did so with the Celtics prior to things coming together in 2008 when the franchise won its 17th NBA title.
Fast forward to the Pacers and Bird, who haven’t had that level of success since the Celtics legend took over the front office duties in Indiana.
The fact that he’s willing to remain a Pacers consultant speaks to his desire to still be in the game, which is what you would expect from one of the great competitors this league has ever seen.
And the naming of Kevin Pritchard to fill Bird’s role in the front office doesn’t hurt Boston, knowing Pritchard and Ainge have done deals with each other in the past when Pritchard was running the show in Portland.
Ultimately, it comes down to whether the Pacers have decided it’s time to move on from tweaking the roster and do what the Celtics did in 2013 and start over.
If they decide to go down that path, without question, the Celtics will be one of the first teams they have serious discussions with along those lines.
Teams that are looking to rebuild typically want draft picks and young veteran players – both of which the Celtics have more of than just about any team in the NBA.
And because most of the current Celtics have been involved in a winning culture, there are unspoken habits they bring to a franchise looking to re-establish its foundation.
For Boston, they land that much-coveted superstar that they desperately need to pair with Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford.
It sounds like a win-win for both franchises, right?