Truthfully, this one didn't mean as much to Paul Pierce
LOS ANGELES — There were no tears. No smooches for the midcourt logo. No storybook 3-pointer in the final seconds.
If not for a tribute video that ran late in the first quarter, Paul Pierce’s final game against his former team — well, assuming the Boston Celtics and LA Clippers don’t cross paths in the NBA Finals, something ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gives a 0.2 percent chance of happening — was unremarkable.
And that was perfectly fine by Pierce, who hinted before Monday’s game that he wasn’t likely to play in the contest nor was it a big deal to him. Pierce, the 19-year veteran who will hang up his high-tops at the end of the 2016-17 season, noted how he got his desired Boston sendoff last month and treated Monday’s visit from the Celtics as just the latest DNP in a season filled with them.
“When I played against the Boston Celtics last time, it was more about being in that arena, being in the Garden, more so than playing against the team,” Pierce said before the Clippers posted a 116-102 triumph over the Celtics at the Staples Center on Monday. “It’s a whole new team, a whole new coach and everything. I didn’t put too much thought in about this being the last time playing against the Celtics.”
The Celtics’ 60-second tribute video left Pierce wiping away tears when the Clippers visited Boston and lost in early February.
The Clippers utilized all of an extended TV timeout as part of a 170-second video that covered all of Pierce’s basketball career, including his days at nearby Inglewood High School.
A crowd speckled with green Celtics T-shirts cheered throughout the cameo-heavy video, especially when Kevin Garnett appeared and called Pierce, “the m—–f—ing Truth.” But when Pierce appeared on camera at the conclusion of the video, he simply smiled and politely waved to the crowd.
The Clippers, following the Celtics’ cue, gave away white headbands inscribed with “The Truth.” But Pierce was far from the featured attraction on a night celebrating him. And even fans chanting his name at times in the fourth quarter weren’t enough to coax Doc Rivers to put him in the game.
“I think it was more important in Boston,” said Rivers, who won a title with Pierce in Boston. “That was as special of a night as I’ve ever seen, really, as far as when a guy is playing his team for the last time. That was like a movie ending, except — I guess for Boston it was a perfect ending.
“Actually, the whole day was pretty good. If you remember, later that day the Patriots did what they did [rallying to win Super Bowl LI]. It was just a great day.”
Rivers stressed that while Pierce’s role has diminished on the court in his final season, he is still a needed veteran voice on a team with big aspirations.
“[Pierce has] been great. I think this year Paul’s been really, really good,” said Rivers. “Just, he does so many little things for us now. Last year, he was still trying to figure out not playing as many minutes; I thought it was more difficult. This year he’s been fantastic.
“Brice [Johnson] and Diamond [Stone], in particular, and even Austin [Rivers] — if those three don’t pick up something from him, then there’s something wrong, because he’s been great with all three, especially the two big guys. He works with them every day, and he’s been fantastic. They call it Paul U.”
Pierce said he is not sure how he’ll feel when the season ends and his career is officially over, but he explained that he has embraced the little things, such as the locker room camaraderie and team dinners. And he enjoys his time with the Clippers’ younger players.
“It’s been fun for me. Just sharing a lot of what my experiences have been throughout my career,” Pierce said. “You see these guys come in and they’re wet behind the ear and they are learning how to be a pro. For a guy who’s played a long time in this league, I like to just be a guy that can kinda share some of the things that it takes to maintain in this league, to survive in this league. Because you gotta understand, each and every year, there’s going to be new players, and I’ve seen guys who come in and don’t develop the right habits from the beginning and pretty soon they are out of the league.
“So that’s what I try to share with the young guys as they come in, because I’ve seen a lot of guys come and go. I just try to share my experience, try to share with them what it’s going to take to be able to maintain in this league, to sustain some type of longevity, and teach them good habits. That’s some way of me giving back to the game of basketball in my final year.”
Pierce has stressed that he never wanted a farewell tour this season and playfully joked about Kobe Bryant’s much-publicized final season last year.
“I’m not getting the same reception as Kobe was getting, so there’s no distraction,” Pierce said with a smile. “There’s no people coming in here with documentary cameras and thousands of people at the hotel. That’s not what’s happening, so it’s far from a distraction.
“My farewell tour is my time with my teammates and soaking that up, these moments with them.”