NEW YORK — If there were any doubts as to whether Paul Pierce was sad that his time with the Celtics was officially over, his facial expression screamed disbelief Thursday when he, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry were introduced as Brooklyn Nets.
Pierce did not turn the page quickly. He showed no disdain toward the Celtics for trading him after 15 years to foster their rebuilding plan, he showed only love for the city, team, and its fans, laying the groundwork for what could be one of the more emotional returns in Boston sports history when Pierce visits TD Garden next season in a different uniform.
Pierce almost choked up when asked about that first game back. What makes Pierce a true Celtic is that even with his new Nets jersey wrapped tightly in his hand, he spoke about the team that defines him, regardless of how many trophies he lifts in Brooklyn.
“I’ve already pictured it in my head about 100 times, thousands of times, and every time I’ve pictured it, I’ve shed tears,” he said of his return to TD Garden. “It’s going to be difficult. Just seeing all the relationships, when I go there, I knew a lot of people that sat in the stands, sat in the front row, the ball kids I saw grow up that I give shoes to who come out to the arena early with me. It’s definitely going to be emotional. My life was there. I spent almost half my life in Boston. I’m 35 and I spent 15 years in Boston.”
Pierce’s place in Celtics history has been strengthened in the last six years, and it was cemented on Thursday. There was no hint of bitterness in his voice. For the last three years, he prepared himself to be traded. He knew he wanted to play longer than his contract stipulated.
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