There was one camper donning a Paul Pierce Brooklyn jersey last week at what could be Pierce’s final local camp at Basketball City, in the shadow of his former residence, TD Garden. That’s it. One.
After 15 years, Pierce was traded by the Celtics, a victim of the organization’s long-awaited rebuilding plan, a painful example of big business in the NBA. Inasmuch as Pierce and the Celtics wanted their marriage to end in retirement, it just couldn’t.
Pierce spent last week working with kids who didn’t understand that business, wishing he was still a Celtic. Parents told him how much they would miss his step-back jumper and headband. It was an emotional week for Pierce but it also allowed him to bid farewell to his fans personally.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time this summer in New York and coming back here, and the thing you get that’s tough is the reaction that I am getting from the kids and the parents,” he said. “That’s the tough part. I understand the realization of the trade, moving on now, but when you come back and you are around the kids and the parents and a lot of these kids grew up in the camp for years, you see their reaction. That’s the tough part for me.”
First disappointed that the Celtics sent him to the Nets with Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry for multiple players and draft picks, Pierce said time has allowed him to digest and understand the trade. There are no hard feelings for team president Danny Ainge or the Celtics. What’s more, Pierce confirmed that before the regular season ended he told his wife to begin packing in preparation that he wouldn’t return to Boston.
“What I’ve been doing since the trade, this has given me a chance to look back at my career as a Celtic,” he said. “I’m going through my stuff packing, going through all my old pictures, former teammates, people I’ve had relationships with, it’s surreal. That’s been hard, just all the stuff that you did out there, not even on the court but in the community. The foundation, how we elevated a lot of people in this community, and I am going to miss that.”
Asked if this is his last camp, Pierce said, “Maybe one day I may start another camp if I get an office job with the Celtics. Who knows? This year was the last official Paul Pierce camp at Basketball City.”
Pierce, 35, has just one year left on the four-year deal he signed with the Celtics in 2010. Free agency could be a distinct possibility next summer.
“Who knows what’s going to happen after this year?” said Pierce. “I don’t know what the future is going to bring. I don’t know if I’m going to be back with the Nets. I don’t know if I’m going to retire, you never know what’s going to happen. I feel like I have more in the tank but you never know with injuries, how your body feels. Sometimes those things tell you a lot quicker. Right now, I’ve been feeling good. My legs, my body feels strong.”
The Nets will be at TD Garden for a preseason game on Oct. 23 but Pierce said he won’t be present.
“I am going to probably rest that game, it will be too much, two times [in Boston] in one year,” he said. “It will be too much for me mentally to do it twice. Everything is going to be weird, just coming to Boston. But that’s just a sign of saying, ‘Hey, it’s time to move on.’ ”
Pierce’s departure from Boston was expected. He wasn’t holding on to hope that the gang could make one more playoff run this season with Garnett, Rajon Rondo coming off knee surgery, and a salary cap-strapped roster.
“We were pretty much stuck on a treadmill as far as where we were and people don’t see the financial part of it,” he said. “That kind of straps a team from getting better. We were kind of in that position. How do we get better without spending money? So you have to determine if we want to stay right where we are, which is [a] four through eight seed? Or do we want to rebuild and hopefully get a player that can take us to that next level . . . This was pretty much almost inevitable.”
West focuses on new start
Former Celtic Delonte West said in this space two weeks ago that he wants to return to the NBA, and last week he touched on some of the controversial moments of his career and accepted that he has been misunderstood, partly because of his own perplexing actions.
West talked about personal issues and the perception that the wealthy should be less inclined to struggle with mental health.
“The thing is if you look at entertainment or sports or any form of business when people are getting paid high-dollar amounts, you see it every day, going to the hospital for exhaustion or from depression,” he said. “The majority of America is not making that type of money, they’re looking at it from a money aspect. ‘Hey I make $40,000 or $60,000 and if I was getting paid $3 million, I wouldn’t be having no problems in the world. Man, I would just feel great about myself.’ But that’s not what it is.
“You’re associating happiness with money. And the last time I checked, there was a CVS or Walgreens on every block or corner. And there’s a prescription aisle right in the back and every time you go to the hospital, how long do you have to wait to see the doctor because everybody in America has something. Some people have depression or suffer from headaches or something. Everybody needs a pill for something nowadays, and they’re coming up with new names for new things every day. For me, I don’t think being bipolar was my issue. I don’t think it ever was.”
West was diagnosed with bipolar disorder following his gun charges in 2009 and was shielded by the Cavaliers from the media that season. He said his issues dealt more with insecurity and lack of confidence.
“My issue was self-loathing, it never was [being] bipolar,” West said. “I wasn’t considered bipolar before my Desperado [carrying guns on a motorcycle] incident, as people like to describe it. From then on, a failed marriage after two months, lost some contracts and endorsements, and the center of everybody’s jokes.
“And the best player in the world, [LeBron James] — [I] allegedly had sex with his mother. Growing up in the hood, that’s the worst thing you could say is something about somebody’s mother. That would get you punched in the face. That hits home.”
West has steadfastly denied those rumors and has been forced to address them constantly.
“You have ignorance, people yell across the Walmart, ‘Yeah, how did that go [with LeBron’s mother]?’ I’ve got to deal with that,” he said.
Asked about James, West had nothing but compliments.
“He’s a great young man. He doesn’t exclude anyone. As much popularity and fame, he doesn’t exclude one guy from his teammates. He handles his success well and he’s a good example of what a superstar’s supposed to be in terms of communicating and being approachable and handling family and friends, and I was one of those guys he considered a friend and family.”
Terry is eager to help Kidd
The player with perhaps the most interesting perspective on Jason Kidd as an NBA coach is new Nets guard Jason Terry, who just two years ago won a championship with Kidd as a backcourt mate with the Mavericks. Kidd will take over the Nets just months after being an active player with the Knicks, and there are concerns about whether he can lead a veteran team with championship aspirations.
Terry does not have those concerns.
“We were in about a two-hour film session in the playoffs in Portland and we couldn’t figure out one coverage in the zone,” Terry recalls. “J-Kidd was finally like, ‘We’re going to figure it out. Let me handle it. Coach [Rick] Carlisle, trust me, we’re going to get it done.’ That game we used a zone and ended up winning and that was an example right there that he was a coach and ready for the moment.”
Terry said the first thing he did when the trade was consummated was send a text to Kidd, requesting he eventually save a spot on his staff for Terry, who has coaching aspirations.
But first, Terry promised to be an improved player following a disappointing season with the Celtics.
“I’m definitely going be flying higher than I was in Boston. This will be my first year healthy in the last couple of years,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting back to that Sixth Man of the Year form that I had two years ago. And the only one that can do that for me is coach Jason Kidd because he understands what needs to be done for me to assume that role. Whether I was going to be in Boston or right here, I had to get healthy.”
Shaw’s ship finally arrives
Each offseason the past few years, Brian Shaw has waited for his opportunity. He was considered one of those “hot” assistant coaches as he aided Phil Jackson and the Lakers to consecutive NBA championships. Yet, when Jackson stepped down as Lakers coach, Shaw was passed up as his successor, and he eventually opted to take a job assisting Indiana’s Frank Vogel.
His arduous wait ended when the Denver Nuggets, who shockingly fired Coach of the Year George Karl, chose him to lead the retooling organization. Shaw may have been a Celtics coaching candidate, but just hours after Doc Rivers officially departed Boston, Shaw was named Denver coach.
The wait has been difficult but Shaw has walked into a solid situation. The Nuggets have just one player over 30 — 37-year-old Andre Miller — and acquired J.J. Hickson, NateRobinson, and Darrell Arthur in the offseason. Denver remains a team with athletes but little star power. Shaw could serve as the perfect leader.
“To me it felt like an eternity but at the same time it allowed me to continue to learn and get better,” Shaw said of his wait to become a head coach. “With that being said, it was the right amount of time. It was the right situation.”
Shaw, the former Celtics guard, was considered a can’t-miss coaching prospect, working with a young Kobe Bryant during the Lakers’ glory days.
The Nuggets job was not expected to be open but Karl made a power play entering the final year of his contract and demanded an extension. The Nuggets refused.
“You never know, obviously coming from a team that had the Coach of the Year and for there to be an opening there [was unexpected],” Shaw said. “It was progressing as a regular offseason for me once our season ended, knowing that I would be getting some interviews and trying to do and show what I can do the best I possibly could. As this opening became available, things just kind of started to fall in place and the intrigue with the roster — to be able to come to a team that was already a playoff team, the things they were able to accomplish last year — as a first-time coach, you don’t usually get to walk into those type of situations.”
With the Celtics opting for Brad Stevens, fans will never know whether DannyAinge would have pursued Shaw. It was obvious the organization wanted to go young and Shaw, with his Boston ties, would have been a strong candidate.
The Knicks signed center Jeremy Tyler to a two-year deal, an indication that they were impressed with him during the Las Vegas Summer League. Tyler, who skipped his senior year in high school in San Diego to play overseas, is on his third team entering his third season . . . Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga was a candidate for the 76ers head coaching position but multiple reports have general manager Sam Hinkie offering the position to Spurs assistant Brett Brown. Larranaga made a positive impression during his interview but Hinkie took all summer to make a decision. Doug Collins resigned in April . . . Ryan Gomes has returned to the NBA after signing a contract with the Thunder. Gomes, who turns 31 in September, spent last season with a team in Germany after playing just 32 games with the Clippers in 2011-12. Gomes played his first two seasons with the Celtics before being dealt to Minnesota in the Kevin Garnett deal . . . Shabazz Muhammad’s perception problem continues as he was excused from the NBA Rookie Transition Program for having a female in his room. Muhammad, who struggled mightily in summer league play, is trying to prove himself as a model citizen after being suspended by the NCAA for a portion of his freshman season at UCLA. Muhammad will have to attend the program again next season . . . Following another marijuana-related arrest by former No. 2 overall pick MichaelBeasley, the Suns could potentially attempt to waive or move him. New GM Ryan McDonough, the former Celtics assistant GM, is in the process of gathering young assets and draft picks. Beasley’s worth on the market could be at an all-time low considering he has flamed out in three different stops . . . Look for the Bucks to sign forward Larry Sanders to a long-term extension now that he has established himself as a cornerstone following a breakout third season. The Bucks disposed of Drew Gooden and Luc Mbah a Moute to clear more playing time for Sanders. The Celtics’ Avery Bradley is also eligible for a long-term extension but it’s uncertain whether the club is willing to make such a commitment during its rebuilding. Bradley is coming off another injury-interrupted season.