Paul Pierce wouldn’t mind rejoining the Celtics.
“Yeah, why not? Maybe play for them, maybe work for them,” the forward said Friday after the Nets lost to his former team, 91-84, at TD Garden.
Pierce played 15 seasons with the Celtics, who drafted him in 1998. His contract expires after this season and he’ll be an unrestricted free agent.
He received a warm ovation from the crowd and finished with 10 points in 33 minutes, though emotions weren’t as high as in late January, when he returned to the Garden for the first time since he and Kevin Garnett were traded.
“It’s always emotional when you step into a gym you’ve spent your whole life playing in,” Pierce said. “The tribute last time made it so much more emotional and the cheers. But every time I come into this gym, because I’m always seeing friends and people who have been around all the years, it’s always going to be emotional, because you miss them from knowing them so long.”
The Celtics are rebuilding again, but Pierce said it doesn’t remind him of their previous rebuilding efforts during the mid-2000s.
“I try to forget those days, because those are your trying days,” he said. “Those are the days where you try to forget. But you grow from it. I think it made me a better player, physically, mentally. It made me stronger. You only can learn from this process, right now. You find out what type of players you have when you go through moments like this.”
Rajon Rondo is the Celtics captain now, assuming the role Pierce held from 2003-13, and in a rebuilding mode, Pierce said the key for Rondo is staying patient.
“When you’re in the middle of your prime, like Rondo is, and you’re frustrated with the losing, it’s about just staying patient, staying with the guys, helping them develop, helping them get better,” Pierce said.
“At times, it’s going to be frustrating, and you have to understand that, the position you’re in. At times, things don’t always go your way, and you want everything to be better right away, but you understand it’s a process. [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge understands it’s a process. And they have to be on the same page. Your elite player, your franchise player [and] the organization — just constant communication about what they want from each other, and you go from there. You build with each other.”
Pierce also believes Rondo understands the patience required in his new role.
“He understands probably a little more than I did at the time,” Pierce said. “When I first got here, I was [on a team] that made the playoffs and then we went back into rebuild mode. It’s the same with him. He came in, we were rebuilding, we went through a phase where we were winning, now he’s back in rebuilding mode, but he’s still young enough to see it out, to where he’s still going to be in his prime. I know the Celtics are going to do whatever it takes — they have great ownership, great management — to get back to that top level again.”
Still, for Pierce, it’s a little odd to see players like Phil Pressey playing for the Celtics. When Pressey was young, he spent many years playing in the Celtics’ practice facility, where his father, Paul, was a Celtics assistant coach.
“Yeah, I used to kick him out of the gym when he was a kid, him and little Austin Rivers [son of former Celtics coach Doc Rivers],” Pierce said. “It’s good to see these guys grown up, playing in the league. Maybe I had an influence on them, maybe not, maybe so. But it’s fun just seeing guys like him grow from where you knew him.”
As for his impression of the Celtics, Pierce said, “They’re a young team. They’ve got a mix of some veterans, some young guys who are developing. They’re only going to get better. Rondo is ready to lead, he’s leading them right now, moving into the next generation of Celtics. I think their future is going to be very bright.”
Pierce also said he remains close with Rondo.
“Me and Rondo share a special bond,” Pierce said. “We’ll always be friends. We always have something in common, with our championship [in 2008]. Our kids, they still hang out together. They hung out for his birthday, actually. So, Rondo, I respect him and him moving forward with this franchise and it’ll always be that way.”
Pierce laughed when he referenced Rondo’s birthday, as Rondo took plenty of flack for not traveling with the team to a game last month so he could stay in Los Angeles to celebrate with family and friends.
To be sure, Rondo wasn’t scheduled to play in the game he didn’t attend, but, nonetheless, a ruckus was raised.
“I thought it was great that he enjoyed his birthday,” Pierce said at the team’s shootaround Friday morning. “He said he wasn’t playing anyway. I enjoy my birthday every year, but mine is in the preseason [Oct. 13]. I don’t see what the big deal is about it. I think everybody is making a big issue of it.”
Pierce added, with a smile, “Happy Birthday, Rondo!”
Faverani all done
Sparingly used rookie center Vitor Faverani had season-ending surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, the team announced. Faverani had missed 14 straight games. The 6-foot-11-inch Brazilian, the only true center on the Celtics roster, averaged 4.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 0.73 blocks in 13.2 minutes per game over 37 appearances. He has two seasons left on his contract, though the final one is nonguaranteed.Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes