The Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks have been slinging verbal arrows at one another all summer. So when Dime spoke with Paul Pierce during Hellman’s 100th birthday yesterday at Pier 84 along the Hudson River, we were expecting at least one Knicks quote. But Pierce would rather let his play do the talking.
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Dime: How is the family liking New York?
Paul Pierce: My family loves it, loving the city. They’ve taken to the crowds, to the restaurants. It seems like a good adjustment.
Dime: Have you figured out the commute better because we saw you had some trouble when you first moved here?
PP: Oh yeah. I’ve figured it out. After like three weeks, I figured out the route. School route, practice route, game routes, all the routes.
Dime: Are you like some of the other Nets we’ve spoken to and living in New Jersey?
PP: Nah, I’m living in the city. It was an opportunity to move my family to the city for that opportunity [for them] to experience it.
Dime: The kids [Pierce has two daughters and a son born this year] like it?
PP: Yeah, the kids really love it. It’s an experience.
Dime: You talked to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe and you mentioned how Boston was a better place, in terms of attracting free agents. I know Bill Russell had some issues when he played there, and KG was initially hesitant after the trade in ’07. What’s changed, since you’ve been there?
PP: I just think, more and more, you see great players go through Boston and the easier it is for other players to follow. Everybody already knows about the tradition. There’s a lot of guys, in the past, who look at Boston as racist. It’s kind of been labeled that way. And I just think over the years, it’s really grown past that. With the addition of me and some of the other guys that have been playing in Boston, it’s changed.
Dime: Have you noticed a difference since you were there? I know you were playing with ‘Toine [Antoine Walker] and those were different teams…?
PP: The thing about Boston, they just love their sports, they love the Celtics. If you don’t put a product out there that’s up to the Boston Celtics standard, then that’s where the controversy and the media, and all that stuff â€” all that comes in. Everybody looks at the Boston Celtics, and the city, and you see all these championships. So they expect, that’s the expectation [to win]. It’s not just another franchise. If you look at other sports franchises, different sports franchises. You look at Boston, you look at Los Angeles, you look at the New York Yankees, these are all prominent-type franchises. They don’t expect to lose at anything.
Dime: And you like that?
PP: You like that. You gotta like that history and the franchise; you gotta like those expectations.
Dime: Are you hoping to bring that to Brooklyn?
PP: I think Brooklyn, they’re setting the foundation. So they can be in the category with the Yankees, with the Celtics, or the Lakers someday. I think the foundation the ownership is setting is bringing the fans back to Brooklyn. They want to win. That’s the only thing â€” you have to have ownership, you have to put together ownership and the people that’s really excited about winning. You can tell by the way the owner has opened the pocketbook, and moved to bring a team [to Brooklyn]. I think it’s something you’ll continue to see.
Dime: Is that something [the winning mentality] you and [Jason] Kidd and KG [Kevin Garnett] were dicussing before the trade. Because KG had to waive that no-trade clause?
PP: Well yeah. The possibility of winning a championship. I think at this point in our careers, along with Kevin, that’s what’s important to us. We’ve made All-Star teams and won a championship; we’ve made lots of money, and we think the legacy we leave behind isn’t just what you do individually, but the team success you have. This is a great opportunity for us to continue to have better team success and get that second ring we left in LA in 2010 [We both laugh]
Dime: Just on top of that Celtics memory. Robert Parish was talking about when he left Boston to play for Charlotte and how awkward it was coming back to the [old Boston] Garden. What do you think it’s going to be like the first time you’re back [in Boston], and look up and see that championship banner?
PP: It’s going to be emotional to go back to the Garden as a visitor. You know 15 years, I’ve never been there as a vistor. So you know, I expect it to be one of the most emotional nights of my basketball career. I can’t even picture how it’s going to go right now.
Dime: Also, just because we love classic Celtics, Hondo [John Havlicek], called you the best one-on-one player in Celtics history. Who would be in that discussion for you?
PP: Ah nah, you gotta definitely put Hondo in. I mean he’s the all-time leading scorer [in Celtics history]. You definitely gotta put [Larry] Bird in there. If you’re talking about some of the great scorers, you gotta put [Kevin] McHale in there. I mean those were guys who could really put the ball in the hole. It’s a good class to be in; to be talked about with some of the all-time [Celtics] greats.
Dime: Have you gotten any good advice from those guys, like when you were first drafted by Boston? We know you’re an LA guy, butâ€”
PP: Yeah, you know I used to always share conversations with Red Auerbach. Bill Russell, when I was coming in, we had dinner a few times. They always just taught me: it’s about the name that’s on the front of that jersey. You represent the Boston Celtics; you represent the pride; you represent what the yesteryear’s player brought to the game. Now you represent that, and it’s up to you to continue to carry that â€” not only on the court â€” but off the court. And that’s something that’s always stuck with me. With my image as a Boston Celtic. Things I’ve done on the court, but all the hard work and dedication as well as my off-the-court efforts.
Dime: So you actually got to go to dinner with Russell and Red and stuff?
PP: Yeah, definitely. During that time, I spent a lot of time with the Celtic greats.
Dime: Who was one that maybe people wouldn’t know about?
PP: Cornbread, Cornbread [Cedric] Maxwell was one of my best friends in the organization. We hung out a lot. He traveled a lot with me. He’s seen my career since day one, so he’s one of my best friends in the organization.
Dime: All right. So next season, you get the chance to take the game-winning shot against either Boston, the Clippers or the Knicksâ€”
PP: [interrupting] Oh that’s easy. The Knicks [laughs].
Dime: We were at the Dodge Barrage and we heard you kind of pretending not to know J.R. Smithâ€”
PP: [interrupting] Who?
Dime: [Laughs] Do you have anything to add to the back-and-forth between the Knicks and Nets this summer?
PP: I think right now, the foundation has been laid. I think now it’s just time to take care of things on the court.
We cannot wait until January 20 next year.
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