Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett soak in the Boston love

Paul Pierce Kevin Garnett
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett returned to TD Garden Sunday night for the first time since being traded from the Celtics. Credit: Getty Images

Paul Pierce arrived at TD Garden a couple hours before game time as he’s done for the last 15 years of his life.

But Sunday was much different.

After sleeping in a downtown Boston hotel Saturday night, Pierce took a team bus to this game and walked in through the back way. Then he took a left – into the visitor’s locker room.

For the first time in his NBA career, Pierce was on the visiting team at the Garden.

But you’d be hard-pressed to find an “opposing” player who got more love than Pierce did from the Boston crowd Sunday night.

“It was tough; it was tough for me to swallow,” Pierce said of the emotional night. “I was probably about five seconds from shedding [tears], five seconds I’ll admit to it. No words that can really describe the shower of love here.”

Of course, Pierce wasn’t alone. Kevin Garnett also made his return to the Garden for the first time as a visitor since being traded to the Celtics from the Timberwolves before the 2007-08 season.

He too felt the love from the moment he stepped on the court for pregame shoot-around.

Then came the player introductions – where both Pierce and Garnett received long standing ovations.

Later in the first quarter during a time out, Garnett got his video tribute packed with the highlights of his last six seasons on the C’s. With a towel draped over his head, KG watched part of the tribute and saluted the fans who stood and applauded.

“It was just an emotional moment that I just kind of went back and reflected on myself,” Garnett said. “When we all got together a lot of people didn’t think that the first year we could do what we did and I think before everyone started getting together making their teams, stacking their teams, I think we were the first to initiate that. We had a lot of pressure on us. As I sat back and watched the video, I thought a lot about the fun, how much work was invested in that.”

Then came Pierce’s tribute. Fifteen seasons worth of highlights makes for quite a tribute, and that’s exactly what it was. Played to the song “Coming Home” by P. Diddy ft. Skylar Grey, Pierce watched in awe and with a smile from ear-to-ear, all while trying to fight back the tears (successfully). He made sure to tell the fans he loved them during the emotional moment.

“Just all the great moments,” Pierce said when asked about his video tribute. “From on the court to on the court, just all the great moments that’s all you can think of. That’s pretty much what the videos showed, just everything, just me being in the community, the difference I was able to make not only on the court but in the community … I have relationships with organizations in the community that I built, been able to change different lives, being and inspiration in this community and a lot of that you thought about.”

Both Pierce and Garnett said how hard this game was for them to play, and taking a look at the final score – an 85-79 Nets win – you can probably gather that the level of basketball wasn’t up to par with NBA standards for most of the game.

“I was telling Kevin [Garnett] and everybody this was the toughest game I ever had to play,” Pierce said. “Tougher than any championship game, or any Game 7. This game was just really hard to focus and concentrate on what was at hand.”

But on this night, the outcome wasn’t so much the important part. It was all about celebrating two players who helped turn this Celtics franchise around and make it a franchise that players want to play on again and fans want to cheer for again.

Mission accomplished.

“The only thing I could say is what I said on the bench, and that is, ‘This town gets it.’” C’s head coach Brad Stevens said. “You know, this town is special and you can see why. And all the people that have gotten a chance to play here and that you talk to, whether they played here for a year or whether they played here for 15 years, all talk about how special it is. And you know that coming in, but you can feel it on nights like tonight. And it was really a great tribute to both guys, obviously extremely well-deserved.”

And although Pierce and Garnett came in wearing Nets jerseys, deep down they’re still lifelong Celtics. That will never change. It’s become a part of their identity. Garnett made that very clear after the game.

“Its’ always gonna be what it is,” Garnett said. “I think well always bleed green as long as we’re playing basketball and as long as we’re living. Even when they bury us six feet [under], this is what it’s gonna be.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

TIPS: How to take great photos during 'Manhattanhenge'

Grab your camera and make the perfect picture this Saturday.

National

Seinfeld emoji cound be available next week

Get your puffy shirts and your marble rye ready, America. Seinfeld emoji could become available as early as next week.

Local

MAP: New York City street closures July 11,…

A block party in Times Square, Bastille Day celebrations and a festival will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend.

Local

Thousands come to pay respects to fallen NYC…

Thousands turned out to say farewell to fallen firefighter Gordon Ambelas at St. Clare’s Church in Staten Island this morning.

Movies

Interview: Matt Reeves on directing 'Dawn of the…

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" director Matt Reeves discusses his love for the franchise, working with actors as apes and the weight of 3-D cameras.

Television

Final season of 'Glee' will be only 13…

The final season of "Glee" will officially be only 13 episodes, instead of the usual 22.

Entertainment

Complex characters, juicy scripts boost Netflix's Emmy nominations

The unconventional approach to TV at Netflix netted 31 Emmy nominations, a major achievement after plunging into original programing just last year.

Entertainment

Actor Josh Duhamel dons bunny suit to encourage…

The former Transformers star and husband to singer Fergie took to the Venice Beach boardwalk in California in a bright pink, Christmas-story inspired bunny suit Wednesday to help spread the…

NFL

Which Jets player has the best odds at…

Metro New York asked Bovada.LV to rank the top three contenders for the NFL MVP on the Jets.

World Cup

Argentina prevails in penalties, advances to final

The drama never seems to subside as the World Cup finally has its final two.

MLB

A Joffrey Ballet dancer threw the most beautiful…

http://youtu.be/Hg61JOZJrYM?t=29s While asked to throw a first pitch at a baseball game can be a treacherous and/or embarrassing experience (see Cent, 50), sometimes everything can…

World Cup

World Cup semifinals preview: Holland vs. Argentina

The second semifinal pits another South American soccer power against a European one.

Wellbeing

This Week in Health: Sexual headaches can be…

Sexual headaches: an under-discussed health issue Location: U.S. Results: If getting frisky brings on a headache, you’re not alone. Headaches associated with sexual activity represent a…

Food

Head to FiDi for free Chia Pods from…

They may have been last summer's darlings, but chia seeds have definitely not gone out of style. A great source of omega-3 fatty acids, they…

Wellbeing

Stop thinking your diabetes risk begins above a…

When it comes to diabetes research, a new study says black and Asian adults may be at risk for developing diabetes at a lower weight…

Food

Christian Siriano inspires Magnum's color-blocked dessert

Christian Siriano, chef Andrew Carmellini and Magnum team up to create "America's Most Fashionable Chocolate Dessert."