Paul Pierce gets first taste of Nets-Celtics rivalry from other side
Paul Pierce admitted it was strange and emotional facing the team that drafted him 15 years ago and saw him become a 10-time All Star.
Since July’s blockbuster trade, Pierce had concealed it well but after playing 27 minutes during Tuesday’s 82-80 win over the Celtics, the 36-year-old conveyed some of the feelings many thought he would display even if it was only a preseason game.
“It was a little weird,” Pierce said. “I’m used to green and white but it was good to see guys.”
Among them were Jeff Green, who he hugged before the game, and Rajon Rondo, who he chatted with during a lull at the free-throw line. Also there was Avery Bradley, who Pierce joked with at one point during a blocked shot.
“I thought he handled it well,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “We talked about that earlier – his work ethic, being one of the best, being a pro. I joked with him before the national anthem and said to kind of think about it like a scrimmage – green against white.”
It was not a real reunion since Kevin Garnett rested and Jason Terry (knee) sat out. The real first games take place Dec. 10 in Brooklyn and Jan. 26 in Boston, where Pierce admits he will likely shed a tear.
“It’s definitely going to be a lot different,” Pierce said. “It’s definitely going to be emotional. I don’t know if I’m looking forward to it. I’m probably going to shed a tear.”
Also different was the role Pierce assumed in playing his most minutes of the preseason. Pierce took less of a scoring role, with just four points, and more of a rebounding and facilitating role, with 10 rebounds and five assists.
Pierce said it’s something he is figuring out, similar to six years ago when he joined forces with Garnett and Ray Allen. That group won 66 games and the franchise’s 17th championship after clicking right away.
“I’m still trying to figure it out,” Pierce said. “The good thing about it is I don’t have the offensive load that I have to carry out here. So I’m not really being aggressive, not looking for my shot in this preseason. I’m trying to do other things such as rebound and pass.
“There’s going to be nights where I’m not going to have the games where I’ll have 10 or 15 shots. We have so many guys. So I’m trying to find out how I can have an impact on the game without having to score.”
Among those capitalizing on Pierce’s cross-court passing ability was Brook Lopez. Lopez scored 20 points in 25:39 and was hardly surprised at Pierce’s passing display.
“He’s such a great playmaker,” Lopez said. “Guys on the floor have to respect his scoring ability, so that just opens up so many options. I just have to be ready when he’s around, have my hands up and be ready to catch it from him.”
The Nets will visit Boston next Wednesday, but it is unknown whether Pierce, or Garnett, will even play.
Pierce spent part of his first nine minutes shadowing Green and then played the role of facilitator on the offensive side, highlighting that aspect with a nifty pass to Lopez on a roll to the basket early in the game.
Pierce returned for his final segment of action three minutes into the second quarter and on his first offensive possession he displayed a nifty shot fake before finding Lopez. On his next offensive possession, Pierce threw the ball over the defense to a cutting Shaun Livingston.
Pierce almost made another nifty assist when he passed to Reggie Evans, but Evans fumbled the pass before Lopez hit an open midrange jumper.
After missing his first three shot attempts, Pierce finally made a right-handed layup on Brooklyn’s final possession of the half. Pierce began the second half and added another assist on a basket by Lopez.
By the time the Nets clinched the win on a pair of free throws from Chris Johnson with eight seconds remaining, Pierce was in his warmups, rooting on his teammates and no doubt enjoying them ending the game with four straight defensive stops.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.