They don’t call him The Truth for nothing.
In a recent interview with ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan, Paul Pierce sounded off on players around the league (including himself). He was astonishingly open throughout, which gave us some great quotes. Here’s the best from MacMullan, filled with great Pierce quotes:
— On last season with the Nets:
“I’m much happier,” he said. “It was a tough situation (in Brooklyn) last year. Horrible, really.
“It was just the guys’ attitudes there. It wasn’t like we were surrounded by a bunch of young guys. They were vets who didn’t want to play and didn’t want to practice. I was looking around saying, ‘What’s this?’ Kevin (Garnett) and I had to pick them up every day in practice.
“If me and Kevin weren’t there, that team would have folded up. That team would have packed it in. We kept them going each and every day.”
— More from later on the Nets:
“There’s a lot of secondary guys on that team. KG and I went there looking at them as the main guys who would push us, because we were advancing in years. But we ended up doing all the pushing.”
— Going IN on Deron Williams:
“Before I got there, I looked at Deron as an MVP candidate,” Pierce said. “But I felt once we got there, that’s not what he wanted to be. He just didn’t want that.
“I think a lot of the pressure got to him sometimes. This was his first time in the national spotlight. The media in Utah is not the same as the media in New York, so that can wear on some people. I think it really affected him.”
— On his loyalty to KG:
“I would have stayed in Brooklyn because of Kevin,” Pierce said. “I told him, ‘I don’t really like this situation but I would never leave you if you want me to stay.’ But they decided not to re-sign me so I never had to make a choice. I would never have left Kevin like that.”
Garnett was traded in February to Minnesota, where he will eventually assume a front-office role as a part-owner.
“He’s happy,” Pierce said. “I’m glad he waived his no-trade clause. I told him, ‘They don’t appreciate you in Brooklyn, man.’ They didn’t even use him right.
“He’s where he’s supposed to be. He IS Minnesota. He never sold his house there.”
— On encouraging John Wall and Bradley Beal to be great:
“I talk to them a lot about mental preparation and consistency,” Pierce said. “I keep telling Wall and Beal, ‘You’ve got to make up your mind. Do you want to be good, or do you want to be great? Because if you want to be great, you gotta do it every single night, not just when you feel like it.’
“Both of those guys have the potential to be great. I love them. But sometimes I’m not sure they realize what it takes.”
— On Rondo being like Wall and Beal:
“That was (Rajon) Rondo’s problem, too. Some days he did, some days he didn’t. I think it’s more this generation. A lot of these players have been catered to since the sixth grade. The NBA is changing so much. It’s not like when I came up, with that old-school mentality that practice really mattered. You’ve got these 24, 25 year old guys who sit out of practice now to rest. It’s hard for me to understand, but I’m trying.”
— On his relationship with Ray Allen:
Pierce still engages in group texts with former Celtics teammates (and coach) Doc Rivers, Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Big Baby Davis, but hasn’t talked to Ray Allen since he bolted from Boston to Miami in the summer of 2012.
Though much has been made of it, Pierce said, people don’t understand he wasn’t all that close to Allen to begin with.
“It was a weird relationship,” Pierce conceded. “We were all good friends on the court, but Ray always did his own thing. That’s just the way Ray was. Even when we were playing together, we’d be having a team dinner and Ray wouldn’t show up. We’d go to his charity events but Ray wouldn’t show up to somebody else’s.
“I called him on it. I said, ‘Man, Ray, we support all your stuff but when we ask you, you don’t come to ours.’ I remember when Rondo re-signed with Boston, we had a little dinner at a restaurant and Ray didn’t show up.
“I know Ray probably didn’t like Rondo that much, but it wasn’t a fact of not liking somebody. You don’t have to like everybody you play with — it’s a matter of showing support.
“Rondo probably didn’t like Ray either, but he came to Ray’s functions to show, ‘Hey, we’re together in this.’
“It’s not a bad thing with Ray. We had a great relationship on the court. But even the year we won it, after a game we’d say, ‘Let’s go have something to eat and have a night with the older guys.’ We’d get there and it would be me, Kevin and Sam (Cassell), but no Ray. In a lot of ways, me, Sam and Kevin were our Big Three.
“It just got to the point where it was, ‘That’s Ray.’ No hard feelings. Everyone made such a big deal of us not talking after we left, but there really wasn’t much there.”
— On retirement:
Pierce is firm: Next season will be his last.
“I’ve had my time,” he said.
— On regrets: [Note that Piece admitted earlier in the article to eating Burger King before 2002 playoff games]
Like most veterans, Pierce has his fair share of regrets. He wishes he paid closer attention to his body in his younger years, and wishes he was paired with KG sooner “so we could have made a longer run together.” He wishes he was younger when his rivalry with LeBron James commenced.
“I always say I wish I was in my prime matching up against LeBron,” said Pierce, grinning. “Let’s see how many championships he would have won then.”
Jackie Mac did a hell of a job with this article.
I may be biased, but all of this is exactly why Paul Pierce is the man, and the NBA needs as many guys like him as it can get. This is the most open interview that I can remember from an active athlete, and it’s impossible not to respect him for it. Pierce essentially announced his retirement for 2016 and it was maybe a top-5 quote. Amazing stuff from Pierce about his past, what he’s learned, how he’s grown, and then the heaviest stuff about his current and former teammates.
All hail The Truth.
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