There’s a basketball game in Boston tonight. It’ll be played in a professional basketball arena, on a court 94 feet by 50 feet. The free throw line will be fifteen feet away from the basket, the three-point line 23′ at the corners and 23’9″ elsewhere. The rules of basketball will apply for forty-eight game minutes, and should the teams be tied after the time, they’ll play five more, and so on and so on until one team’s declared a victor.
There’s a basketball game in Boston tonight, but given the circumstances, it’s kind of hard to remember that.
After his Brooklyn Nets defeated the Dallas Mavericks 107-106 in Brooklyn, Nets forward Kevin Garnett planned a late dinner with teammate Paul Pierce in New York. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence, according to either player, but they assuredly had an uncommon conversation: the 19-22 Brooklyn Nets are in Boston tonight, taking on the 15-30 Boston Celtics at TD Garden, where Pierce played his first fifteen seasons and Garnett his last six before getting sent to Brooklyn this offseason.
Pierce, who’s second all-time in Celtics history in points scored, was cautious with the media, guarded about his emotions upon returning to the city he made history in. He joked that he might not know where to go on the visitor’s side. He’ll spend time in the equipment room, say hello to season ticket holders, chat with Celtics commentators Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn, as well as other personnel.
What he’ll do, he has some idea. What he’ll feel? He said “I don’t know” or “who knows?” about it five times in a little over three minutes. Hard to blame him.
“Definitely a lot of memories are going to be passing through my head,” Pierce said after the game Saturday night, his eyes wandering from the sea of recorders below him. “You play so many games in one building but, it’s something you can’t script. … It’s going to be a lot of emotions.”
The more-demonstrative Garnett shared his favorite memories of his time in Boston.
“Obviously the winning stands out,” Garnett said. “But times when some guys would be beat up and play, small things for me. I can remember Paul playing through the flu in Cleveland, and he was throwing up and everyone saw that he had to take like two or three IVs, and he played. Times when Ray had a messed up foot and played and Rondo gutting through his elbow. Big Baby having a concussion. Doc sick in Detroit playing through with a hoarse voice like couldn’t even talk.
“Small things that I don’t want to really share with you guys, for obvious reasons. Like the ceiling in LA, which I’m going to take… you guys have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, but these are certain things that just stand out to me that I’ll never forget.”
(No one had the heart to tell Garnett that we knew exactly what he was talking about.)
Garnett knows that emotions will run high, for both him and Pierce, and that Boston left an indelible mark on him as much as he left one on the franchise.
“I think it’s going to be forever embedded,” Garnett said of his years there. “People will remember the last six years that we were there. I think anybody that was part of that run or part of that era will be always remembered. Bostonians, New England, they understand that, and they never forget their favorites. We were fortunate to be part of that whole transformation and some things are forever, man.”
Garnett joined Pierce in Boston in the summer of 2007 with a reputation as one of the NBA’s great players without a championship, changing that perception by taking home the title in their first year together. The Celtics went to the playoffs all six years with the tandem, including five Atlantic Division banners.
Now, Celtics fans have their first chance to show appreciation for two of the most significant players in their team’s history, an appreciation Garnett reciprocates.
“It’s funny,” Garnett continued. “They have a little pre-game thing Larry (Bird) always used to say. In pre-game, I would never look up, but I would hear it. Larry would say, ‘You can never fool the people of Boston.’
“When you’re working hard, they know pure basketball. When you go all out, they understand that and they root for that. That’s what they remember.”