As Paul Pierce entered the Barclays Center for the first time as a Brooklyn Net he looked up at the rafters.
He didn’t see much, just two ABA crowns and two trips to the NBA Finals, alongside six retired jersey. After playing 15 seasons with the Boston Celtics, he’s used to seeing the 17 NBA championships and 21 retired numbers that hang from the ceiling at the TD Garden in Boston.
The Barclays’ lack of banners will take some getting use to, but Pierce has made it his mission to make sure the Nets have more banners by the time he leaves.
“That’s what I always did when I walked into the Garden,” said Pierce at a press conference Thursday. “The first thing would be to look up and see the banners. Now I look up and say how can I help put one up.”
It took Pierce a while to warm up to the idea of leaving Boston. But, he saw the writing on the wall when Celtics’ Coach Doc Rivers was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. Talking to Jason Kidd, the Nets’ first-year head coach, helped him get comfortable with the eventual trade, so did the knowledge he would again be playing with Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry.
Garnett needed some convincing too, so Pierce picked up the phone to do some recruiting of his own.
He said he had an hour and a half conversation with the 18-year veteran, who was concerned with who the Nets would have left when the deal was done. Garnett would need to waive his no-trade clause to make it all happen.
“Sometimes you just have to tell Kevin, ‘Sit back and think about it’.” Pierce said. “His initial reaction to everything is no.”
The chance to play with and mentor Nets center Brook Lopez, join a talented core, and play with Pierce and Terry was enough to bring Garnett back for another season. Also, Garnett wanted one more shot at another NBA title. He will wear No. 51 in honor of former Timberwolves teammate, and Bronx native, Malik Sealy, who died in a car crash in 2000.
“I don’t know anyone who loves change, but change has to happen for things to be better,” he said
Pierce, who wanted to finish his career a Celtic, is still coping with the switch from Boston to Brooklyn. Seeing his new Nets jersey being sold outside the arena, as well as his locker, made him finally realize he had a new home.
He joked about seeing his old five-minute commute to practice in Boston being extended to an hour, and a trip to the game being two. Still he was beginning to feel good his new home.
“It’s really starting to sink in now,” Pierce said. “It’s become real. I’m no longer a Boston Celtic. I’m a Brooklyn Net.”
Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.