Paul Pierce moved seamlessly from the basketball court to the broadcast booth in the first year of his retirement. He settled into a full-time gig on NBA Countdown on ABC and got a firsthand look at the Celtics all postseason long as they came within minutes of advancing to the NBA Finals.
The Celtic legend was back in Boston last week to help Staples reward three local teachers with funding for classroom projects as part of a partnership with Staples and Donors Choose. BostonSportsJournal.com caught up with Pierce to get his thoughts on LeBron's move to LA, Kyrie's future, the biggest obstacle Jayson Tatum will face, whether that 10-year championship reunion ever happened and much more:
What are your expectations for the Celtics heading into next season, based on how the offseason went?
Pierce: Obviously, based on what they've been able to do over the last couple of years and being a year smarter, a year older, a year more experienced, I think it's time for them to take the next step. It's about being good, but also about being lucky. I think if they stay healthy, I see them being in the Finals, especially with LeBron being in the Western Conference.
Was LeBron's decision to head to Los Angeles surprising at all to you?
Pierce: I wasn't really surprised. I think it was something that almost everyone saw coming, especially with Cleveland having no more upside. It's probably almost impossible for them to get better. Sometimes, you have to make a decision for your life and your family. I think he definitely made a basketball decision to some degree, but it was also a personal decision. As he moves closer to retirement and the things that he does off the court, what better place or platform than to have Los Angeles for him moving forward.
Jaylen Brown said in Las Vegas last month that he wanted LeBron to stay in the East so the Celtics could get another shot at him this year.
Pierce: Sometimes you only get one shot (laughs). You should have done it when you had the opportunity to do it. It's easy to say now.
Kawhi Leonard heading to the Raptors was the other big move of the offseason for the Eastern Conference. Did you think the Celtics should have made a stronger push for him or was it wise of them to stand pat?
Pierce: I think they're great where they are. When you have a team that's as close as they are and are still young (the decision makes sense). I think Danny (Ainge) has always done the right things and everyone trusts in his judgment in doing what's right for the team moving forward and for the long run. I don't think making a push for Kawhi was all that important based on what they have already and what they are getting back this year with Gordon Hayward and Kyrie coming off injury.
There have been a lot of comparisons already between yourself and Jayson Tatum in regards to his potential. You've mentioned in the past that you would love to have the chance to work with this summer. Have you guys gotten together yet?
Pierce: I would love to, but obviously, he has Kobe Bryant (laughs). He's fine. He's going to have a lot of people in his ear, a lot of great players and coaches around him and mentors that are going to help him take the next step. He'll be fine.
What is the long-term ceiling for Tatum? What do you expect to see from him in year two with a healthy lineup around him?
Pierce: It's tough to say. He has the potential to be a very, very good or great player, but will he be able to show those talents here in Boston based on the talent they have? Who knows. When you play on a great team like this with so many great players, I don't think we are truly going to see Jayson Tatum's talent anytime soon. We'll see flashes of it, but we won't be able to see it consistently every night. I sort of look at it in a way of how we saw Oladipo this past year. He wasn't able to display his full talents in his first years with other teams, but he had the opportunity in Indiana to display his talent and flourish. I think that's what we're kind of looking at here with guys like Tatum and Brown. They're going to be able to put their full talent on display with flashes here and there, but on a night in and night out basis, we won't know until he gets on a team where he's a declared go-to guy and a declared leader.
Brad Stevens has said this team has up to 10 potential starters with its depth. How tough will it be for him to keep everyone happy from a playing-time standpoint? What's the biggest key for him there?
Pierce: I think on a team like this, if you're smart, you are going to have to have an understanding that you aren't going to be able to do what you want. You have to do what is best for the team in order for them to be successful. If they want to be successful as a team, they have to understand the sacrifice that comes with that.
You are one year into retirement now. How are you enjoying the analyst life? Do you see yourself returning to the NBA with a team down the line in some form?
Pierce: I enjoy doing analyst work for ABC and ESPN. Do I see myself working with an NBA team at some capacity? Maybe. Coaching? Not so much. Maybe down the line, if there is an opportunity to be in general management or president of a ball club, that's something I would consider. As far as coaching, I don't have the desire now to coach full-time.
[caption id="attachment_440831" align="alignnone" width="1600"] Paul Pierce partners with Staples this back-to-school season, supporting local teachers and students to set them up for a successful school year.[/caption]
Are they trying to get you to play in the Big 3 yet? Have you gotten an itch at all to play?
Pierce: Not so much right now. Maybe in the near future though. This is the first year of retirement so I wanted to enjoy it and spend more time with some kids and family. This is a great time of the year as we get back into the early part of school getting ready to start. This gives me an opportunity to bond with my kids and get our supplies for schools at Staples. This is something we really get excited about. A new beginning. New friends, new backpacks, new pens, new projects to work on. Staples is a great place for me to bond with them.
A lot of the hoopla in Boston this summer has been about the uncertain future of Kyrie Irving and the rumors that he may want to play back home in New York next year. What do you make of that? Do you think he would leave such a loaded Celtics team for that?
Pierce: You know what? It's hard to really get a read on the players these days. There are so many changes being made. Who would have expected Kevin Durant to go to the Warriors? Cousins to the Warriors? LeBron to Miami a few years ago? Players are just showing that they have the control and the power to do what they want. There is no loyalty to a franchise anymore. You are not going to see a player stay with one franchise for 10-15 years. That's the generation we live in. You have to brace for it. Guys want to play with certain teams, they want to play with certain guys they know, their friends. They're showing they have the power.
Rajon Rondo said he was organizing a get-together for the 10-year anniversary of the title. Has that happened yet? What do you think about him joining forces with James as a Laker? Will that be weird to see?
Pierce: We haven't had a chance to get together. I saw Rondo once this summer. I'm excited for him. He has the opportunity now. He's been a journeyman these last few years. He showed last year that he's still one of the top point guards, especially in a playoff setting that can help you get over the hump. Now you have him in LA, like I said, it's a different landscape now. It's a different mindset with players now. I wish him nothing but the best. He'll always be my friend no matter what, even though he's on the Lakers. He'll always be my friend first, a guy I will always be able to share some great memories with. I'll talk to him quite a bit this year since I'm a resident in LA. We'll have time to chop it up.