The 2017-18 NBA season tips off on Tuesday night. 

NBA legend turned ESPN / BT Sport pundit Paul Pierce gives us his thoughts on how it will shake out.

Some people are calling Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford the Celtics’ new big three. Do you feel they deserve to be called the big three? How do you feel they compare to you, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen?

PAUL PIERCE: The reason they’re called the big three is because they’re the three All-Stars on the team. They’re a lot younger than we were when they got together. I think only time can tell. Who knows who’s going to go on and have a Hall of Fame career and who’s going to go on and win a Championship.

But when you get three All-Stars together, they’re going to be a big three. Only time will tell right now. I’m sure they’re going to win a lot of games, but they are definitely going to have a great chance in the Eastern Conference to win a Championship together, if they’re together a long time.

 Do you expect them to get to The Finals?

PIERCE: I think they’ve got a great chance, man. I think what they’ve been able to do with signing Gordon Hayward as a free agent. They made the trade to get Kyrie Irving. And hopefully some of these young guys can help contribute this year, guys like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. These are going to be two huge wild cards for them. If they can find some consistency from either of those two guys, then I think they’ve got a great chance.

But at the same time, it’s hard. Our situation was unique. We came together and did it in one year even though we had all new faces. That’s hard to do. It’s hard, when you bring a whole new team together and say, look, we’re going to go out here and get to the NBA Finals or win an NBA championship. The chemistry has to be right. You have to be healthy. Guys have to understand their role. A number of things have to go right for that to happen.

 Could you sense Chris Paul getting kind of frustrated with the Clippers, maybe losing his belief they could win there? Were you surprised he moved on, or did you think he would end up back there this year?

PIERCE: Truthfully, I didn’t think there was no way that Chris would leave the Clippers. He really built up something special, you know, with getting the Clippers back to being legitimate, make the playoffs every year, 55 games. He just bought a new home like less than a year ago. He had a $200 million offer on the table. So that really shocked me that he would leave.

Obviously, sometimes him and Doc had their differences, but what star players don’t have differences with their head coach? Especially when you guys have been together four or five years and things haven’t really panned out the way you really wanted them to. Same thing happened in Boston. Me and Doc, we didn’t look eye to eye all the time.

But that really shocked me seeing him leave, especially what he had built in L.A., on and off the court, and he had a huge contract in front of him and with him getting a new house. So that really shocked me. I didn’t think there was no way he would leave Los Angeles.

 You got to spend some time in the preseason with Jayson Tatum. What did you take away from your time with him?

PIERCE: What I really took away is just being a guy who only spent one year in college, when I sat down and talked to him, he was very, very mature for his age. He didn’t seem like — he didn’t come off like a rookie. He sounded like a guy who knew what he wanted to accomplish, and the funny thing about that, it translates into his game.

Most times you look at rookies, and when they first get in the NBA set, whether it be summer league or in practice or a game, but the times I watched him, he plays at his own pace, he’s never in a hurry. That’s something you don’t really see from rookies. He has a really mature game. I think he’s going to be a major contributor for this team this year.

For him to come into a situation where he can possibly start and win a lot of games, I mean, I think he’s mature enough to handle all that, truthfully. He went to great programs in high school, A-I. He went to a winning tradition school in Duke. I think he’s had great coaching in his life, and I think that has a lot to do to contribute the way he is. But I really see him having a great impact this year.

He may not be the Rookie of the Year because he may not get the opportunity some of these other rookies get, but I know he’s going to win a lot more games than a lot of these other rookies who were picked at the top.

 Paul, I wanted to back up a little bit. So after you did the last two NBA Finals, what made you gravitate towards this TV role as something more expansive? What did you enjoy about it?

PIERCE: It gives me a chance to be around the game. When you’ve been around the game so much for so many years, it’s just like it’s a part of you. It’s like, man, when I was on the set during the NBA Finals, it’s funny that we’re on tape and we have microphones and suits on, but it’s like this is stuff we did every day in the locker room — talked hoops, we talked our opinions.

And after I did the first NBA Finals, I thought this is like — I had a good time. I developed a good chemistry with the team there. I did the second one, and I just thought maybe this is something I could do after basketball. I enjoyed talking about the game. I enjoyed being around it. I’ve been around it my whole life. So why not make this a second career out of this.

I saw the opportunity talking to people with ESPN ABC, and we made it happen. So I was really excited about it, that I could still be around the game and talk about it because it’s something I enjoy doing even when I wasn’t in the studio.

 Is it easy for you to speak the truth about players who you were playing against just last year?

PIERCE: Yeah, it’s easy. That’s just who I am. I give my honest opinion. Whether it’s right or wrong, but it’s an opinion that I’ll make. It’s easy, man. None of these guys are calling my hot line saying they want to come beat me up or anything. Everybody is entitled to an honest opinion. What does it matter that I played against these guys than somebody else who didn’t play against them?

 Did you get a chance to talk to Bruce Bowen about this much? I know Bruce did this before. He went to the Clippers analyst job. Did you guys talk much?

PIERCE: No, I didn’t talk to Bruce at all. I did see he picked up the Clippers analyst job. So that’s good for him. He has a great knowledge of the game. He may be a great personality for them.

 Paul, you kind of connected again with Ray in Japan. Can you tell me about that? What are things like now? Will he be at the ten-year reunion? What can you tell me about that?

PIERCE: Well, I knew I was going to see Ray. The crazy and, I guess, the funny thing about it is like, when we did we addressed the whole Ray Allen situation and reunion and our relationship and how it all kind of fell apart, the one thing I said to the guys also, I said, man, at some point we’re going to have to end all this. At the end of the day, Ray was a big part of what we accomplished. So we’ve got to eventually get over there.

I just saw opportunity, when I was able to see him, kind of like bury the hatchet, put it all behind us. I was just excited because the funny thing, our families, our wives still have a relationship, and our kids — you know, we did things together with our kids. So it was more than just a working relationship. We were all like brothers and friends, and it was just like, you know what, I’m pretty much over it.

And then what me and him discussed was my biggest issue with the whole thing was not talking to him. So we talked about that. You know, why I couldn’t get a call back, and the funny thing Ray said was that was the one regret he had was not talking to me during that process. But then hearing his side of the story, you know, the things that went on as far as the trade rumours and the conversations with Doc and Danny and him almost getting traded, I think, the year before, I think that really put a sour taste in his mouth. And that was a lot of stuff that I didn’t really know too much about. And him having a reduced role if he came back or taking less — you know, less of a role and less money. So a lot of the little things I didn’t really understand until he kind of broke it down.

So a man has to make his decision for his own happiness, and I think that’s something Ray did. We talked about it, and now we can move forward. And the funny thing about all this, when we were in China, you know, the hurricane is going on in Miami where he lived. So he had to deal with all that. It’s a real concern for his family and things, and we just opened our relationship back up. I got his number. I texted him since leaving China, seeing how his family has been doing, and hopefully we can bring everybody together and really do a reunion trip or whatever we need to do to get everybody back together.

 Paul, you know the toughest dude is going to be Kevin. Did you talk to him about talking to Ray? Was he moved at all? Or was he like, yeah, that’s cool, whatever. Like when you talked to Kevin, what was his reaction to that?

PIERCE: Kevin is always going to give a stingy reaction, just all in all, you get all that at first. But then you got to sit with Kevin through the first reaction. That’s the thing I notice about him. Kevin, he’s going to be receptive to it eventually. I know he will. He even said it, we’ve got to end it.

And I’m sure when they see — the next time they see each other, hopefully, it can be something planned out where I don’t want them to kind of like — they’re not going to just bump into each other. It will be something where we plan it out, like Kevin’s going to be here, let’s do it face to face because I think that will be the best way instead of like over the phone or on Instagram or anything like that. So it will be something that happens face to face.

 What’s the biggest challenge you think with this new Celtics team, in particular, Al, Gordon, and Kyrie?

PIERCE: Those are the leaders of their team. I’m not sure how they were with the other teams, if Gordon was a leader or Kyrie was a leader there. That will be a challenge being a bigger voice than they probably have in the past.

Also, on the court is going to be the chemistry issue. You’ve got pretty talented players. Who’s going to be willing to sacrifice? Who’s going to be willing to take less or do more? Those things come up. When you look at Gordon, he was the leading man in Utah. Kyrie, he was the leading man at some point, but then he became the second fiddle to LeBron. Now he’s probably going to be the leading man again. How will Gordon Hayward take to that? How will the rest of the guys, the rookies and the young guys fall into their role?

Everybody has to understand what their role is going to be and accept it if they want to go from a good team to a great team. Some people don’t always do that. But us being the older team, we realized we didn’t have a lot of time left. So we was ready to do anything possible to make it work. So sometimes you’ve got to put your individual goals out the window if you want to accomplish something bigger than that in winning the Championship.

 How do you feel about the term “super team?” What’s your take on that?

PIERCE: Super teams have been part of the NBA for as long as I can remember, going back to the Celtics when they had all the All-Star members on one team. It’s just something that happens once every decade. You look at the ’80s and the Lakers. Each generation has a super team.

When teams draft well and find a way to get other greats in. Who knew Kyrie would be the player he is today? Who knew Trayvon Green would be the player he is?

 I just had a question for you about the NBA locker rooms that you’ve been in, of course, in Boston, Brooklyn, Washington, and, of course with the Clippers. Who do you think had the best locker room pertaining to sneakers that you’ve ever been in?

PIERCE: Man, it has to be Boston because I was on the team with guys that had probably like three or four guys with their own signature shoe. And there’s something we used to compare, I remember us having to compare our shoes every All-Star, me, Rondo, Kevin, and Ray. We always took pictures of our shoes. So everybody would post a picture of the shoes up. It was a lot of fun, man. Boston by far because I spent the most time there.

 And who do you think, as an individual this year, would have the best year in sneakers? Who’s your favourite? Who do you like to watch what they wear?

PIERCE: Man, I’d probably have to go with — man, that’s a good one. I like Paul George’s shoe. I got a couple pair of those already. I already like his shoe. Or the Kyrie Irvings. I like Kyrie’s shoes a lot too.

 Are you surprised how quick Danny was able to rebuild the team after you guys left?

PIERCE: Well, I mean, that trade really did them well, when they traded me and Kevin. They really set themselves up for the future. When you’re able to acquire the draft picks that they were able to acquire over the years, it definitely makes it easier, and especially if you draft right and use your assets.

So once that trade went through with me, Kevin, and Jason, it was just like they put themselves in a great position. So it’s not that surprising, especially when you look at the assets they acquired after the trade.

 Can you talk about Avery Bradley and what you expect him to bring to the Pistons this season?

PIERCE: Oh, man, he’s going to bring a defensive mentality. Avery is one of the best defenders in the NBA. I was really shocked he didn’t make the all NBA defensive team. He’s a veteran now. He’s going to be able to bring his leadership qualities now. And somebody that can help him get to the playoffs. The Pistons are a team that I feel like should have been in the playoffs, but hopefully Avery’s presence and his leadership and his defensive mentality can help them get over that hump this year.

 When you predicted onThe Jumpthat OKC would be winning this year, people considered it a hot seat. What do you think that some people aren’t seeing with that position that you are?

PIERCE: I mean, you got three All-Stars. You need minimum three All-Stars to win a Championship. What other team outside of OKC, Golden State, and maybe Cleveland that can produce three All-Stars? So they have the criteria that you need to win a Championship. I mean, when’s the last time a team won an NBA Championship without three All-Stars? So I just figured that you’ve got men at the point in their career that they’re willing to sacrifice for it. It’s not like they’re all young guys.

 And anything matchup-wise you saw that favours OKC?

PIERCE: Well, OKC is going to play basketball. You’ve got guys that can play multiple positions. You can put Russ at the two. You can put Melon at the three, four, or five. You can also put George at the two, three, four. So they really have the versatility to match up with anybody in the NBA.

 Just wanted to ask you mainly about the Isaiah Thomas-Danny Ainge debate. You similarly didn’t want to be traded from the Celtics. What advice do you have for Isaiah Thomas? Do you think he’ll ever get that feeling back in Boston? He left Boston, but he’s also kind of got that bitter taste in his mouth at the moment.

PIERCE: A lot of guys are bitter when — you know, I can understand Isaiah’s frustration because he felt like he’s given so much to the franchise, and he came back and played after a death in the family and played through injury. He just thought maybe that was worth something.

But at the end of the day, we’ve all got to realize this is a business. This is a business we’re in, and no matter what sacrifices you make as a player, the sacrifices is not always mutual on the other end because, at the end of the day, it’s not about the player, it’s about the franchise. I think he’ll understand it, get over it, and he’ll use it for motivation for this upcoming season.

 I just wanted to follow that up with the guy that’s coming to the Celtics to replace Isaiah in Kyrie. Obviously, it’s going to be an interesting matchup tomorrow when he returns to the Cavaliers. What do you expect of the reaction with what he’s been saying this past week has been taken? What do you expect the reaction and how he’s going to react to the reaction, if you know what I mean?

PIERCE: Kyrie’s a competitor. He’s going to cancel out the crowd noise. He’ll probably see a lot of boos, but Kyrie is a competitor, and I don’t think it will affect him. Not one bit. He has some nervous energy from going back to a team that he played for his whole career, but I think after maybe the first couple minutes, he’ll get over it and be fine.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • Print

You must be logged in to post a comment Login