Celtics Extend Paul Pierce: Exclusive One-on-One with The Truth
The ink on his new contract is barely dry, but Paul Pierce is already fired up about the upcoming season and renewing his commitment to the Celtics for the next five years.
We caught up with The Truth for an exclusive one-on-one interview for Celtics.com just minutes after his press conference. Here's what The Captain had to say about his new deal and future with the Celtics.
The contract is signed; you've already heard the same questions over and over. But how does it feel?
"This is a dream come true, man. It's another opportunity to add to my legacy with the Celtics and also add to my commitment, like I've said all along, to me being here the rest of my career."
You've had quite a few ups and downs over the years with the Celtics, from the Eastern Conference Finals run, to the first round exit in 2004, and even going back to the nightclub incident. How far have you come to get to this point?
"I'm just thankful to be in this position, to say that I've committed to the Celtics my whole career. You know, I didn't know what was going to happen last summer. There were a lot of trade rumors going around, and the way the season ended, people didn't think I'd be here last season. So that just shows you that when you change your attitude and turn it around that anything can happen.
"I showed the team my commitment, and I think that's never been a question for me, my dedication and my commitment. When you have a long relationship like that, you're going to have your ups and downs. That's part of life. But we've been able to turn things around and make it a more positive environment and everybody's happy with where we're going."
Talk about that direction. It's a young team, and it's already changed quite a bit since the draft. Do you feel like the team has already gotten better than it was at the end of last year?
"We're going to be better next year just with the fact that we've got guys that have been working all summer to improve, including myself. We had a great draft, [Rajon] Rondo played great in the Summer League, and we added Telfair to the mix. So it pretty much changes the look of our team.
"I think we're definitely going to be a playoff team this year, and I'm excited about playing with these guys and watching them grow."
You had a career year last year, so what can you do to take your game to the next level?
"I just want to build on that. Each and every year, I don't really think about individual stats. The more and more help that comes in lessens my role. Hopefully that can translate into more wins this season. That would be more gratifying to me than another career-year individually."
I remember the stories about how you'd call out the names of the guys who were drafted ahead of you in 1998 during practice. Eight years later, what do you do these days to motivate yourself?
"[Laughs]...I use all kinds of things to motivate me. Last year my motivation was that people didn't think I was getting along with Doc, or people didn't think I was going to be on the Celtics with all of the trade rumors, that all motivated me. And even now, with signing this new contract, that's motivation for me to come back and show people."
What's it like to be an elder statesman and a leader on a team like this? Watching guys develop from the point when they're rookies like you were back in the day, beating them day after day at practice and then seeing them get to the point where they can contribute...
"That's the beauty of it, that's the best part of watching these young guys grow. Seeing the drastic improvement, you see it right before your eyes because you're with them every single day. You see them fall, they take lumps, you see when they get back up. You see them get into the gym early and staying late, and then you see them improve and bring it out there on the court. That's a real joy."
"Being the Captain, a guy they look up to, being that voice, I'm helping their development every single day, because these guys come to me looking for advice, and they come to me off the court for advice and leadership. That's more gratifying to me, to see these guys improve as players and as pros on the court, and the things they do away from the court."
What about staying in Boston? A lot of guys might have wanted to wait it out, test free agency, and think, 'I could play in Phoenix, or Miami, or even back home in LA?
"This is the team that gave me my first opportunity. It's me showing my love, and them showing their love."
"I mean, it's a great organization. It's not like we're talking about a team that has no history. We're talking about the Boston Celtics here. A team with a lot of tradition and one of the best sports franchises in history. To me, it was pretty much a no-brainer."