RIVERS, PIERCE AND GARNETT: 'SPECIAL' BOND
BROOKLYN – As difficult as it was for Doc Rivers to withstand the thrust of emotion during his return to Boston, his first game coaching against Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce since the trio teamed up to help the Celtics win the 2008 NBA title was far different.
For Rivers, the entire situation seemed easier to soak in. Garnett and Pierce are two men Rivers is dearly fond of, but a city and fan base they are not.
“It’s different than last night because we talk so much,” Rivers said.
As the 1:30 countdown was ticking away immediately prior to tipoff, the ever-intense Garnett strode the length of the scorer’s table and embraced Rivers. The two exchanged words before Garnett quickly hugged former Celtics assistant coaches, and current members of Rivers’ coaching staff, Tyronn Lue and Armond Hill.
“I was shocked that Kevin came over before the game because he has a routine,” Rivers said. “I turned to Ty [Lue] and said, ‘Well, Kevin’s going to struggle now. He just broke his routine.’”
A night earlier overcome, and moved, Rivers called himself “useless” for the first quarter and a half in Boston. On Thursday, Rivers was less apt to get caught up in the moment.
“We talk all the time, so it was nice,” he said of Pierce and Garnett. “They were really happy about last night. [That’s] basically what they both said.”
The two former members of the Celtics’ “Big 3” were likely even happier to give their old coach a loss. Pierce scored 10 points in his new role coming off the bench and Garnett had two points and six rebounds in Brooklyn’s 102-93 win. The two did not play in the previous matchup between the Clippers and Nets, so there was something to be said about having a more formal reunion than intermittent phone conversations.
Pierce, who spoke to Rivers, Kevin Eastman, Lue and Hill on the court after the game, appeared in 658 games for the Celtics with Rivers roaming the sideline. He credits Rivers with helping make him more of a complete player, so when the time arrived for him to acknowledge his old head coach Pierce was happy to do that as well.
“It was fun to go over there and say hi to him and see how he was doing,” Pierce said. “I asked him, ‘How was Boston?’ He said, ‘You’re next.’ He was very emotional about it. It was fun. I actually went over and told him I know all of his plays and was giving them away.”
As Rivers alluded to, the game was not as special as it may have seemed to outsiders because Garnett and Pierce have remained close with him since they were dealt to Brooklyn in June.
“We’re in contact all the time,” Pierce said. “We text. When you accomplish something special like a championship it’s, I mean, I still keep in contact with a lot of my teammates from that team. It’s like a connection that you have for life when you do something special like that.”