BOSTON (CBS) — To most Celtics fans, the return of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Boston Sunday night is the biggest game of the season.
For the new-look Celtics though, while it will be an emotional time to see the return of the Boston mainstays to town, it won’t carry as much meaning.
“It’s not a big deal for us; this is a big deal for [the media],” said Brandon Bass. “It’s more of a big deal for Paul and Kevin, we understand that. … Hopefully it helps us get a win. That’s what really matters for us.”
Jeff Green played with Garnett and Pierce for three seasons in Boston and has already gone through the motions after facing them three times already in a new uniform during the preseason and regular season.
“For me, I’ve already seen them, we already talked, [the emotional impact is] more for them than for us. It’s going to be emotional for them, coming back for first time. But, for me, we’ve already said our hellos and talked. That has already taken place. It’s just another game against Brooklyn. I’m pretty much over it now,” Green explained.
Rajon Rondo spent the most time out of all the current Celtics with Pierce and Garnett in his winner, having won a championship with both players in 2008. He maintained he would be able to stay composed during a reunion in Boston however.
“Have you seen me tear before?” Rondo told reporters yesterday at practice with a smile.
“Just like I played against Kendrick Perkins Friday night,” said Rondo. “There might be a lot of [trash]-talking, but it’ll be fun. They are competitors, they compete. And I’ll do the same.”
Even though new head coach Brad Stevens does not know either player personally, he’ll respect both stars by allowing his players to watch the tributes planned for Garnett and Pierce early in the game.
“We’ll get into the huddle and out of the huddle pretty quickly,” Stevens explained “So that they can appropriately honor those guys and it’s what you have to do. At the same time, then we’ve got to turn our mindset to playing as well as we can against them. Because those guys, first and foremost, achieved what they achieved here because they are competitive guys and they want to do well, too. We’re going to have to be in that mindset, too,”
The symbolism of Stevens’ gesture knowing that there are some things that are bigger than the game is a welcome sign, while balancing the team’s goal of winning the matchup.
“There are moments that are big, obviously, in a game. I think we all get caught up in a game. There are bigger things than the game itself. So, again, I don’t think it’s anything out of the ordinary that we would do [stopping to watch the tributes]. We’ll get in and out of the huddle as quickly as we can,” Stevens said.
Brooklyn arrives in town having won nine out of their last 10 games, including wins over Golden State, Miami and Oklahoma City to turn their season around after a rough start. Pierce and Garnett have served an integral role in the turnaround, something which isn’t lost on their former teammates as well.
“They are winners. They’ve been through everything. They know what it takes to win. With the team they brought together, success doesn’t happen overnight. They went through the rough patches and battled through it, and now it’s paying off for them by the way they are playing now,” Green said.
“I don’t know what it is,” Rondo explained, “Lately, those guys always find a way to win.”
It will be up to Rondo and company to stop them Sunday, in what will be a night to remember.