It was no secret that Paul Pierce wasn’t happy with being a Boston Celtic as he began to enter his prime.
The former Boston swingman was playing the best basketball of his career, and appeared to be poised for a few long postseason runs. The Celtics even got within two games of the NBA Finals before sweeping changes came through the organization.
Thus began one of the most frustrating times of Pierce’s career. The Celtics began breaking down a roster that had reached the Eastern Conference finals in 2002. In the coming years, the Celtics began to lose more and more, and Pierce wanted out.
On “The Vertical Podcast With Chris Mannix,” Pierce explained how close he came to leaving Boston.
“It was just discouraging,” Pierce explained to Mannix. “It was just like I want people to know who Paul Pierce is, what type of player he is, but the only way to do that is to be on the big stage, be in the playoffs with a shot at the championship. It was discouraging playing so well and not reaching the team success that I wanted to reach. Because at the end of the day, that’s how you’re going to be measured on how your team does more than what you do as an individual. When I didn’t see that, the results of that, it created doubts where maybe I could go somewhere else and find that. ”
The Celtics explored the possibility of moving Pierce. C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told Bill Simmons back in 2013 that the Celtics were close to trading Pierce to Portland in order to acquire point guard Chris Paul. Pierce even told Mannix he was “real close” to being dealt but insisted on going somewhere other than Portland, who was going through its own issues at the time.
“It was just like, (the Blazers) weren’t going to the playoffs, they had a young team, too, players always getting in trouble, and I was just like, I’m not going to Portland,” Pierce recalled. “I think I made the announcement. I think I did an article in the paper saying I wasn’t going to Portland if I got traded there. I might as well stay in Boston if I go to Portland. I know that was the one trade I knew about that was on the table that they were really close to pulling.”
Pierce instead had his sights set on Dallas, hopeful to join up with the man who was taken one pick before him in the 1998 NBA Draft, Dirk Nowitzki.
“If you can get me to Dallas, that’s where I wanted to go at the time,” Pierce explained to Mannix. “I thought Dallas was a player like me away from winning. They were 50-game winners, Dirk was pretty much by himself. I even ran into Dirk and Mark Cuban that summer. It was like, “Mark, you gotta find a way to get me over there. I want to get over there. I think I could help you all get over the hump.”
Of course, the Celtics didn’t move Pierce. Instead, Boston was able to convince both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to come to Boston, and the Celtics won an NBA title and advanced to another NBA Finals.
Pierce talked about those teams and much, much more, which can be heard in the podcast below.
Thumbnail photo via Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports Images