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Paul Pierce on D&C: ‘I don’t think you ever forget’ Game 7 loss

10.13.10 at 9:40 am ET
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Celtics captain Paul Pierce sat down with Dennis & Callahan at C’s media day for an interview that aired Wednesday morning. Pierce said he’s still working on getting past the loss to the Lakers. “I still haven’t gotten over it,” he said. “You think about the what ifs and all of that. I don’t think you ever forget it.”

Pierce also talked about the upcoming season, the acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal, and LeBron James and the new-look Heat.

Following is a transcript. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

How long does it take a competitive person like you to get over a seventh-game loss in the NBA [finals]? A week? A month? Ever?

I still haven’t gotten over it. It’s tough. Because you envision back, and saying, “If we could have done this different, that different in the game, it would have been a different outcome.” So, it’s hard. You think about the what ifs and all of that. I don’t think you ever forget it.

What’s the process? Do you go in your bedroom for a couple of days and sleep, and then don’t shave for a while, or don’t bathe, and then finally come out of the shell?

I didn’t talk to people for a long time. I didn’t watch any basketball for a long time. I sort of kind of did go into a shell. I didn’t want to leave the house. I didn’t even want to go out and eat for a while, because you just felt that bad about the loss. But then as I got back into the gym and working out, I just used it for motivation and just sort of loosened up from there.

Did you feel like last season was the final run this team was going to have? And are you surprised to look around and see the same crew back together, indeed with more big, old guys like Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal?

No, I wasn’t surprised at the run. We struggled a bit during the regular season at home. When I looked at our team from the beginning, I told people that we were more built for the playoffs that the regular season, because we didn’t have the up-and-down athletes, high-flyers that a lot of teams in the NBA have that can beat you in one game, on any given night. But when you have to break down a team and really scout them and put us in the playoffs, then I knew that we could be successful.

As far as our team this year, I’m glad that we had a chance to pick up the guys that we did and just kind of reload. Just seeing these guys back for another year — Ray [Allen], getting him back was huge, Kevin [Garnett] getting healthy, and adding Shaq and Jermaine was huge for us.

When you look around the East, you’re going to be the underdogs now, even though you’re the defining Eastern champs. Do you look at Miami the way, say, Jeff Van Gundy does? He things they’re going to win 72 and win, like, four of the next five titles. Do you like that situation? All the pressure’s on them, and not so much on the defending champs here?

Well, I’ve been in both situations. I remember when we all got together that summer, we were the favorites. We got put on the cover of every magazine, and we got all the hype. So, I’ve been in both positions, as an underdog and as a favorite. They’re going to be a really good team, I can tell you that. I think when you get great players like that together, that they’re going to figure out how to work well together. As far as a prediction, I don’t know how many games they’re going to win, I don’t know how many titles they’re going to win. But I can tell you one thing: They’re going to be a pretty good team.

Because it came together the way it did and played out the way it did, anybody not affiliated with Miami or not a fan of Miami basketball dislikes that basketball team. Within the ranks of the NBA, do players dislike what happened down in Miami?

I don’t know. When I looked at it and I saw what happened with LeBron and Chris [Bosh] going there, the way I looked at it is a new era of basketball. Because you get top players and bring them together and it just seems like it’s going to be a domino effect. Now you hear rumors of Carmelo [Anthony] and Chris Paul wanting to go to New York. You may be seeing the start of something to come, with all the superstars wanting to play with each other. I don’t look at them as a team to be hated. It was just, LeBron had a choice, Chris had a choice, and that’s what they did.

What did you and Ray and KG learn about playing with each other that those three still have yet to find out?

Well, they’ve got to drop their egos at the door. I think communication’s going to be big. Getting to know one another on and off the court’s going to be big. That’s something that me, Kevin and Ray had a chance to do. Once Ray got traded, I remember talking to him 30-45 minutes that day. Then when Kevin got traded, it was like we just continuously talked during the summer about what we needed to do. We dropped our egos. We said, “This is not one person’s team, this is everybody’s team. This is [Doc Rivers'] team. Our whole goals is to win a championship.” So, if they can do that, learn to pass the ball to one another and who cares about that stats, then they’ve got a great chance of winning.

Say you’re up one or up two, and there’s five seconds, 10 seconds left. You guys are on defense. Miami’s on offense. Who do you think is getting the ball, who do you think is taking the shot?

The way we’ve done it, we’ve done it by committee. Usually, you have one guy hotter than the other during the time. With our team, it’s usually me or Ray. If Ray has it going that game, it’s going to be him. If I have it going that game, it’s going to be me. Or if Kevin has it going, it will be him. So, I could see the same thing happening in Miami. If LeBron’s got it going in that game, it could very well be him as well as [Dwyane] Wade or Bosh.

He sort of stepped back. When you look at that cover of Sports Illustrated, he kind of stepped back and said this is Dwyane’s team? Do you think he can keep that up, deferring to Wade and maybe passing when in the past he would have taken the last shot?

Well, in order for them to be successful, somebody has to take a step back. And LeBron decided to take that step back. If they can do that, and if Chris can take a couple of steps back from what he was in Toronto, then they have a good chance at playing well together and winning. Somebody has to take a step back. Everybody can’t be the head dog.

Based on the bumpy ride that was the regular season and then how it all came together and lined up properly for the postseason, you made a good point: Your team was built sort of for the postseason. Having said that, and looking at what you have now, do you look at the regular season and say, “Maybe it’s not critical that we bust our [butt] every single night to try to get the first or second seed. We can be the fourth or the fifth or the sixth and still do damage in the playoffs”?

No, I don’t look at it like that. I still want us to be a better regular-season team than we were last year. I want us to play better at home. Because during the regular season, you build habits. What we did last year is the exception to the rule. Every team doesn’t go through the regular season and end up in the finals the way we did. The important thing, you’ve got to build habits in the regular season so when you get to the playoffs, you’re prepared. I mean, we had a team that won a championship, got the experience, but by no means, would I say that’s the way to go.

Is your locker room big enough for the three of you and now Shaquille? That personality’s pretty large when he walks into that room.

We’ve still got space to fill. We have a huge locker room, and he’s going to fill in quite nicely. Like I said before, the guys with their egos, we left those at the door. I think we’re going to have one of the most entertaining locker rooms in the league this year.

How did you find out Shaquille was coming to Boston, and what did you think initially? Did you believe it?

Well, I found out like you guys found out. I knew there was speculation. I know for the upcoming weeks. When we signed him, I was happy. Because I think depth at the big man position was something we needed. I felt like if we had had a little more depth in the finals, we may have been looking at a second championship. You can never have too many bigs. Especially with Kendrick [Perkins] being hurt. You never know when he’s going to be back. So, I was just thrilled for him to be coming to us and not Miami.

One last Shaq question: Can you guess how much money he’s made in his career? I have the numbers right here.

Probably basketball-wise, $200 million. Off the court, probably another $150 million.

Basketball-wise, this is his contract year to year: $290,846,146.

That’s a pretty rich guy right there.

If you play to the age of 63, you’ll make that same amount.

Well, I guess I won’t get there.

Actually, we’ve got yours here, too. You’re doing OK. Do you think you’ll finish your career here? No one does that anymore, right?

Well, I want to. Hopefully, with this contract being four years and me at this age, I probably don’t have too much trade value as we keep going down the road, so I think I’ll be here.

Danny [Ainge] signed the free agents all to two-year deals. Ray is a two-year deal. Do you look at this as a two-year window of opportunity with this gang?

I’m not sure, because you never know what can happen. I got a four-year deal, so hopefully after two years these guys will reconsider coming and playing for another couple more years.

Read More: LeBron James, Paul Pierce, Shaquille O'Neal,
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