Tony Battie: Paul Pierce ‘always lived and breathed and ate the game’
|05.12.12 at 9:08 pm ET|
Before Saturday night, the last time the Celtics and 76ers met in the NBA Playoffs, Paul Pierce scored scored 46 points to clinch a decisive Game 5 victory in the first round, and Tony Battie was the C’s starting center.
Now, 10 years later, Pierce and Battie are two of only three guys still playing in the league (Raja Bell played four minutes off the bench for Philadelphia) — only Pierce is still starring in Boston and Battie hasn’t seen a minute of playoff action as a 36-year-old big off of the Sixers bench.
“I think they labeled us the ‘Return to Glory’ team,” said Battie, trying to remember those 2002 Celtics that succumbed to the Nets in the Eastern Conference finals a decade ago. “This league is kind of a revolving door. Now I’m playing for the Sixers, and that New Jersey team that beat us was put together by Rod Thorn, who’s now the Sixers boss over here. So, I guess I’m blessed to still be hanging around.”
Is Battie at all surprised Pierce is still the leading playoff scorer for a Celtics team that’s trying to get back to the Eastern Conference finals?
“Not at all,” he said. “Not at all. Paul was always a hard working guy. Always the first one at the gym, the last one to leave. Practice would be from 10-12, and I’d call Paul at 6 p.m. to see what he was doing, if he wanted to grab some dinner, and he’s back at the practice facility getting shots up, watching tape or something. So, he always lived and breathed and ate the game. He was definitely a gym rat. He was very, very serious about his game, so it didn’t surprise me at all.”
While Battie didn’t remember much from that playoff run, he did remember the Celtics traded current Hawks star and then rookie Joe Johnson along with Randy Brown, Milt Palacio and a first-round pick to the Suns for Tony Delk and Rodney Rodgers. “We traded Joe and kept Kedrick Brown,” he said, smiling. “That’s kind of how that scenario went.”
Even in 2002, the Celtics-76ers rivalry of the 1980s was a thing of the past, although Battie remembers the 1985 choking match between Larry Bird and Julius Erving.
“I guess the history spoke for itself,” said Battie. “Some of the older guys would remember those games. I don’t remember. I remember seeing the highlights of Doc and Bird going at it — that little scuffle that they got into — but I’d be lying if I told you I was into the game. I was probably some little snotty-nosed kid in Texas when that was going on, so I don’t think we had any knowledge of that.
“We just knew it was two prestigious organizations, and they have a lot of history, especially here with all the banners hanging in the rafters. We were just out here playing and having fun.”