BOSTON – Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett return to Boston today as conquering heroes.
Centerpieces of the Celtics’ 2008 championship team, Pierce and Garnett will always be heroes of the past for fans here.
But now, they’ve gone from goats to heroes of the present with the Brooklyn Nets, who are an NBA-best 9-1 in 2014.
“We got them going,” Kendrick Perkins, another member of the 2008 title team, said with twinge of pride in his voice.
Indeed, Perkins’ Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Nets on Jan. 2 to begin Brooklyn’s hot streak. As the Nets have climbed back toward respectability, Pierce’s and Garnett’s production has climbed, too.
But when Brooklyn visits Boston at 6:30 p.m. (ESPN), that likely won’t matter to the home fans. Regardless how Pierce and Garnett are playing, the crowd will almost certainly top even the reception they gave Doc Rivers last month:
Unlike Rivers’ return, the point guard of the 2008 team – Rajon Rondo, whom Garnett said he’d do anything for – should be in the lineup tonight. The bond those players still share is tight, and them facing each other on the court will make the game even more memorable.
At one point, it wasn’t a certainty Rondo would return from his ACL injury in time. Perkins said he speaks with Rondo nearly every day.
“He seemed a little nervous. He was a little scared,” Perkins said. “Every little thing was bother him and stuff like that. But I told him, ‘There’s nothing wrong with you.’ ‘I keep hearing this and this.’ You know how he gets. I had to tell him, once he gets back on the court, everything else goes out the window.”
Before Rondo got on the court and felt fine in his season debut – Perkins called Rondo afterward to confirm, as predicted, everything went smoothly – the Celtics named Rondo the 15th captain in franchise history.
“It’s his team,” Perkins said. “He did learn, so he should know how to be a leader.”