LOS ANGELES — Paul Pierce dreamed of playing his entire career with the Boston Celtics. When that didn’t transpire, and the team dealt him, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets in 2013 for a treasure trove of draft picks, he began dreaming instead of the day the Celtics would raise his No. 34 to the rafters.
That day is Feb. 11 — and he will not be sharing it with anyone else.
Plans to show a brief video tribute to Isaiah Thomas, who was traded to Cleveland last August, have been scrapped after Pierce told Celtics head of basketball operations Danny Ainge he preferred to have that day to himself.
“Danny and I talked about it for 40 minutes,” Pierce explained to ESPN early Tuesday afternoon. “He told me, ‘This is what we have planned,’ and at the end of the conversation, he said, ‘If you don’t want us to do Isaiah, we won’t.’ So I told him, ‘I really don’t.’ So that was it.
“That’s how we left it.”
Shortly after ESPN reached out to Ainge to confirm this development, Thomas tweeted that he preferred Boston not run a video tribute for him after all.
I’d like to thank the Celtics for their gracious offer to play a video tribute on Feb 11th celebrating my 3yrs in Boston. But since it appears this has caused some controversy w/ Paul Pierce’s night I’d ask the Celtics instead to focus all of their attention on #34’s career.
— Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) January 17, 2018
Earlier in the day, before Thomas’ tweet, Pierce explained why he objected to plans to honor Thomas on Feb. 11.
“(Thomas) had a shot to be honored,” Pierce said. “You came to Boston. Whether you are playing or not, you should have had your tribute then. I just don’t see how, if someone is having a jersey retirement, they’re going to be running other tributes for other players.
“Danny tried to sell me on it, but I told him, ‘He had a shot, Danny, and he punked you on it. He pretty much dictated everything.’ They let it happen because they felt sorry how (the trade to Cleveland) went down. It’s guilt. That’s what it is.”
Ainge said Tuesday night that Thomas intended all along to bow out of the video tribute once he learned of Pierce’s reservations. He also said when he and Thomas’ agent, Aaron Goodwin, first discussed an alternate date for a Thomas tribute, which was originally scheduled for Jan. 3, neither of them realized the next time the Cavaliers came to town would be the night that Pierce was being honored. Thomas asked not to be recognized on Jan. 3 because he was not going to be playing in the game and he wanted his family present for the tribute.
“I wanted to make it clear that it was never my intention or Isaiah’s intention to take away from the special day for Paul Pierce,” Ainge told ESPN. “And no one was ever comparing I.T. to Paul Pierce. We all owe Paul a lot. Everyone in the organization.”
Ainge said the team planned to play the Thomas tribute during the pregame introductions.
“It was only going to be during that segment,” Ainge explained. “During the rest of the game, it was going to be all Paul Pierce. But, after listening to Paul’s perspective, I understood it and shared it with Isaiah and he understood it, too.”
Rajon Rondo, a member of Boston’s 2008 title team with Pierce, expressed dissatisfaction when told of the Celtics’ plan to also honor Thomas.
“What has [Thomas] done?” Rondo said before Tuesday’s game, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. When told how Thomas led Boston to the East finals, Rondo replied, “Oh, that’s what we celebrate around here?”
Rondo, now of the Pelicans, later added: “This is the Boston Celtics. This isn’t the Phoenix Suns. No disrespect to any other organization but [the Celtics] don’t hang conference titles.”
New Orleans’ Tony Allen, who played alongside Pierce on Boston’s 2008 championship team, said prior to Tuesday’s game that Pierce deserved his own night.
“I’m with Pierce, man,” said Allen. “(Thomas) didn’t put in more work than Paul. Anybody disagree? OK. Paul Pierce put in big work, man. Why would they honor (Thomas) on that same day, man?
“Let my man get his jersey retired, man. Let him embrace that, man. He put a lot of blood, sweat and tears in this organization, man, and capitalized and had some good results. (Pierce) struggled with the team. I remember losing 19 straight with that man. Turned around and won a championship (the next season). Talk about Paul Pierce, man, don’t mention (Thomas’) name, the guys’ name that don’t stand in the same frame.”
Pierce conceded that he gave his position some additional thought after his objections to a joint tribute made headlines. He says he consulted his agent, his wife, his mother and Garnett.
“Everyone understood where I was coming from,” Pierce said. “KG was like, ‘Isaiah who? Hell no, you’re damn right you’re not sharing your night with him.'”
That is no longer a concern.
“We owe Paul a lot,” Ainge said. “I feel indebted to him. The whole organization feels that way. We will have a great night for him. Argument over.”