When the Boston Celtics hired Danny Ainge into the front office in 2003, Paul Pierce thought his time with the Beantown team was over. After all, Trader Danny seemed to be intent on sending everyone away.
Pierce confessed as much during his Hall of Fame speech on Saturday, noting that he was ready to accept his fate with the team. However, he proceeded to thank the Celtics for sticking with him, which led to the formation of their Big 3 in 2007 and eventual NBA title win in 2008.
“I honestly thought Danny was going to trade me,” Pierce said, via Mass Live. “He came in and traded everybody. He traded Antoine and I was like, ‘Man, it’s over for me.’ But y’all stuck with me.”
To recall, Danny Ainge earned the “Trader Danny” nickname and reputation after moving three-time All-Star Antoine Walker 10 days before the start of the 2003-04 season. Paul Pierce only got one All-Star appearance at the time, so it’s not surprising he was scared he’d be traded as well in a bid to rebuild the Celtics.
Luckily for him and Boston, the franchise believed in Pierce. Even though he grew frustrated with the team after years of failure, Ainge and Co. came through with the acquisitions of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in 2007 to build a championship contender that went on to win it all in the ensuing season.
Pierce can only thank the Celtics ownership and front office for the opportunity to represent the franchise, which he made sure to highlight in his Hall of Fame speech.
“We went through some tough times and I appreciate you,” Pierce added. “It took 10 years for you to bring (Garnett) around. I told y’all in 2006 that if we get him, we’re going to win it. True story. We had arguments on if I was going to go to Minnesota or if he was going to the Celtics. It all worked out.”
It’s hard to imagine what would have happened had the Celtics traded Pierce even before he entered his prime. Nonetheless, Boston fans should be happy that it all worked out in the end.