"I just know that the emotions will probably be high, just because of the success that we had while we were in Boston," Garnett said. "We had some really good years there, some really promising years. I think it's going to be forever, we're embedded in it. ... I think anybody who's part of that run and part of that era will always be remembered. Bostonians, New Englanders, they understand that and they never forget their favorites. We was fortunate to be part of that whole transformation. Some things are forever, man. I'm happy to say that I'm part of that era."
Later Garnett added, "You've got to understand that everything we put into the six years, we were invested in, we put everything into it. I think the people of Boston and New England and Mass., they all understood that. I think they saw the appreciation and the hard work that went into that, the effort more than anything. "
Both Pierce and Garnett went out of their way to delay this moment. Neither visited the Garden when the Nets came to town for a preseason matchup in October. As excited as they appear to be to return here and see familiar faces, they also know it will be emotionally draining.
"Lot of emotions," Pierce said. "You played your whole life there, won a championship there. First time coming to the Bean, I never thought it would happen, but it is and it'll be here Sunday."
The person with the toughest task Sunday: The poor guy tasked with cramming career retrospectives for both Garnett and Pierce into the small bites that will run during the game. It's impossible to sum up Pierce's 15 years in 120 seconds. Garnett crammed a lifetime of memories into six seasons.
It's expected that Garnett will be honored first at the first timeout in play; Pierce will get his tribute after the first quarter. Those extended timeouts from being a national TV game will help matters.
But, somehow, those players and the fans in attendance will have to collect themselves and get through three more quarters of play.
For their part, members of the Boston Celtics are somewhat indifferent about Sunday's much-hyped battle. Ever since the trade that overhauled the franchise and ushered in a new era, Boston's young core has tried to carve out its own identity. Even Rajon Rondo, the only holdover from the championship team and the Big Three glory days, initially shrugged off Friday's meeting, noting, "It's another game. We need the win."
On Saturday, he again suggested that he won't shed any tears. He's come to peace with seeing Garnett and Pierce move on. The trio still exchange text messages, but Rondo, the new captain of the Celtics, is more interested in the on-court trash-talking that will occur between three insanely competitive former teammates.
This is one of Boston's few national TV appearances, and the Celtics know the spotlight is more a result of who is visiting than interest in their own team. Boston is trying to find the balance between acknowledging what Garnett and Pierce did for this team, while also focusing on the game and trying to restore this team to contender status (even if that's a slow climb back that won't be accelerated by one win; even if the Celtics do have a vested interest in Brooklyn's future success after landing three first-round picks and the ability to swap another in the summer swap).