"I've never seen this many people in Jersey," he said about three times, sparking laughs among a large media contingent. "What's going on?"
Pierce, of course, was being coy. He knew inquiring minds wanted to talk to Stephon Marbury, who was set up a few stalls to his left inside the visitor's locker room at Izod Center.
Last night marked the point guard's return to the metropolitan area, his first trip here since reaching a buyout agreement with the Knicks last week. Marbury was in town because his new Celtics teammates were taking on the Nets, one of his four former franchises. Fans began booing Marbury once he got off the bench and walked to the scorer's table with about 2:30 left in the first quarter, and he wore an amused smirk as the fans heckled him and let him have it when he checked in.
Marbury went scoreless for the second time in three games since joining the Celtics. In 15 minutes, he was 0 for 2 from the floor with four assists, three rebounds, a turnover and one airball in the Celtics' 115-111 win as he continues to try to turn the page on his rocky tenure with the Knicks.
"Going forward is the only thing that I wanted to do at the beginning of the year," Marbury said. "And being able to have a fresh start with the best team in the NBA is refreshing."
That fresh start officially began Friday, when Marbury cleared waivers and inked a contract with the Celtics. He played that same night, recording 13 minutes off the bench in his debut and going 4 for 6 from the field. He finished with eight points, two assists and three turnovers, playing on mostly adrenaline as he tried to navigate his way through a new system. "I just tell him every day, 'Don't try to fit in. Just play,' " Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "It's not a one-way street. It's our job to embrace and bring you in."
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Celtics adding Marbury was how he would affect team chemistry and if his sometimes shelfish ways would hurt their team-first approach.
"The mind-set and the mind frame is to win a championship," Marbury said. "That's what guys think about and talk about in our locker room and on the bus. That's the environment I've wanted to always be in, and coming off the bench is not a big thing."