Doc Rivers could tell Paul Pierce was emotionally hurt, trying to come to grips with the notion that he no longer was wanted in Boston.
Pierce bled Celtics green, courtesy of playing 15 years with the franchise that plucked him out of Kansas with the 10th selection in the 1998 draft. He was attached to the Celtics, a part of the team's fabric.
But the proverbial umbilical cord was cut when he was shipped to the Nets in the blockbuster trade that also brought Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to Brooklyn last month. Although the emotional trauma won't be easy to get over for Pierce, Rivers thinks the move could rejuvenate the 35-year-old forward's career.
"I think in some ways, it may give him more life," Rivers said Friday after being honored with a Sports Pioneer award at the National Association of Black Journalists convention. "But I just think it's tough for him personally. Like he said in the press conference, he wanted to stay and wasn't allowed to, and that's tough for him."
Rivers coached Pierce for nine seasons before the Celtics let him out of his contract last month so he could take the Clippers' head-coaching job. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge decided to blow the team up and start from scratch, eventually settling on a deal with the Nets that Rivers believes is beneficial for both sides.
"If they're going to rebuild, then they needed draft picks, and they got them," Rivers said. "Brooklyn is trying to win it. They got that, so it's a win-win for both teams. The tough part of that trade was Paul. That's tough because he was a Celtic. Kevin was kind of from Minnesota and the other guy, Jason, had been there one year. But Paul, that was a tough one."
With the Nets' flurry of fresh faces, coach Jason Kidd essentially has a jigsaw puzzle and will have to find ways to make everything fit together. Besides the trio of former Celtics, they're going to incorporate newcomers Andrei Kirilenko, Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson and Mason Plumlee into the mix.
"I think it will come together," Rivers said. "Listen, anything comes together when a lot of people want it to come together, and they have a lot of guys that want it to come together. Paul, Jason and Kevin want to win another title and everyone else wants to win their first. So if they all want to do that, then it all will work out."