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Former Celtics Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce talk about their return to Boston

Boston Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett, left, and

Boston Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett, left, and teammate Paul Pierce walk up court against the Atlanta Hawks during Game 3 of an NBA first-round playoff series in Boston. (May 4, 2012) Credit: AP

Kevin Garnett hasn't forgotten life with the Boston Celtics -- winning the NBA championship in 2008, the time Paul Pierce played with the flu after taking in three IVs, and, simply, "the ceiling in LA."

"Y'all have no idea what I'm even talking about . . . and there are things I don't want to share for obvious reasons, but there are certain things that stand out that I will never forget," he said after the Nets' win over the Mavericks on Friday. "Boston was good to me."

Garnett and Pierce return to Boston Sunday night for the first time since being traded to the Nets during the offseason. Both spoke nostalgically about their old team and candidly about what they expect to be a very emotional night.

"I talked to [Celtics team travel manager and equipment manager] Johnny Joe [Friday] and told him I'd probably sit in the equipment room like I always used to do," said Pierce, whose 15-year tenure coincided with some of the lowest and highest points in team history. "It's going to be a lot of emotions. You play your whole life there, you won a championship there. And the first time coming there, I never thought it would happen, you know?"

The Nets have won nine of their last 10 and the Celtics are in the throes of an abysmal swoon. They have lost 13 of 15 -- a direct result of the rebuilding that sent Pierce and Garnett southbound and, Pierce said, the fact that they're "still trying to find their identity, find their core, so they can get back on top."

If it sounds as if he's still answering for the Celtics, it's probably because those deeply ingrained habits die hard.

Being a visitor in his old home "is going to be weird," Pierce said. "[But] it's going to be a fun time, going there and seeing some of the guys I played with, seeing some of those season-ticket holders, seeing all the people that have been there."

One thing neither prospective Hall of Famer is worried about is the fan reaction. Garnett, who spent six seasons with the Celtics, spoke confidently about the fan base and said he plans to go in there with "all good thoughts and open arms."

Winning the Celtics' first title since 1986 engendered a lot of love, and "Bostonians and New Englanders, they understand and they never forget their favorites," Garnett said. "We were fortunate to be part of that whole transformation . . . I'm happy to be a part of that era."

Emotions will be high, he reiterated, but "it'll be what it is. I'm going to embrace it for what it is."

Pierce said the feelings will be intense but, like Garnett, he isn't sure what shape they will take. "That's something you can't script," he said.

One thing is certain, though -- for as much of a mark as they left on the Celtics, Boston marked them right back.

Sunday will be testament that "some things," Garnett said, "are forever."

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