NEW YORK -- Kevin Garnett went over to Doc Rivers and hugged his former coach before tipoff.
“It was a bit weird. I said something to ‘Truth’ [Pierce], like, ‘Man, this feels weird,’” Garnett said after his and Pierce’s Brooklyn Nets defeated Rivers’ Los Angeles Clippers, 102-93, Thursday at Barclays Center.
“We kind of had like a little conversation about it, but I’ll always have a special place for Doc. I thought he helped me [not only] grow as a player, but as a young man," Garnett said. "Telling us a lot about basketball and the philosophies of it and about being a young man -- a young black man -- understanding our responsibilities because we are men and we were starting our families at the same time.
“And just overall [he’s] a great role model. No one’s perfect -- all humans have their flaws -- but he’s damn near close to it. I’m just grateful that he just came into my life and I’m able to share that experience with him.”
Added Pierce: “It was just fun to go over there, say hi to him, and seeing how he’s doing. I asked him how was Boston [Wednesday night], he was like, ‘You’re next.’ He was very emotional. But it was fun. I actually went over to him and told him I know all his plays, and I’m going to give them away, so it was fun.”
Rivers spent nine seasons in Boston, coaching Pierce for all of them and Garnett for six of them. During the summer, it appeared that all three of them would be headed to L.A., but it didn’t work out.
Rivers became the coach of the Clippers, but Pierce and Garnett ended up with the Nets following the completion of a blockbuster trade.
“I grew under him,” Pierce said. “I was a young player, played nine years with him, just continued to mature and become an all-around player under him. Before I was really known as a scorer and he took over and taught me the other parts of the game: the defense, the rebounding, the passing. He just helped my game grow and mature.”
Pierce and Garnett have struggled mightily since coming to Brooklyn, but it appears things are starting to come together. With both playing integral roles, the Nets (8-14) have won three straight games for the first time this season. On Thursday, Garnett had two points and six rebounds in 15 minutes, while Pierce, coming off the bench in consecutive games for the first time in his 16-year career, scored 10 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and dished out 5 assists in 26 minutes.
Rivers’ Clippers are fourth in the Western Conference with a 15-9 record.
The relationship among the three remains just as strong to this day.
“[Doc and I] keep in contact all the time. We text,” Pierce said. “When you accomplish something special like a championship, and things like that, I still keep in contact with a lot of my teammates that were on that championship team. It’s like a connection that you have for life when you do something like that.”