Paul Pierce: Isaiah Thomas 'punked' Danny Ainge into tribute during Pierce's jersey retirement

Yahoo Sports

The Boston Celtics have been planning a video tribute to Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Isaiah Thomas during his return to Boston on Feb. 11 to honor his time as an All-Star while wearing a Boston jersey.

The tribute was originally scheduled for a January Boston-Cleveland matchup, but Thomas asked the Celtics to save the tribute for the February game because he didn’t play in the January game, and he wanted his family to be present for the tribute.

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That Feb. 11 matchup also happens to be the night that the Celtics are retiring future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce’s jersey. In an NBA world that often resembles a high school cafeteria more than a league filled with grown men, this of course caused drama.

Pierce was not game to share his spotlight moment with a lesser former Celtic and even had the temerity to actually ask for the Kobe Bryant treatment in response to the planned Thomas tribute.

That is some next-level prima donna stuff. Well done, Paul.

Thomas came under fire from some fans as well for requesting his video tribute be moved, but did not appear to be swayed when talking with reporters ahead of the January Cavs-Celtics game.

Isaiah Thomas has asked the Celtics to focus the night of Paul Pierce’s jersey retirement solely on Pierce. (AP)
Isaiah Thomas has asked the Celtics to focus the night of Paul Pierce’s jersey retirement solely on Pierce. (AP)

“That’s Pierce’s night, but the video tribute ain’t the whole night,” Thomas said. “I just wanted my family to be here to see it. That’s what it came down to. I wanted to be able to play, and I wanted my family to experience the love and appreciation this city and this organization was going to give me on that night. When my representatives reached out to these guys, they were all for it, and they agreed on it.

“I don’t know why they’re so mad about it. I’m not taking nothing from Paul Pierce. He did 15 years here, so there’s nothing I can take from him. But if they choose to do it that night, that would be great, and I will be honored, and my family and friends can see how much they appreciated me here.”

That seems to be a reasonable point of view from Thomas. But at the same time, if Pierce is in such a fit about it, and Celtics fans were coming after him for it, maybe the best thing to do would just be to let it go. A guy wearing a rival Cavaliers uniform with the appearance of trying to show up a true Celtics legend — even if that wasn’t the actual reality — probably wasn’t going to be well-received during a moment that was planned as an honor.

And on Tuesday, that appears to be the conclusion Thomas eventually reached.

Pierce spoke with ESPN on Tuesday detailing a conversation he had with Celtics head of basketball operations Danny Ainge about the tribute controversy.

“(Thomas) had a shot to be honored,” Pierce told ESPN. “You came to Boston. Whether you are playing or not, you should have had your tribute then. I just don’t see how, if someone is having a jersey retirement, they’re going to be running other tributes for other players.

“Danny tried to sell me on it, but I told him, ‘He had a shot, Danny, and he punked you on it. He pretty much dictated everything.’ They let it happen because they felt sorry how (the trade to Cleveland) went down. It’s guilt. That’s what it is.”

Pierce said that Ainge scrapped plans for the Thomas tribute after the two talked, something Ainge confirmed with ESPN.

“I wanted to make it clear that it was never my intention or Isaiah’s intention to take away from the special day for Paul Pierce,” Ainge told ESPN. “And no one was ever comparing I.T. to Paul Pierce. We all owe Paul a lot. Everyone in the organization.”

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