Why Joe Mazzulla hopes Paul Pierce and other Celtics legends are regulars at practice this season


“The only past we have is the banners alone. The past should be the banners, but it should be the people.”

05-25-23: Boston, MA: Former Celtics great Paul Pierce was sitting courtside. The Boston Celtics hosted the Miami Heat for Game Five of their NBA Eastern Conference Championship series at the TD Garden.
Paul Pierce was a regular guest at Celtics games last season. Jim Davis / The Boston Globe

The Celtics might be looking ahead to another promising season in 2023-24.

But as Joe Mazzulla and his players try to lay the foundation for a new campaign during training camp this month, it’s clear that the Celtics coach wants to lean on the past in order to get the most out of his current roster.

After practice wrapped following Boston’s second full session of camp, Celtics legend Paul Pierce was spotted on the court at the Auerbach Center — shooting hoops alongside former teammate (and current C’s assistant coach) Sam Cassell before later watching Jayson Tatum work on his post game.

Pierce’s appearance at the Celtics’ team facility will hopefully be the first of many this season, according to Mazzulla — who is making a concerted effort toward getting as many ex-Celtics in the building as possible this year.

“I sent an email out to all the Celtic former players because I felt like it’s important that we share in this experience together,” Mazzulla said on Wednesday. “They started the tradition, they kept it going and now it’s our responsibility as an organization to keep it alive. But when you don’t see them all the time, you don’t get that connection to the past. The only past we have is the banners alone. The past should be the banners, but it should be the people.

“So I thought it was extremely important that any and every Celtic is welcome to practice or a game so we can build that brotherhood of what we are. And I kind of compare it to college. Like, when guys go to the NBA, they always go back to their college to work out. We see that all the time. And so you should be coming back here. So I appreciate him and being there and extending that to everyone. And we just have to create that brotherhood, that environment.”

Pierce, who spent 15 of the 19 seasons of his Hall-of-Fame career in Boston, has been a familiar sight at Celtics games over the last few years.

But the former All-Star and 2008 NBA Finals MVP took an active role in working with Tatum over the summer, with both Celtics greats benefiting from steady work both on the court and in the gym. 

“He was really motivated. Paul actually lost 15-20 pounds. And it was about four weeks,” Tatum said on Monday, adding: “He came into the gym every day and it was cool to have him around,” Tatum continued. “He told us a lot of stories about the championship team that we can try to apply to this year. Hopefully, we see a lot more of Paul.”

Considering the number of Celtics legends who have stepped out on the parquet floor, it should come as little surprise that Mazzulla wants the greats of yesteryear to be regulars in Boston throughout the season, especially if their championship mettle and veteran experience can rub off on a roster looking to hoist Banner 18 next spring. 

“Is there ever enough Paul Pierce time?” Derrick White said. “But he keeps saying that last week was my first [Colorado] game, so other than that it’s been good having him. It’s obviously good to see him.

“Obviously Paul’s a legend, a legend in this game and it’s great to have him here, supporting us, talking to the guys, that’s great. Eddie [House] is always around and Leon [Powe] was here yesterday so it’s just good to see those guys and they had great careers so you can learn so much from them.”