Pierce said Thursday that he would prefer the Celtics not run their planned in-game tribute video for Thomas’ on-court return Feb. 11, the same night the Celtics will send Pierce’s jersey to the rafters following a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I’m not saying Isaiah shouldn’t get a tribute video … but on Feb. 11, the night I get my jersey retired, I’m not sure I want to look up at the JumboTron and see Isaiah highlights,’ Pierce said Thursday during an appearance on ESPN’s The Jump.
Pierce did playfully offer one compromise for how the Celtics could run a Thomas tribute video that night: “You could Instagram it.”
Pierce noted that he was present for Kobe Bryant’s recent jersey retirement in Los Angeles and said he liked how the Lakers used game stoppages to play videos that honored Bryant’s career.
“I enjoyed watching that throughout the game,” Pierce said. “Hopefully the Boston Celtics will do that for me. I’m not sure I want to see an Isaiah video that night.”
The Celtics had planned to run a tribute video for Thomas when the Cavaliers visited the Garden on Wednesday, but Thomas, who sat out the game after returning to action for the first time in seven months on Tuesday night, asked if the team would wait until February so he could be on the court and bring his family to Boston for the moment.
Thomas said he didn’t think he would infringe on Pierce’s night with an in-game tribute.
“That’s Pierce’s night. But, like, 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 is going to give me on that night. And when my representatives reached out to these guys, [the Celtics] were all for it. They agreed on it.
“I don’t know why [some people are] so mad about it. I’m not taking nothing from Paul Pierce. He did 15 years here so there’s nothing that I can take from him. But if they choose to do it that night, that would be great and I would be honored. And my family and friends can see how much they appreciated me here.”
Thomas played only 2 ½ seasons in Boston but left an indelible mark while helping the team return to basketball prominence.
During his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio 98.5 the Sports Hub on Thursday morning, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge said he didn’t see any problem with the brief tribute to Thomas.
“I think Paul said it best: He’s going to be the appetizer, the main course and the dessert. I thought that was pretty funny,” Ainge told the “Toucher and Rich” program. “I think it won’t interfere with Paul. And Paul understands that, everybody understands that. It’ll be a great game and a great moment. And Isaiah deserves it, in our minds.
“We all love Isaiah and are grateful for him and all that he’s done for us as well. Obviously you can’t compare the two, but Isaiah has been very gracious through this whole process. He hasn’t made any demands; he just had one request and we granted him that request.”
Pierce spent his first 15 seasons with Boston and — after stints with the Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards, and LA Clippers — signed a one-day contract with the Celtics this offseason to retire as a member of the organization that drafted him.
Pierce’s No. 34 will be the 22nd number retired by the Celtics and the first since Cedric Maxwell’s No. 31 was retired in December 2003.