Antoine Walker & Paul Pierce Explain Why This Just Might Be the Celtics’ Year

Paul Pierce Antoine Walker

Getty Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker explain how this could finally be the year for the Boston Celtics.

Many believed the Boston Celtics were headed back to a second straight NBA Finals appearance last season. That was especially true after Boston rallied from a 3-0 deficit against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals to host Game 7 at TD Garden. Instead, the Heat blew out the Celtics in embarrassing fashion, giving Boston fans another sign of false hope. Former Celtics stars Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker believe this year is a different story.

The former Celtics tandem recently got together on the “View From the Rafters” podcast and explained why the Celtics might be hoisting Banner 18 this summer.

Antoine Walker Stresses Sacrifice, & He Should Know

The Game 7 loss at home to the Heat in the conference finals was crushing. It also led to plenty of change. The Celtics lost Marcus Smart, Malcolm Brogdon, and Robert Williams in two separate offseason moves. They brought in veterans Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday, giving them much more balance on the offensive side of the ball.

Derrick White has slipped into Smart’s spot in the starting lineup and has played his way into All-Star consideration. Any of Boston’s starting five has the ability to take over a game, something the Celtics haven’t had in the past. With so many scoring threats, pressure has been taken off Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. With the exception of White, all four starters have seen a dip in their statistics, and that sacrifice is what Walker says is needed to win a title.

“Jayson and Jaylen have had a lot of success early on as far as making deep runs in the playoffs,” Walker, who won a championship with the Heat, said on the podcast. “Now, it should be just championships. What do I need to sacrifice? What do I need to do? What’s going to have to take place in this locker room? How can I lead better to get over this hump? That’s the mindset I think they should be in because they’ve had so much success early on, and they’ve had the individual accolades, too.”

Walker should know about sacrifice. When he left for the Heat after his second stint with the Celtics, he came off the bench for the first time in his NBA career. He averaged 12.2 points, but he earned the lone championship as a pro.

Pierce Believes Experience Is on Boston’s Side

The Celtics have certainly sacrificed stats for wins this year. Earlier this year, Tatum made note of it.

“I’m certain none of us are averaging career-highs in points, right?” Tatum said in December. “We’ve all taken a dip, but it’s for the better of the team. Our success as a unit is more important, and we understand that. We know what the ultimate goal is.”

Along with that sacrifice, Pierce, who won a title with the Celtics in 2008, said experience is finally on Boston’s side. He believes Tatum and Brown went through growing pains, and no team led by young players ever wins an NBA title. They are playing their seventh season together in Boston.

“Young teams can’t win,” Pierce said. “You’re still trying to improve yourself. You’re still trying to focus on getting a big contract.

“You want to prove that you belong, and you’re trying to set yourself up for the long run. That’s just all honesty. What franchise player that wasn’t in his second contract won a championship in the modern era? It’s hard to do.”

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