Paul Pierce was always waiting for Kevin Garnett


LOS ANGELES -- The Boston Celtics will raise Paul Pierce's No. 34 to the rafters nearly a decade after he helped them hoist their last championship banner. It's curious what Pierce remembers from those title days, when he was young and invincible and convinced that magical 2008 season was just the beginning.
It's not images of the scores or the baskets that linger; it's the moments with those who shared his basketball journey.
And there's one person who stood by him nearly every step of the way.
"I've said it a hundred times,'' Pierce says over a bowl of lobster bisque at Fleming's restaurant in Los Angeles. "Kevin Garnett and I were meant to be together. It's just too bad it took us so long to make it happen.''
They met just before their final year in high school, when Pierce's Inglewood AAU team, spanked routinely by L.A. high school legend Schea Cotton's team every summer in Las Vegas, went hunting for reinforcements.
Coach Thaddeus McGrew convinced Garnett to play on loan with them for the weekend. Pierce eyed the slender 7-footer, who hailed from South Carolina and sported a jeans vest with his hat perched backward, then declared, "Straight out country boy.''
They broke the ice by wandering through a local mall, then taking a drive along Crenshaw Boulevard. Garnett was jittery, skittish, his cadence so fast Pierce missed just about every other word. But the common thread was obvious: For both boys, basketball was everything.
KG bunked with Pierce at his house and raved about his mom's baked chicken. When they showed up for practice at the Inglewood gym, Pierce didn't understand initially why the stands were full.
"Then I realized,'' Pierce says, "they were coming to see Kevin.''
Garnett didn't disappoint. His pent-up energy was unleashed on the court with a fury Pierce had never witnessed before.
"Every time he blocked a shot, he yelled at the top of his lungs,'' Pierce says. "Every time he dunked, he yelled at the top of his lungs. I'm thinking, 'This guy is crazy.'''
Pierce and his boys explained to Garnett how it worked once they got to Vegas. They didn't have enough money for all the cab fares they'd need to see the town, so they planned to [literally] run out on the fare. As they pulled up to Circus Circus, Pierce waited, opened the door, then yelled, "Go!"
"You should have seen KG's face,'' Pierce says. "He's looking at me like, 'What the hell is this?' It's pretty hard for a 7-footer to run and hide.''
The plan was to scatter, then reconvene in the basement, but security cameras caught their ingenious plot on tape, and they wound up in the hands of the local authorities.