Tuesday’s Sports Illustrated profile on Paul Pierce, who will head to Springfield Saturday for his Hall-of-Fame induction ceremony, revealed the Celtics legend “wanted out” of Boston after the team’s disastrous 2007 (conference-worst 24-58 record). Before the Celtics acquired former MVP Kevin Garnett and three-point king Ray Allen in a pair of franchise-altering trades that summer, Pierce reportedly nixed a trade to Portland (he felt the Blazers were “too dysfunctional”) and, during a chance encounter with Mark Cuban, sold himself as the Mavs’ “missing piece.”
Pierce would ultimately play six more seasons in Boston, capturing an NBA title in 2008 (the Celtics’ first since Larry Bird’s heyday in the 1980s) while cementing his legacy as a franchise icon. But what if then-GM Chris Wallace had pulled the trigger, granting Pierce his wish by trading the disgruntled All-Star to Dallas? According to Cuban, it almost happened. Per Cuban, the Mavericks were on the precipice of acquiring Pierce from the Celtics as part of a three-team trade, but the deal fell through when the third team (who Cuban would not identify) pulled out at the last second. Cuban claims the proposed blockbuster was discussed sometime after 2008.
The Celtics eventually traded Pierce and Garnett to Brooklyn in 2013, effectively ending the team’s six-year dynasty. Both players were on the decline by then, though it’s fun to ponder the Mavericks’ trajectory with Pierce, pairing the former Finals MVP with Dirk Nowitzki, the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history behind only Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Along with Pierce, two-time NBA champion Chris Bosh, former Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace and Chris Webber, a founding member of Michigan’s esteemed “Fab Five,” will also be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend.