What’s it like being back in Boston?
“Weird. Weird. But I’m happy to be back. I haven’t been back since I had a dentist appointment; I think that was in like August. So, I’m happy to be back, though. It feels – it feels good to be here.”
Was there any conversation after last night, about trying to play tonight?
“Nah. There’s no back-to-backs so I couldn’t play. There was no conver—. I was even trying to get in the game some more last night, but they wasn’t letting me. So I wish I could play, but it’s all good. There’s another time I’ll be able to play.”
How did your body respond to playing last night?
“I’m alright for the most part; I’m a little sore, though. But my body is a little sore from – from really being able to compete for the first time in seven, eight months and be getting hit, falling on the ground, and all those types of things. But it’s not as sore as I thought it was going to be, so I’m pretty good for today.”
How does the reality of walking in the Garden compare to how you thought it’d be?
“I almost walked that way – in their locker room! No, it’s all…I mean, I love this city. I love this organization. This is – they’ve given me the opportunity to be who I always wanted to be and I can’t thank them enough. So there’s no hard feelings to anybody in this city or anybody in this organization. And I’m glad I’m back. Like I always said, it’s genuine love, and that’s – that’s for the rest of my life here.”
Are things easier now that you’re able to play?
“I think so. I think if I was able to play after the trade, it wouldn’t have been as crazy as it was. Just being – having to be able to sit down for four of five months after the trade, it was tough for me. Seeing everybody else play and not being able to be out there to compete with any type of team. So, to get that under my belt last night was like, one of the best days of my life. I felt like a basketball player again. I felt like I was somebody again.”
How worried were you, with the injury?
“I was a little worried, but not like career-ending I’m worried. I just didn’t know when I was going to be able to play. My injury was complicated because I had to let the body heal itself and it could’ve been quick or it could’ve been long and they told me that from the jump. So, I’m just happy I’m back out playing and slowly getting to the process of playing every night and playing a lot of minutes.”
Does one memory of playing in the TD Garden stick out to you the most?
“Thirty-three points on my sister’s birthday. That was probably the most special moment I’ve had here. It’s been a lot of great moments in Boston, though. Like, my career skyrocketed here, and like I always say, they gave me the biggest opportunity I’ve ever gotten, and I can’t thank them enough. So, I’m – that was probably the biggest moment, because it was just the toughest time of my life, but also one of the best games I’ve ever played.”
What do you make of the “fuss” over the fact that you prefer a video tribute at the February 11th game, but Paul Pierce’s number is set to be retired that day?
“That’s Pierce’s night. But, like, the video tribute ain’t the whole night. Like – 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 was going to give me on that night. And when my representatives reached out to these guys, they didn’t – they were all for it. And they agreed on it. So, I mean, I know people – I don’t know why they’re so mad about it – I’m not taking nothing from Paul Pierce; he did 15 years here so there’s nothing I can take from him. But if they choose to do it that night, that would be great. And I will be honored, and my family and friends can see how much they appreciated me here.”
What are you expecting from the fans tonight?
“Love. I mean that’s all there was when I was here. I didn’t ever say anything bad about the city or organization so I expect them to just show genuine love. I’m happy to be back though, this is a special moment for me. I just wish I could play.”
Were you hoping your first game back would be tonight instead of yesterday?
“Nah. I was out for seven months. There was no way I was going to come back against Boston and play 17 minutes. It’s too big of an opportunity to just play against my former teammates, my former coaches, the city that gave me my biggest opportunity. I always wanted to play this game, but I thought I would be back a little sooner to be able to play, but once we figured out a date that I was going to play there was a big chance of me not playing (tonight).”
Now that the trade dust has settled, does it still sting you as much?
“It only stung me when it happened. I always said people brought the trade up, I wasn’t the one who always wanted to talk about it and I always said if I was able to play when it did happen I don’t think the trade we’d be talking about as much. Now that I’m back playing you all have something else to write about.”
Was all the rehab and time worth it to see how you responded last night?
“The whole process has always been worth it because I just wanted to get back to playing basketball. Did I like the process? No, I hated sitting out, I hated having to be patient. That is just what is was, I couldn’t control that. Once I was able to do more and be more acclimated with the team and get out there and start warming up with the team I knew that day was closer for me playing and yesterday was one of the most special moments for me in my career because I’ve never had to sit out for seven to eight months and know when I was going to play again.”
Is your hip to where you want it to be and how close is your game to where you want it to be?
“Far away, both. The hip has gotten a lot better, but its still movements that I’m scared to do like just because I’ve been out for so long. For the most part when you get hurt the mental side of things is the toughest part. My wind isn’t there, I’m not in that good of shape, obviously my game isn’t where I want it to be, but it showed a positive step in the right direction yesterday that I’m not far from where I want to be. I want to be MVP one day so I know anyone that takes seven months off isn’t just going to walk in to being that and I got a lot of work to do. I’m happy about the progress and I’m happy about everything that happened yesterday.”
Thought of you being a career Celtic, but after trade did you say to yourself here is an opportunity to win a title?
“It hurt being traded, it hurts no matter what team you get traded from. When I knew I got traded to Cleveland it was like an even bigger opportunity for me. A bigger platform, playing with arguably the best player in the world, realistically being able to compete for an NBA Championship, it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. When that opportunity came I just had to take it and run with it and I’m glad I’m back and able to put my talents and help this team.”
How much have you watched the Celtics this season and how do you compare them to last year?
“How much do I watch the Celtics…(laughs)? I watch them a lot. I like how they play, I love Brad Stevens, I love Marcus Smart even though he flops all the time. (laughs) I love Terry Rozier, I love the coaching staff. Like I said there is no hard feelings, the only hard feelings is Danny (Ainge) didn’t send me a Christmas card this year (laughs).”
Did you send him (Danny Ainge) a Christmas card?
“No, but he sent me one the past two years (laughs). He could have found my address somehow!”
Has he forgiven Danny (Ainge)?
“He texted me last night so yeah we are good.”