FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- On the first Sunday since football season ended, it was inevitable: The mind kept wandering back to football.
Watching it unfold, and learning more about Pierce, I was struck by two strong links between how Pierce was described and my perception of two things that have made New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady unique.
"He understood how a team was built. In 2010, even though it was reported, it hasn't been discussed enough in my opinion, but Paul took $7.7 million less in that year to help us win a championship down the road. And so he was a partner. He was more than a player. He was a partner, as he worked with us. He worked with ownership. We had the conversation in 2007, and it was, 'We better get our job done, or we have to find a place for him to help him win.' He was a partner with us and I'll always be grateful for that." -- Celtics GM and director of basketball operations Danny Ainge
While Brady has been compensated well over the years, he's never been compelled to hold the team up in negotiations with an insistence of being the game's top-paid player. In some ways, his contract -- and the way the sides timed up extensions with two years remaining on his deal -- has almost been like a mortgage that the team has drawn on. In that sense, he's been a partner to the Patriots as well, making financial decisions that have given the franchise the tools and flexibility to put the best team around him.
THE STAR WHO TAKES HARD COACHING
"We bumped heads a couple times, but at the end of the day, I'm sitting in my office and Paul walks in and says, 'Hey, we're good. We're going to do this together.' From a coach, I thank you, because we live in a time now where when a star player will allow a coach to coach him, that's why you win." -- former Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
Chad Ochocinco told the story about his time with the club and how the first team meeting of 2011 was one in which Bill Belichick was particularly hard on Brady. Ochocinco thought it was a joke, noting that it set a tone for him. That tone was obvious: If the star of the team is taking such hard coaching, everyone else better fall in line. Ochocinco said from that point on, he was walking on eggshells. Brady's willingness to take that coaching, like Pierce, is probably one main reason Bill Belichick said at Super Bowl LII, "There's no quarterback I'd rather have playing for my team than Tom Brady. I'm glad I have him."