Former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce “battled depression” for a year after getting stabbed in 2000, he told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan.

“I should have opened up earlier than I did,” Pierce told MacMullan. “It was eating me alive.”

MacMullan’s full piece addressed various NBA players’ personal experiences with mental health struggles. Many around the league, led by Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers and DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs, have opened up before about mental health issues they’ve gone through. Others, like Josh Huestis, formerly of the Oklahoma City Thunder, have followed with personal, written accounts of their struggles.

Pierce, who played for the Celtics from 1998 to 2013 and was one of the “Big Three” on the the 2008 championship team, is joining the outspoken group.

“I was stabbed 11 times,” Pierce told MacMullan. “I felt like I was trapped in a box. I couldn’t go nowhere.

“I battled depression for a year. The only thing that saved me was basketball.”

Two men were convicted of assaulting Pierce, one for stabbing him repeatedly and another for contributing to an attack on Sept. 25, 2000 at a Boston night club. The attacker stabbed Pierce in his back, face and neck. The Celtics star suffered a collapsed lung in the process.

He ended up recovering in time for the start of the NBA season, even though one knife wound did not miss his heart by much. Yet the recovery process was not only physical.

Pierce, who would keep a police detail outside his home, recounted to MacMullan a moment when he received a phone call while at dinner at Morton’s restaurant not long after the stabbing. What came next was a death threat.

“So now I’m really paranoid,” he told MacMullan. “I don’t want to go anywhere. The police sat in the front of my house for months. I was a mess.

“I think that’s the reason I got back on the court so fast. Me sitting at home thinking about (the stabbing) didn’t work. I went to every practice, sat on the sideline for hours, because that’s where I felt safe. I didn’t want those practices to end because then I had to go back out there in this world that really scared me.”

MacMullan’s piece covers far more than just Pierce and is an essential read for the many trying to destigmatize mental health problems – whether they’re related to the NBA or not.

CELTICS FIRST-YEAR big man Robert Williams showed up in two different places on the NBA’s rookie survey.

Williams received votes for “Which rookie was the biggest steal at where he was selected in the draft?” and “Which rookie is the most athletic?”

The Philadelphia 76ers’ Zhaire Smith received 24 percent of the vote for most athletic, finishing first. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ Keita Bates-Diop’s 13 percent of the vote for biggest steal put him atop the list. The Denver Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr. and San Antonio Spurs’ Lonnie Walker IV tied for second.

NBA.com annually polls rookies for a survey that provides questions ranging from “Which rookie will have the best career?” to “What is the most important skill you need to develop?” This year, Williams wasn’t the only Bostonian representative.

All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving received votes for “Who is your favorite player in the league?” The L.A. Lakers’ LeBron James, who received 29 percent of the vote, finished first in that category. The Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant tied for second.

The Celtics selected Williams with the No. 27 pick in this past June’s draft. The 20-year-old averaged 10.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks this past year at Texas A&M.


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