"Weird" feeling for Pierce as his Celtics take on the Lakers

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Boston Celtics captain Paul Pierce can be forgiven for having a split personality, geographically speaking, during the 2010 NBA Finals.

Pierce and his Boston team mates will open the best-of-seven series on Thursday against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, a franchise idolized by the California-born Pierce during his youth.

"Coming back here as a Boston player, it's a little weird for me," Pierce told reporters while preparing for Game One at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, just 10 miles from the Inglewood area where he grew up.

"Just to tell you, I didn't want to be a Boston Celtic but I am a Boston Celtic, and I've enjoyed every moment of it. I've had a chance to learn the history, been around the great players."

"I had dreams of wearing a Laker uniform at that age," said the 32-year-old, who was born in Oakland across the bay from San Francisco.

"But I'm able to be in the NBA, continue on with the rivalry that I grew up watching, and the rivalry that got me interested in basketball. It's a dream come true."

An eight-times All-Star, Pierce has vivid childhood memories of watching Los Angeles basketball greats such as Magic Johnson at the Forum, the former home of the Lakers.

Right now, though, the six-foot-seven forward is focused only on helping embellish Boston's proud and remarkable record in NBA Finals where they have triumphed 17 times in 20 attempts, including nine-of-11 against the Lakers.

"I just hope to continue the great legacy that the Boston Celtics have provided basketball fans over the years, and I'm just happy to be a part of it," Pierce said.

"I want to be able to be mentioned up there with the great Celtics of all time, cement my name in history with the group by winning more than one championship."

(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)