|Celtics' Paul Pierce hopes trip to Europe will help team jell with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 25 September 2007 12:17|
The Celtics, who won the last of their 16 NBA titles in 1986, signed the pair over the summer to add scoring punch to a team that finished with a 24-58 record last year, the second worst in the league.
This year, with training camp to open Sunday in Rome ahead of preseason games in the Italian capital and London, Pierce is looking to return the Celtics to the top.
``Expectations around here are for a championship,'' the five-time All-Star said Tuesday during a conference call.
Talking about winning the NBA title before they've even played together may be a stretch, but Pierce is hoping the six-day training camp and two games in Europe will give the Celtics some cohesiveness before the regular season starts Oct. 30.
``Just try to find a foundation, but also chemistry,'' Pierce said. ``Get a feel for one another on and off the court.''
The Celtics, who have won only three playoff series in Pierce's nine years with the team, will face the Toronto Raptors on Oct. 6 in Rome, and play the Minnesota Timberwolves four days later in London.
Garnett, a former MVP and 10-time All-Star, went to the Celtics from the Timberwolves in a 7-for-1 deal - the NBA's biggest trade for one player.
``Probably going to be a lot of emotion,'' said Pierce, thinking of his former teammates now playing in Minnesota.
The game will pit Celtics executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge against Timberwolves vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale. The pair, who orchestrated the Garnett deal, were teammates with Larry Bird and Robert Parish when the Celtics last won the NBA title 21 years ago.
The games are part of NBA Europe Live, which includes the Memphis Grizzlies. The four teams will play and train in Britain, Italy, Spain and Turkey.
London recently become a hub for American sports.
Besides the Celtics-Timberwolves game, the city will host the opening two games of the NHL season this weekend when the Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks play the Los Angeles Kings.
Late next month, the NFL will play a regular-season game at the rebuilt Wembley Stadium when the Miami Dolphins face the New York Giants on Oct. 28.
The NBA, which opened a European office in London this year, has often sent teams to Europe to warm up for the season. And much like the NHL, the basketball league has seen an increasing number of European players making the leap to the United States, including France star Tony Parker and Germany forward Dirk Nowitzki.
The Celtics-Timberwolves game will be the first time the NBA has played in Britain since 1993.