|Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen brighten prospects for Celtics this season|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 30 October 2007 13:37|
On the practice floor and on Paul Pierce's face, the look is much brighter.
``I'm having a lot of fun each and every day,'' Pierce said.
He's no longer the only star expected to carry Boston on the court and mentor the young players off it. Now he has Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, two perennial all-stars, to share the burden and try to win a 17th NBA championship and the team's first since 1986.
So when the 67-year-old Havlicek, a Hall of Famer who played on eight championship teams in his 16 seasons with the Celtics, spoke to the team Tuesday, Garnett paid close attention.
``I don't think I blinked one time when he was talking,'' Garnett said. ``I was trying to get all the insight and soak up all the knowledge that he was giving.''
He heard about Celtic Pride - the idea of playing as a team rather than five individuals - and about Red Auerbach, the coach and front office icon who died four days before last season began.
He heard about the great tradition and that ``it's our duty and our responsibility to continue and carry that on,'' Garnett said.
First, though, 21-year-old Rajon Rondo has to prove he can be an effective point guard.
The second-year pro and center Kendrick Perkins join Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen in the starting lineup.
Another uncertainty: can veteran newcomers Eddie House, James Posey and Scot Pollard play effectively in their customary role as bench players?
Boston obtained Garnett from Minnesota in a 7-for-1 trade on July 31 that included two first-round draft choices and four players who were 24 or younger at the time. Allen was acquired June 28 from Seattle, a move that made the Celtics more attractive to Garnett.
The Big Three have a combined 32 years of NBA experience and 22 All-Star designations, but no titles. The Celtics previous Big Three - Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish - starred on three championship teams in the 1980s.
With nine new players, coach Doc Rivers doesn't expect the Celtics to play like champions from their first game Friday night, at home against Washington.
``It takes time,'' he said. ``It looks like it's close, but we haven't been tested. We haven't gone through anything yet. So I understand it's going to take a while. Hopefully, each day we're better.''
It won't take much to improve on last season. At one point, the Celtics set a franchise record with 18 straight losses. Their 24-58 mark was the second worst in their 62 seasons.
But the rest of the Atlantic Division appears to have improved.
``We by no means feel like we're kings of the East,'' Pierce said. ``We've got to go out there and show it. We've got a target on our back. We've got to be ready every day because everybody's looking at the commercials, the magazine covers seeing all that stuff.''
In his nine NBA seasons, the Celtics have won three playoff series.
More is expected this season - especially after the Red Sox won the World Series and the New England Patriots finished the first half of the season at 8-0.
``There is a culture of winning in this town,'' Rivers said. ``I would rather be in a culture where teams are winning. If everybody is losing, teams are miserable.''
The Celtics also have some good karma in Pollard, a member of the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers last season, his 10th in the NBA.
``I've been lucky in my career,'' he said. ``My rookie year was the only year I didn't make the playoffs. It feels good to come to a team that has high expectations of winning.''
The expectations dropped when the Celtics, who had the second best chance to get the first pick in the draft lottery, ended up with the fifth. That meant Greg Oden and Kevin Durant would not join a team stocked with plenty of youngsters.
So the Celtics abandoned the youth movement and sent point guard Delonte West and the No. 5 pick for Allen on the night of the draft. Then they traded three of their most promising players, Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes and Gerald Green for Garnett.
``In the past, we were waiting for the young guys to develop and now the young guys are gone,'' Havlicek said. ``There's a nucleus that has the potential to be a very good team.''
Many observers say the Celtics could challenge for the NBA title. Allen tries to ignore them.
``I remember when I was younger and I'd be on a (magazine) cover and I would pick it up and look at it,'' he said. ``Now, I don't pay attention to those things.''
Still, those things are there. Rivers doesn't mind the high expectations.
``Pressure is a privilege,'' he said. ``I had no pressure last year, so it's a privilege and you should want it. You should embrace it.''
A few minutes earlier, he got a good view of why the expectations are so high.
Pierce got the ball just to the left of the basket. As he drew a triple team, he passed to Garnett near the top of the key. A defender rushed him and Garnett immediately passed to Allen on the right side. Wasting no time, a wide-open Allen swished a 20-foot shot.
The kind of shot Havlicek used to make that helped the Celtics win the banners that hang above the practice court.
``It's like being in a museum,'' Garnett said. ``Hopefully, one day, we're able to come in here and see some of the things we've done and accomplish some things to follow this tradition.''