Focused Celtics ready for fun ride
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Media day can be a grind for players. For the better part of two hours, they shuttle from station to station, posing for photos and answering the same questions for different microphones.
It's kind of like the first day of school combined with photo day, and each class demands a presentation of some sort. Which is to say, it's not meant to be much fun.
But there was Paul Pierce, a veteran of 12 media days with the Boston Celtics, bouncing gleefully around the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint on Monday, a big smile on his face at every turn. The unofficial start of the 2010-11 season, which media day essentially signifies, left Pierce downright giddy -- and he didn't mind telling everyone who asked.
"Truthfully, man, I had the same feeling about this team [before the 2007-08 season], when we got Kevin [Garnett] on the team and Ray [Allen]," said Pierce. "The additions that we made -- [Shaquille O'Neal], Jermaine [O'Neal], Delonte [West] and some of the other rookies -- this is one of the most talented teams, top to bottom. It's more talented than the teams that I've been on."
Pierce spent much of his summer trying to erase the pain of Boston's Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, but it wasn't until he arrived in Boston earlier this month to participate in some pre-preseason scrimmages that he began to turn the page. That's because he knows the collective talent on the Celtics has the potential to ease that pain the only way possible: by winning another title.
"We talked about this last week when we all had a chance to play pickup with Shaq and KG," said Pierce. "We were talking about the energy that's around here again. Guys felt it -- the urgency to win another championship. Guys were talking about the memories of Game 7, as far as putting that behind us. I know it hasn't really gotten out of my head. As much as you want to put it behind you, it's hard. You can't. The only way to erase that memory is to go out and try to get another championship. Guys are motivated.
"The energy is back in the building and we're ready."
Hope sprung eternal for the Celtics on Monday, 103 days after they let a world title slip away. True, hope is springing in 29 other NBA cities, as well, but one glance around the gymnasium showed why Pierce is so optimistic about Boston's chance at redemption.
On one side, Shaquille O'Neal posed for a humorous photo with diminutive Nate Robinson. A few paces away, Jermaine O'Neal modeled his new No. 7 Celtics jersey for the cameras. On the other side of the floor, Delonte West stepped out from the locker room and was greeted by a sea of supporters, including much of the Celtics' ownership group.
Amidst it all, the Big Three roamed the court, the unit still intact after an offseason in which Pierce admitted the Celtics could have hit the "rebuild" button.
Instead, they hit the "revamp" button and assembled what everyone -- from president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to coach Doc Rivers to many of the team's veterans -- dubbed the most talented Celtics roster in recent memory.
Asked if he agreed with that assessment, Garnett offered no objections: "I would agree with that," he said, nodding in approval. Like Pierce, Garnett exuded a positive energy that might have been lacking during a 2009-10 campaign in which admitted he never felt 100 percent.
But Garnett described himself as "vibrant" entering the new season and said he's ready for the long haul.
"I'm really excited, really excited," said Garnett. "I don't like us, I love us. I like how we are, I like our depth, and I'm eager to start.
"I feel very strong, very vibrant, if that's the accurate word I want to use there. I'm excited about the year. I'm eager to have [Shaq] here. I told him it's a shame we had to wait until our last couple years of playing. I wish we could have done this earlier."
Better late than never. A collective championship goal -- and a shortened window of opportunity -- seems to have invigorated Boston's veterans.
Which is why Pierce's comparison to the 2007-08 season seemed fitting. That offseason, the Celtics brought together three title-starved superstars in hopes that their collective desire would help propel them to the crown. It worked.
Last season's ending has made the Big Three yearn for a title in the same way. Shaq already boasts four world titles, but has said he wants a fifth to cement his place in NBA history. Jermaine O'Neal said he chose Boston because, at this point in his career, the only thing that matters is winning a title.
That commonality explains why, despite all the new faces, Rivers doesn't seem concerned about team chemistry as the Celtics prepare to open training camp on the campus of Salve Regina University on Tuesday morning.
No, it's clear this group has already forged a bit of that over the past two weeks. It was further on display on a bus ride to Newport, as several players Twittered photos of Nate Robinson goofing on teammates when they fell asleep.
The regular season is a grind, but hey, media day was supposed to be a grind too, and these guys appeared to have some fun with it.
If the photos from the team bus are any indication, the whole season could be a fun ride.
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics and Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.