Trades for Allen, Garnett perk up Celtics' ticket sales

Updated: September 27, 2007, 1:49 AM ET
Associated Press

WALTHAM, Mass. -- The buzz over the acquisition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen has led the Celtics to cap their season tickets sales for the first time since they played in the venerable Boston Garden.

"Winning is the best marketing," Celtics president Rich Gotham said Wednesday. "The second-best marketing is the hope of winning."

The NBA's most decorated franchise was 24-58 last season and has won three playoff series in the nine years since drafting Paul Pierce. The team took another hit when it went into the June draft lottery with the second-best chance at the two franchise players available but wound up with the No. 5 pick.

Unable to pick either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant, Celtics basketball boss Danny Ainge dove into the trade market and acquired Allen on draft night. Then Ainge sent a package of seven picks and players to Minnesota for Garnett.

Suddenly, the team that flirted with the longest losing streak in NBA history was being talked about as a contender for the Eastern Conference championship.

"There's expectations for a team that hasn't done anything. ... There's been nothing accomplished other than hope," Ainge said. "What's realistic, I don't know. But I know there's hope of having great things happen this year. It's a hope of putting up a banner that's [possible]."

Gotham said the team capped season-ticket sales at 80 percent of the available seats -- a 40 percent increase over the number of packages sold last year. The new Garden seats 18,624 for basketball, but premium seats and others that aren't in the Celtics' control can't be sold as season tickets.

The Celtics sold out 661 consecutive games in their heyday at the smaller old Garden, and just before they won their NBA-record 16th championship the waitlist for season tickets was 6,000 names long. But Boston had just nine sellouts last season -- usually for premium visits like Kobe Bryant and the Lakers or LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

This year, 26 games are virtually sold out, and no game has as many as 1,000 seats available, Gotham said. About 300 of the $10 tickets have been held back for day-of-game sales.

"We really feel like our fan base has been rejuvenated over the summer," Gotham said.

It's not just the fans.

Ainge said the highlight of his summer was seeing the faces of coach Doc Rivers and franchise player Pierce when they realized the team would be a contender. But Ainge tried to temper the expectations somewhat. Rivers laughed about how dejected the team was after realizing the worst possible scenario in the lottery.

"The summer didn't start off real good, guys," Rivers said. "You saw my expression and Danny's expression when the ball came out. But Danny turned it into something really nice."

Rivers also tried to manage expectations.

"A lot of people think you can just show up and get to the finals," he said. "That's not going to happen."

Players will have to work to get used to their new teammates, he said. And not just the role players who will be passing the ball to Pierce, Garnett and Allen.

"The big three are going to have to give up their comfort zone and do things they've never had to do."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press