Last call for Boston's Big Three


Last call for Boston's Big Three

BOSTON You might have to go back to 2008 - the first year the Boston Celtics' Big Three were assembled - to recall a time when they went into the playoffs and there wasn't any talk about this being their last go-round together.

While that talk seems just as prevalent now, it has a different and more realistic feel about it now.

Kevin Garnett will be a free agent in July and there's no guarantee that he'll be back, or whether the C's will pony up the kind of money it'll take to keep him in the fold despite having significant salary cap space.

Paul Pierce has a two years remaining on his contract after this season, but the physical pounding he has taken this year has him giving some thought to retirement.

And then there's Ray Allen who no longer starts for the C's and is currently nursing a right ankle injury that could jeopardize his availability for the playoffs.

"I hope their fans really appreciate what they're about to do in the playoffs," said one NBA front-office official. "Because they're not going to see them, not this Big Three, do it again. No one expects all three of them back in Boston next season. The Celtics are clearly building for the future. As much as those guys have meant, I think all of them know that the time to move on, is probably now."

Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, has made no secret about the C's desire to steadily improve even if it meant parting with one of the Big Three.

Allen, more than any member of the Celtics' Big Three, has been the subject of trade rumors for the past couple of years. The C's were reportedly close to shipping him out to Memphis before March's trading deadline for a deal that would have netted the Celtics O.J. Mayo.

A former Celtics player, Ainge saw first-hand the physical demise of the previous Celtic Big Three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. He tells the tale often of how the late Red Auerbach refused to trade any of them, and how he would not have been quite so hesitant if he were in Auerbach's shoes.

While it's true that Ainge has made multiple efforts in recent years to move members of the Big Three, he never struck a deal that made sense both for the Celtics now and moving forward.

And so the Big Three lives on for another playoff run with those failed deals potentially providing them just the added motivation they needed to flourish this season.

"You can't pay attention to that. That's part of the business," said Pierce, referring to trade talk. "You just gotta do your job as a professional each and every day. That's about it."

Garnett, more than any other member of the Big Three, has talked candidly about how criticism has fueled his play this season.

"I hear y'all calling me old. I hear y'all calling me older, weathered," said Garnett, who will be 36 next month. "It don't really take much to motivate me. I'm older in basketball years, but in life I'm 30-something. Some of y'all, I'm looking at your grey hairs, no hair, half hair, beautiful hair, wet hair, no comment I'm just motivated."

And it is that desire to always improve, maybe more than anything else, has been why all the trade talk and past-your-prime talk has never really stuck with this group.

"I don't think they've been distracted. That's just who they are," Ainge told "I don't think they've done anything different this year than they've done in years past. That's just who they always are and have always been. Maybe they get distracted for a moment here or there, but that's just the signature and legacy of their Hall of Fame careers. They play, and they have this resolve and they have this determination to be good."

As you watch the Celtics' progression this season, it was evident that those very qualities slowly but surely trickled down to their teammates, young and old.

Keyon Dooling is in his 12th NBA season. But when you listen to him talk about what playing with the Big Three has meant to him, you'd think he was still on his rookie contract.

"It's been life-changing for me to be around Hall of Famers, see what they do on a daily basis that makes them great," Dooling told "To get the basketball insight from them, how they see the game, the stuff that you can't get from a playbook or from a coach it's been a phenomenal experience and it'll be something that I'll be able to keep with me my whole life."

Boston's focus right now is on getting past the Atlanta Hawks, obviously.

But for guys like Mickael Pietrus, he understands that this playoff run means a lot to both the Celtics and the Big Three.

Although it hasn't been talked about much inside the locker room, all involved understand that this may be the last time Pierce, Allen and Garnett play together in the postseason.

"Right now, it doesn't mean anything. But when you win something with those guys, and they retire and all that, you'll feel like you'll feel good about yourself," Pietrus said. "I played with those guys, I enjoyed myself, we won a championship. I look forward to winning a championship with those guys."

And while at the start of the season it seemed far-fetched, the Celtics have made many into believers based on their play since the All-Star break. And a big part of that success has been the play of their Big Three.

"I continue to be impressed with who they are," Ainge said. "They're not perfect. They don't have great weeks, every week. But just to see how they dealt with their careers. They're impressive people. It's been a joy for me to be around. I've been around a lot of great players in my life. I said it in 2008, I've never seen the Hall of fame type players, at their age, prepare and approach the game the way they approach it; with the determination and work ethic. They never miss practice. They're there everyday. That was a joy to watch. And that's continued. It's 2012. They've taken more time off as their bodies have needed it, but usually it's because Doc's giving them the time off. Because Doc knows they'll practice; they'll be out there on the court. That's just who they are. They don't know any other way."

But Father Time is starting to gain ground on all of them.

Pierce missed the first three games of the season with a right heel injury, and struggled for the first few weeks of the season because of that and poor conditioning. Allen has missed nine straight games with a right ankle injury that remains a mystery.

And then there's Garnett, who has been playing at an exceptionally high level most of this season. Part of his success stems from him being moved to the center position which has created more mismatches in his favor due to his ability to stretch the floor from the perimeter.

All that said, the Celtics remain one of the more feared teams in the playoffs right now.

"We're seeing in the twilight of their career, how great they still are and they're still writing the story," Ainge said. "It's truly incredible what they've done this year. The determination, getting off to a bad start and they just fought harder and harder to be successful."

If the Celtics were to call it a season now, it would indeed make for a great story.

"We still have a lot to accomplish this year," Ainge said. "We're not done. We're not done."

Celtics break ground on new practice facility


Celtics break ground on new practice facility

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- When it comes to finding ways to attract the best talent, colleges and universities often seek to upgrade their training facilities as an enticement to prospective players.
So why should it be any different at the pro level?
The Boston Celtics had a groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning for The Auerbach Center at New Balance Headquarters.
“When you think he was hired in 1966 and they’re still honoring him, it’s very humbling,” said Randy Auerbach, Red’s daughter.
New Balance officials echoed similar sentiments about the legendary Red Auerbach, the architect of arguably the greatest dynasty in professional basketball.
“Red Auerbach was a true entrepreneur whose passion for winning and dedication to the sport of basketball and the Boston Celtics was equally matched with his commitment to people and his local community,” said Jim Davis, Chairman and Owner at New Balance.  “New Balance is extremely proud to join with the Boston Celtics in honoring his professional achievements and personal values through ‘Red’s House’ at our Boston world headquarters.”
Celtics president Rich Gotham cited several benefits to moving the team to a state-of-the-art practice facility closer to Boston.
Among the reasons given was the potential for the practice facility to be a potential enticement for free agents.
“Players spend more time in the practice facility than they do in the arena they play in certainly, and maybe more than they do at home,” Gotham said. “So having a place where they feel comfortable, a place where they want to spend time to improve themselves across the board … it’s all coming together in a pretty big way. The best players know it’s integral to their success that make sure that support is there, that infrastructure is there. So when we’re out talking to a player, we’re going to be talking about this practice facility we’re building. Because we do think it’s an important part of our story.”
Some of the features of the new practice facility will include:
·  Two state-of-the-art parquet floor basketball courts where the team will practice
·  Leading edge audio-visual technology throughout the facility
·  Expanded strength and conditioning, training, and recovery facilities
·  Best-in-class locker rooms and players’ lounge
·  Physical therapy areas including hydrotherapy pools
·  Sports science and nutrition facilities
·  Expanded media work room, press conference and broadcast facilities
·  A flexible hospitality area designed for community relations activities, partner gatherings and other guest events
·  Work space for the team’s coaching and basketball front office staffs
While the facility will have all the bells and whistles you would come to expect in a new facility, Gotham said there will be a balance of sorts struck between that and the franchise’s longstanding history.
“What will be clear is it will be … at that intersection of, which is a strange intersection, of innovation but honoring our tradition,” Gotham said. “This will be a building that’s state-of-the-art, moving forward. But at the same time, I think one of the things we’re lucky to have is this treasure trove of great guys who came before us who left great wisdom and great quotes. You can see a lot of that built in. Coach Stevens is big on having motivational phrases around for the guys to see every single day when they come in for practice. If those come from Red Auerbach and Bill Russell, all the better. You’ll see us incorporating those kind of things.”   

Celtics waive R.J. Hunter as James Young makes roster


Celtics waive R.J. Hunter as James Young makes roster

BOSTON – One way or another, R.J. Hunter or James Young was not going to be a Boston Celtic by the end of the day Monday.
The Celtics made their choice by waiving Hunter just hours before the NBA deadline to trim their roster down to 15 players.
Hunter began to show signs of coming around near the end of training camp, but his improved play would eventually be too little too late.

This is certainly good news for Young, who like Hunter, made it clear that he wanted to remain with the Celtics. But it by no means should be seen as a victory for Young who is entering his third NBA season.
The 21-year-old is now part of the 15-man roster, but it still doesn’t address the issue of him playing better to where the Celtics might actually use him with some degree of regularity.
If not for Kelly Olynyk’s shoulder injury, which will keep him out of action until next month, there was a decent chance that Young would begin the season on the inactive roster. But to Young’s credit, he showed a level of dedication to the game that the Celtics had not seen before. He spent most of this past summer in Boston working on his game, trying to get physically stronger. During the preseason, his level of commitment to improving was noticeable as well.
And when he did get a chance to play in the preseason, he did a lot of little things really well, showing the kind of improvement that ultimately put him a leg up on Hunter whom the Celtics drafted last year with the 28th overall pick.
If Hunter isn’t claimed, he becomes an unrestricted free agent who can then sign with any team of his choosing. Do not be surprised if Hunter is claimed off waivers by a team which then assigns him to their Development League affiliate, similar to what the Celtics did with Ryan Kelly over the weekend.