Reveling in the surprise party


Reveling in the surprise party

After six months spent watching the Celtics overcome every obstacle and bounce back from the dead more times than Kenny McCormick, its hard to believe that Saturday really marked the end of their season.

In fact, Im still not convinced that theyre done. After all, if any team can lose Game 7 of the Conference Finals and somehow live to see another day, it would be these Celtics, right? Right?!

I guess, but delusions aside, we all know the truth. It came down hard on Saturday night, as the Cs ran out of gas, LeBron casually drained a half court jumper and a fan base that barely deserves a team celebrated its second straight trip to the NBA Finals. Yeah, maybe the pains started to evaporate, but the bitterness still exists, and it will remain until the Thunder take care of business, or . . . I dont know, until forever? Then again, its hard to get bitter about anything after the month-long surprise party the Celtics threw this city.

They took us places that weve been before, but were sure wed never see again or not for a while, not with this group. They taught us important lessons about the power of team, heart, faith and resilience. Lessons that we learned in 2010, but conveniently forgot. Lessons that Im sure well eventually forget again. But for now, theyre fresh, and what this team just accomplished not only inspires us as fans, but as human beings: Screw the haters. Just work hard. Stay focused. Be you. (Also, it helps if youre a seven-footer with a deadly jumper, or 6-foot-1 with blinding speed, a beautiful mind, freakish wingspan and hands the size of frying pans.)

Man, it was an amazing run. Unfortunately, one that will be quickly overshadowed by the star-studded NBA Finals and the Celtics state of uncertainty by the draft, free agency and retirement rumors. But before we get there, before the greatness of the Celtics improbable charge to within one win of the Finals starts to fade like a photo of the McFlys, lets take one more second to breathe it all in. To go back to the moment before Game 6, before Game 7, when everything was so real, when you firmly believed in the impossible, when the Celtics were on top of the world and on the verge conquering it. Do it now, before the feelings gone forever . . .

Ahhhhhhh, thats good Celtics.

What a run.

What a team.

Now, lets turn the page.

In the coming days, weeks and months, things will get crazy around here. Have we just witnessed the end of an era? Is Ray gone? Is KG retiring? If so, does Danny step up and trade Pierce? Who knows? All I can tell you is that Im holding off on the obituaries. Ive wasted far too many words and hours eulogizing this team over the last three years. Im done with the speculation. Im done with preemptive goodbyes; with assuming we know what these guys will do next.

When Rays at the podium in New York, Miami or Chicago, Ill say goodbye. When the Celtics announce that theyve received a hand-written note from KG saying: Its been real. See you never. Ill say goodbye. When Pauls sitting between Danny and Doc on stage in Waltham, with tears in his eyes, saying thank you for everything that Bostons meant to him over the last 14 years . . . Ill say goodbye. Until then, what else can we do but sit back and see what happens. And you know what? Im actually excited to see what happens.

That alone feels like a victory.

Weve spent the last five seasons training ourselves to fear the end of the Big Three Era. As if once one, two or all three of these guys walk away, well realize that the last five years were nothing but a dream, and wake up in the same awful place that we were before they got here. With Rondo in Pierces role as tumultuous leader, surrounded by a slew of interchangeable, irrelevant parts, and Doc flailing at ways to keep it all together. The Big Three Era is what saved this team, so we just figured that the end would doom them once again. It was a natural fear. An honest fear. But personally, its one thats faded significantly.

Part of that has to do with the changing face of Boston sports in general, because lets be honest: Were all living though a major transition.

Once Kevin Faulk retires, Tom Brady will be the only one left from that first Super Bowl. David Ortiz is already the only one left from that first World Series (I know Youk was on the roster, but he was the 40th man). In the time since Vinatieris kick in New Orleans which started this run of unprecedented greatness weve said goodbye to nearly every athlete we ever loved. We watched a dynasty disappear, we watched the Idiots go their separate ways. In the process, weve learned that life goes on. That change doesnt always breed disaster. That while those may have been the good old days, that doesnt mean that all the other days have to be a nightmare. That if you truly love a team, you'll find reasons to love them. Or more, those reasons will find you.

Hell, Rob Gronkowski was 12 when the Patriots won that first Super Bowl. Avery Bradley was 11. Tyler Seguin had just turned 10. Some of our favorite athletes in this city were basically babies when this whole thing started. Do you think they know anything about Boston's decade of dominance? Or more, what it was like before that?

Times are changing. Times have already changed. Whether its in two days or two years, time is coming for the Big Three. And while thats terrifying on the surface, time has taught us that theres also reason to be optimistic.

Time has showed us that Rondo is ready to run with the torch. That Avery Bradley is more than ready to run with him. Throw in Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox, Greg Stiemsma, two first round picks from an especially deep draft, not to mention all the money the Celtics have available and . . . well, I'm already way ahead of myself. But the point is that while we've spent the last six months fearing that the end of this season was going to trigger a return to the Dark Ages, in reality, even the worst case scenario doesn't look so bad. We can see the future. The foundation is in place. It's starting to make sense.

But we'll deal with that when we get there.

For now, all we can do is take another second and appreciate a great run from a great team. And know that if Saturday night truly marked the end of not only the Celtics season, but this latest era of Celtics basketball, that we were all lucky to have seen it, to be a part of it, and to have lived and died with them from the beginning to the end.

And that while no one knows what the future holds, we can all agree on one thing:

Let's go, Thunder.

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Young understands work isn't done after claiming Celtics final roster spot

Young understands work isn't done after claiming Celtics final roster spot

WALTHAM, Mass. – For so many years the game of basketball came easy – almost too easy – for James Young.

He stood out on a young Kentucky team that played at the highest levels, delivering the kind of performances as an 18-year-old college freshman that catapulted him into the first round of the NBA draft.

To be so young and already having achieved a childhood dream, to be in the NBA, Young was too young to realize how quickly the dream could become a nightmare if he didn't put in the necessary work.

The past couple of weeks have not been easy for Young, aware that the Celtics were torn as to whether they should keep him around this season or waive him.

They choose the former and instead waived his now-ex teammate R.J. Hunter, on Hunter’s 23rd birthday no less.

One of the first acts Young said he planned to do following Monday's practice was to reach out to Hunter, offer words of encouragement to a player he looked upon as a brother, a brother who is in a state of basketball limbo right now which could have easily been the latest chapter in James Young’s basketball narrative.

And that’s why as happy as Young is to still be donning the Green and White, his work towards proving himself to this team, to this franchise is far from done.

You listen to veterans like Jae Crowder, a second-round pick who has come up the hard way in the NBA, they speak of how Young now takes the game more serious.

Even Young acknowledged that he didn’t take the NBA game and the need to work at staying in the league as serious as he should have initially.

“I wasn’t playing as hard (early on),” Young admitted. “I just was satisfied being where I was, being too comfortable. My confidence was down. I have to change that around.”

Crowder, a straight-no-chaser kind of fellow, said as much when I asked him about the changes he has seen in Young.

“He’s taking stuff a little more serious,” Crowder said. “It’s growing up. He came in as a first-round draft pick and was on the borderline of getting cut. I don’t know what else is going to wake you up.”

That’s part of what made this decision so difficult and on some levels, left players with mixed emotions about the decision.

For those of us who followed this team through training camp, there was no question that Young had the better camp.

But the one thing that was never questioned with Hunter, was his work ethic. He made his share of mistakes and missed more shots than a player with a sharpshooter's reputation should, but you never got a sense it had anything to do with him not working as hard as he needed to.

That was among the more notable issues with Young who came into the league as an 18-year-old. That youth probably worked for him as opposed to Hunter who played three years of college basketball and was expected to be seemingly more NBA-ready.

Even though Hunter’s NBA future is on uncertain ground now, he’s too young and too talented to not get at least one more crack with an NBA team.

And by Boston waiving him, he really does become a low-risk, high-reward prospect that an NBA team might want to take a closer look at with their club. 

And Young remains a Celtic, doing all that he can to climb up the pecking order which now has him as the clear-cut 15th man on the roster.

He might see more minutes than rookie Demetrius Jackson and possibly second-year forward Jordan Mickey, but Young’s future with the Boston Celtics is still on relatively thin ice.

“I told him this morning, this might be the first time he’s earned anything in his life,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations.  “He earned this by his play, day-in and day-out. He was given a lot as a young kid with a lot of promise, a lot of potential. We talked about earlier this summer, he had to come out and win a spot with some good competition and he did. He needs to keep doing what he’s doing.”

More than anything else, Young has been consistent in his effort, overall energy and attention to detail. But it remains to be seen if Young has done all that to just secure a roster spot, or has he truly grown up and figured out what has to be done in order to be an NBA player.

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.”