Blakely: Appreciating the Celtics Way


Blakely: Appreciating the Celtics Way

BOSTON The storied history and tradition that is the Boston Celtics is among the many alluring qualities that players embrace once they're here.

But in the NBA, history means little without an attractive present and an optimistic future -- the latter two very much in the air with the Celtics.

They are coming off an unexpected run to the Eastern Conference finals where they were eliminated in seven games by the Miami Heat.

With only four players currently under contract for next season and a pair of first-round picks in the June 28th NBA draft, the Celtics have a number of holes to fill, obviously.

Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, told that he plans to include Celtic free-agents-to-be in the pool of talent he'll look to add from via free agency this offseason.

Those guys get it. They understand what being a Celtic is about.

And while others may have heard about it, some of the Celtic newbies this year learned first-hand that it's so much more than what they were told.

"There really is such a thing as the Celtic way," Boston guard Keyon Dooling told recently. "Accountability, respect for the game, and expectations that are always high, higher than most, that's part of it."

Added Brandon Bass: "You're part of something bigger here than you find other places. Some might see it as 'Boston, they just another team.' Nah. It's not like that. This is a special organization, man, it really is."

Now if only the C's could convince other free agents of that.

For years, the Celtics have not been viewed as a free-agent hotbed, with players often citing the high cost of living and cold weather as reasons to stay away.

In addition, having Rajon Rondo and the Big Three around for five years left little room for a player hoping to develop into an immediate impact player.

And when you throw in the the fact that the Celtics have had so much salary cap space tied up between Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo, making significant changes to the roster has been challenging, to say the least.

We saw that play out during the offseason when the Celtics tried to trade Rondo to New Orleans for Chris Paul who ultimately got his wish and wound up being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. Boston tried to work out a multi-team deal to land David West, but he too spurned the C's and ultimately signed with the Indiana Pacers. Celtics coach Doc Rivers recently revealed that Boston was close on a deal involving rebounding-magnet Reggie Evans, but that fell apart and Evans eventually signed with the Clippers.

Any of those players would have fit in well here in Boston.

But as important as it may be to have players who are willing to embrace the past, Ainge knows his priority has to be the same every year -- add talented players.

And with that talent, Ainge wants the right fit for Doc Rivers' system in addition to being able to play off of the talents of the C's core group which now consists of Pierce and Rondo.

There will be plenty of time to figure out what it takes to be a Celtic, something that's not fully understood until well after the ink on a new deal is dry.

Ray Allen has a stealth-like confidence about him that's been around since, well, forever. That confidence stems from a long and lengthy track record of success wherever he has played.

But when he was part of a draft-night trade to Boston in 2007, whatever achievements and accomplishments he had prior, meant little around these parts.

He was joining what is arguably the most tradition-rich franchise in the NBA, where expectations are high and mediocrity isn't acceptable.

"It's always been somewhat intimidating," Allen said. "You walk into a building every day and you see the banners and the retired jerseys in the building," Allen said. "It just always makes you work a little bit harder. When (John) Havlicek is in the building, when (Bob) Cousy is around. Tommy (Heinsohn) is watching us every day. Bill Russell is at the games. Those are like our big brothers."

There are few franchises -- not just the NBA, but professional sports as a whole -- that have the kind of longstanding track record of greatness that the C's have.

For someone like Allen who appreciates the journey that is NBA basketball, playing for the Celtics is something that's unique compared to other teams he suited up for.

And to do so with a pair of fellow future Hall-of-Famers in Pierce and Garnett has made his time in Boston even more special.

"Five years has gone quickly," Allen said. "But it seems like it has lasted forever. We've played in a lot of big games. We won a championship together. It's been a privilege. I can definitely say that."