Behind Enemy Lines
When he arrived as a rookie, Powe’s Celtics dropped 58 games. The next season, his team won 66 games and their 17th NBA Championship.
As the Cavaliers gear up for the pivotal Game 3 in Beantown, cavs.com asked Leon what it was like to play at the Garden back then and what it’ll be like when the Wine and Gold take the floor on Friday night.
Are Celtic fans as rough as they’ve been made out to be?
Leon Powe: Yeah, they’re rough. Usually, they treat the players well, though. They like good effort and they can tell when you’re not giving good effort out there on the court; they’ll let you know about it.
But otherwise they’re great fans. They’re behind you to the end.
I can go back to my first year when we were losing all those games. We still had a good crowd. That just shows how great of fans they are and how much they love basketball. But they will dog you if they can sense you’re not playing hard.
Can the Garden be intimidating for a visiting player?
Powe: Anytime you play there, it feels like a big game. I don’t know if it’s intimidating, but at the same time, you know you ain’t at your house.
What’s the difference between Celtic fans and Cavalier fans?
Powe: Their fans feel that they should put together a championship-caliber team – and win the Championship – every year. That’s what a lot of them are used to.
And these fans, they’re excited to see a good team put together and they’re looking forward to getting one. They want the Championship just as bad (or more) than Boston’s fans. But they’re dying for that first one.
Boston fans are a little spoiled by their earlier championships. But they both want the same thing. They’re coming from different directions. One city is used to it; the other city is hungry for it.
Do the Celtics still lead the league in trash talking?
Powe: Oh, yeah. Of course. In my first year there, everyone was kicking us around. And when we got good, we started kicking back. Even when we were up 20, we were still talking crazy. It probably wasn’t the appropriate thing to do. But we were used to getting kicked so much, that we felt it was our time to give it back.
That’s where the trash talking came in. And they just carried it into a whole different level after that.
K.G. was the ringleader, he started it all off.
Did he ever give it to you in practice?
Powe: Me and him used to go at it. It never came down to a fistfight, but it got a little crazy in there. But that’s just his competitive attitude. I’m the same way. I want to win. Whatever we’re playing – practice, ping pong, anything – I’m trying to win. And he’s trying to win. It was fun.
So, you saw the towel throwing incident?
Powe: Yeah, I saw it. That’s Danny. I talked to my brother on the phone and we said, ‘That’s how desperately they wanted to win that game.’
They were willing to anything and everything to get the win. And that’s what we need to do in Boston. That’s what’s going to propel us to victory in Boston. (Not throwing towels!) But we have to be desperate and – even though it’s 1-1 – go out there like our backs are against the wall and get home court back.