Training Camp Tips Off with Media Day in Waltham

WALTHAM - Officially, training camp kicks off Tuesday, but today the Boston Celtics introduced their players to the media.

Spirits were certainly high, hope sprung eternal and there were certainly new sights to be seen here in Waltham. Starting his first Celtics training camp after seven with the Timberwolves, Wally Szczerbiak said he "feels like a rookie again". Delonte West was explaining the significance of his new tattoos, while Big Al was talking about how he swore off fried chicken and dropped 30 pounds.

Captain Paul Pierce was marveling at the fact that he is entering his ninth season, and mentioned that he had just met some of his new teammates this morning. He's also wearing a brace on the left elbow after his offseason surgery and while he expects to take some bumps on it this year, he says that his take-it-to-the-basket approach is the only way he knows how to play and he won't shy away from contact to spare himself a little discomfort.

"They'll have to tear my arm off for me to change my style," said Pierce, who added that he has a "high tolerance for pain."

Pierce also seems especially enthusiastic about new point guard Sebastian Telfair, and he's not the only one. Being the heralded draft-day acquisition, Telfair probably drew the most curiosity; he was engulfed by cameras and notebooks at center court when he started chatting with reporters. And while the former high school phenom is certainly used to being the center of attention, he's looking at his debut in Boston as a new beginning. He struggled to live up to lofty expectations in Portland, and didn't like the idea that people had to make excuses for him when he didn't make a huge splash instantly in the NBA.

Then again, several high school stars who've jumped directly to the NBA needed a few seasons before they truly blossomed. Telfair feels like he's primed to become a basketball star again, now that he's starting over in Boston, closer to his family in Coney Island and playing in a system that will highlight his skills.

"We're talking about being a running team, playing small ball, and that's to my advantage," said Telfair, who noted that he's beginning to feel comfortable with taking a leadership role for the first time as a professional. "So now I feel like I am in a position to be the player that everyone wants me to be."

Perhaps the biggest question mark entering this camp is the point guard position. With Telfar and Rajon Rondo coming to Boston on draft day, Delonte West finds himself in a three-way competition for the starting job. Asked about it on several occasions, West joked that Al Jefferson should watch his back, because he plans on competing for the power forward gig.

Competition will be the name of the game across the roster in October. Aside from Paul Pierce and Wally Szczerbiak, Doc Rivers and his staff don't know what to expect from several players who are either returning from injury or are just too young and inexperienced to be considered consistent until they prove otherwise. And undrafted free agents Kevin Pittsnogle and Akin Akingbala know that with 18 guys currently under contract, they'll have to really make a convincing impression to make it to November when the roster is paired down to 15.

Meanwhile, Michael Olowokandi made a surprise appearance at Media Day. A free agent entering the season, he's hoping to extend his stay in Boston by working out for the Celtics in training camp on a nonguaranteed deal, and while he's not sure what he has left in the proverbial tank, he enjoyed his stay in Boston after the trade last season and wouldn't mind continuing his career with the Celtics.

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