Celtics Begin Second Season in Waltham
WALTHAM, Mass. – The second season began today for the Boston Celtics.
The Atlantic Division champions gathered at the practice facility in Waltham, Mass., for their first-ever postseason practice together. The energy level in the building was clearly heightened, and how could it not be? Every game from here on out is either a step closer to Banner 18, or a step closer to a summer of uncertainty.
Kevin Garnett, the emotional leader of this surging Celtics squad, understands that fact as well as anyone. According to him, he’s planning on taking two steps in the right direction.
“I only have two feet,” Garnett said, “and they’re both going to be in.”
Garnett and the rest of his teammates headed into this truncated season with an “all-in” mindset regarding one last run at a championship. The time has come to deliver on that goal.
Although we’ve heard the saying “one more run” used over and over to describe this Celtics team throughout the past few seasons, this time the threat is legitimate. There is a strong possibility that this could be the final time the Big Three and Rajon Rondo make a playoff run together.
That reality holds weight with this Celtics team. The core four have been together for five arduous seasons that have brought them to the highest of highs, and at some points the lowest of lows. If all is right in their world, they will reach a pinnacle moment yet again by bringing a second championship trophy home to Boston this season.
Completing that difficult task will be a hefty challenge. The Celtics have been nursing injuries all season long, and like almost every player in the league, Boston’s stars head into the playoffs with a long list of bumps and bruises.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo all played in the final game of the regular season Thursday night, but none of them are 100 percent healthy. Garnett is treating a hip flexor injury that has followed him like a shadow for months, while Pierce is playing through a painful left big toe injury. Rondo, meanwhile, returned to the lineup Thursday night after missing three games with a sore lower back.
All of those players will be ready to go on Sunday, but their longtime comrade, Ray Allen, likely will not.
Allen has been dealing with a sore right ankle for more than a month now and he hasn’t played in a game since April 10. He did not participate in Friday’s practice session but may test the ankle during Saturday’s practice. If he does, the ankle’s response to that session will determine whether or not he will be available for Game 1.
Whether Allen is on the court or not doesn’t change the fact that this foursome will soak up every moment of this playoff run together. These four players aren’t like a family. They are a family. And they understand that opportunities to challenge for titles, particularly with those whom they love, won’t come around forever.
“Veterans, these things mean so much to them now, because they’ve got one, two chances at this the rest of their careers,” Doc Rivers said, “and you don’t want to blow this.”
The Celtics, from top to bottom, are confident that they will avoid such a disaster. They have been one of the best teams in the NBA for a full two months now. They also have Garnett, Pierce and Rondo playing at All-NBA levels alongside a more than capable supporting cast.
“We feel like we’re ready,” Garnett said matter-of-factly on Friday. “Today’s obviously a day of preparation, but for the most part, energy, health-wise, we feel ready.”
Preparation might actually be the one factor that can help this Celtics team get over the hump come June. Remember that the C’s just completed a 66-game season in which they probably held a total of less than 10 legitimate practices. For a team that prides itself on preparation and hard work on the practice floor, that isn’t an easy obstacle to overcome.
Now that the postseason has arrived, that obstacle has blown away in the wind. Boston can now get back into its rhythm of practicing and preparing before each and every game, and its players and coaches are excited about that opportunity.
“It’s going to be great for us,” Pierce said of the days off between games. “We get to practice more time this next week than we have probably in the last couple of months (combined); no back-to-back situations, and I think that’s going to hold well for us.”
Pierce certainly has a great grasp on how his team has performed this season on short rest. The C’s were just 12-9 this season on days in which they had no rest. When they played games with one day of rest they racked up an impressive 23-13 record. If you haven’t taken a look at the series schedule yet, five of the final six games will be played on one day of rest.
With preparation and motivation on their side, this group of Celtics is ready to get after it in its second season. All of them, in particular the core group of four who have become synonymous with a Boston Celtics jersey, understand that the time is now.
As their coach proclaimed on Friday, “They know the clock is ticking.”