WALTHAM, Mass. -- Sometimes there are things in life that you just can't believe until you see them in person. Such is the 2010-11 Boston Celtics team.
Fifty-one All-Star appearances? Impossible. Life-size personalities in every corner of the locker room? Too much to handle. Four premier offseason signings, three of which will likely be reserves? That can't work.
This team can't really exist, can it?
Yet there it all was, live in the flesh, Monday afternoon in Waltham, Mass., as this season's Celtics squad came out of the locker room one-by-one for their two hours of media access heaven.
As anyone would expect, the first player to make his way out of the locker room was Avery Bradley. Who else would the C's throw out to the media wolves to open up the day than the rookie out of Texas? Seconds after he made it out of the locker room door, Bradley was surrounded by dozens of reporters who have been waiting months to gather genuine basketball content. Good news for the Celtics is that Bradley didn't crumble under the pressure; he took the lengthy first interview of the day in stride and moved on to complete the remaining 14 media stations that were scattered throughout the practice facility.
As players continued to pour out of the locker room, the energy on the practice court continued to rise. While Ray Allen spoke to the media at one end of the gym, Glen Davis was interviewed for Celtics On Demand at the other end. Between them, Kevin Garnett posed for pictures in front of blue, white and black screens, and other Celtics signed hundreds of memorabilia items. Although these station-by-station movements can be a bit monotonous for everyone involved, there's a feeling of new life that filters through the air on Media Day. After all, this is Day 1 of the NBA season.
It's also Day 1 of summer acquisitions making their first appearance with the team, and the Celtics have plenty of those. Seven players in all made their debuts today, but there was one that clearly stood above the rest -- literally.
When Shaquille O'Neal made his way onto the court, he played the role of showstopper. It seemed as if everything that anyone was doing came to a sudden halt, with all eyes fixated on the Big Shamrock as he made his way across the court.
While he looks to be in great shape and has visibly trimmed up, Shaq is still a larger than life human being. If you haven't seen the man in person, you're going to be taken aback, and that's exactly what happened to at least half of the media members on the practice court. There were smiles and looks of awe creeping across many of their faces as they quickly scrambled for their cell phones to snap a quick picture. He was clearly a hit on Day 1, and it sounds as if he's going to be a hit throughout the season, too.
From Kevin Garnett to Nate Robinson, almost every Celtic had nothing but positive remarks for O'Neal. Garnett, Robinson and a couple of other C's noted how well Shaq has been moving during pick-up games over the past couple of weeks. Paul Pierce went into even more detail.
"In one pick-up game, he got three fast-break layups," Pierce said while trying to hold back a laugh. "You don't really hear about Shaq getting fast-break layups."
Garnett is another Celtic who garnered praise for how he's looked on the practice court. Now 16 months removed from having bone spurs removed from his right knee, Garnett said that he feels "very, very strong." President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge has seen visual evidence that leads him to concur with KG's assessment.
"In watching him just work out last week, I think he's in a much better place right now than he was at this time last year," Ainge said. "He's in a good place. He's moving well."
In addition to all of the positive feedback Boston gave regarding its physical abilities, those large personalities couldn't help from surfacing throughout the day as well. Nate Robinson, per usual, was one of the most lively C's on Monday, and he sparked a couple of funny moments while he made his rounds.
First, while he was in the middle of his Celtics and NBA photoshoot, he yelled across the court to Rajon Rondo and made the star point guard come over to shoot some pics with him. Then, out of nowhere, he got Shaq to join in, too. For about two minutes, the trio had a hoard of media members laughing at every move. (A taste of that temporary shoot can be seen on the homepage.)
Then, toward the end of the day, he called out Kendrick Perkins, who was in the middle of his own photoshoot and doing some crossovers and dribbling through his legs for the camera. Robinson yelled down to Perk, from directly above him, to remind him that he's a big man and shouldn't be dribbling. Garnett agreed, because he turned around and yelled over from his station about 20 feet away (which was a video interview station with the Cartoon Network) to notify Perk that he couldn't finish his promo until Perk's dribbling noise ceased in the background. Perk yelled back to both of them to make his case as to why he was allowed to dribble, but then laughed off the comments and went back to his shoot -- minus the dribbling.
These are the type of moments that happen throughout the entire two-plus hours of media day, and they're sure to continue into training camp and beyond. No matter how improbable it may be, this roster that is reminiscent of an All-Star team is getting along as if they were born to play together, and that's a great sign for Day 1.
Make no mistake about it, Ubuntu is back. And the prediction here is that when this star-studded roster takes the court all week for training camp on the campus of Salve Regina in Newport, R.I., it's going to gain infinite traction.