Marathon Tragedy Resonates with Celtics

WALTHAM, Mass. – Today was a difficult day for any Bostonian to get up and go to work. Even if work simply includes playing the game of basketball.

The aftermath of Monday’s terrorist attacks at the finish line of the Boston Marathon has left the city of Boston and its residents shaken. The Boston Celtics, whose game against the Indiana Pacers Tuesday night at TD Garden has since been canceled, are no exception.

The Celtics gathered at their practice facility Tuesday morning and many of them were still visually disturbed by Monday’s events. Doc Rivers, who lives just blocks away from the finish line, was at a loss for words as he began to address the media prior to practice.

“It’s just horrible, horrible events,” he said. “Living right in that area, right there... it was an awful, awful day. A sad day.”

Rivers is the one member of the Celtics who wound up in the heart of the aftermath. He was on his was to the Marathon when he learned of the devastating news.

“I always go down after practice and watch every year that we’ve been in town, because I live literally two blocks from the finish line,” Rivers said. “I was on my way, actually. I had just gotten out of the (Copley Square/Prudential Center) tunnel when the bomb exploded.”

What he saw in the following minutes was pure chaos.

“Obviously I didn’t hear or see anything, but you just saw the people running and the ambulances and just everything,” he recalled. “It was hysteria. It was crazy.”

Rivers returned to his home and was told by authorities, “Don’t leave. Stay inside.” Such instructions meant that he was restricted to watching the day unfold outside his window, which was a troubling view.

“I don’t want to use the word ‘shock,’ but yeah, ‘shock’ might be the word,” Rivers said. “I had a bird’s eye view of that.”

Another Celtic who lives downtown, Jeff Green, also recalled the process of learning about the attacks as well as the initial thoughts that ran through his head.

“I was on the way home and I got like 10 texts in a row and when I got home I saw it on the news,” Green said. “And that’s when it really hit home.

“When stuff like that happens you always think the worst. I just want to be safe, I want everybody in this city to be safe, so I think that was the right call to cancel [Tuesday’s] game and we’ve just got to pray for all of the families that were involved in it and try to do the best we can to help them.”

Most of the other Celtics are scattered throughout the suburbs of the city. Many of them, like newcomer Shavlik Randolph, live close to the team’s practice facility in Waltham, Mass., which is about 20 miles outside of downtown. Although those members of the team weren’t in the middle of the chaos, they were still crushed by what they watched unfold on television.

“I turned on the news, and it’s just one of those days you’re going to remember, and in a bad way,” Randolph said, sounding broken at the core. “It’s so terrible. You can’t even put it into words.”

Hours after Randolph, his teammates and the country began watching news coverage, the players learned that the NBA and the Celtics organization had agreed to cancel Tuesday’s scheduled game against the Pacers. That decision, in Randolph’s mind, was both necessary and correct.

“It would have been very difficult,” Randolph said of going through with the game. “Obviously, I don’t think anyone’s thinking about basketball at a time like this. It absolutely puts things in perspective. At this time you have to think about the people that were affected, the people that were hurt by that. That’s what’s important.”

Randolph’s sentiments are right in line with the Celtics’ top executives. Team President Rich Gotham explained the organization’s thought process in determining that the game should not be played.

“Out of respect to all of the people who were affected by this, the families, we felt like it’s just not circumstances we wanted to play under and felt it would be the best way for us as an organization to show our respects to all of the people who are impacted by this,” Gotham said.

He continued, “I just think it was more of an emotional decision to try to do what’s right and respect the families and understand that people might not want to be out. Our games are celebrations in a small way. People might not want to be out celebrating tonight.”

Instead, people are out assisting those in need, as has been the case since the moment the explosions took place on Monday. We’ve all seen the videos and stories that have surfaced detailing the heroic acts of first responders, medical staff and ordinary citizens. Rivers, who was in a position to witness some of those acts first-hand, commended the city for its incredible efforts.

“The city has responded,” Rivers said. “It was awesome watching people help people. I’m driving and you can see people helping people walk, helping people go to the right places. This city has an amazing amount of spirit and I think it showed last night and today still.”

The resiliency of this city and its people has been on full display since 2:50 p.m. on Monday, April 15. Many lives were saved, more lives will be saved, and our country’s authorities will continue to work until their investigation is solved.

In the meantime, there is no doubt that the terror of Monday’s events will continue to hang heavy on the shoulders and hearts of Bostonians, Celtics included.