EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


September 27, 2007

Celtics believe this could be a banner year

WALTHAM - Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers couldn't help but smile at the thought of what could have been.

"The summer didn't start off really good for us," said Rivers with a chuckle. "You saw (Celtics Executive Director of Basketball Operations and general manager) Danny (Ainge's) expression and my expression (at the NBA Draft lottery) when that ball came out and we got the fifth lottery ball. ... Danny really turned this into something really nice."

No such sad expressions can be found in Celtics land now, days before training camp is set to open. In fact, the glow of positivity coming from the team is nearly blinding.

"What's realistic I'm not sure," said Ainge. "But I know there is hope we can do something great. There is hope to put up another banner."

It is not often that a team is talking titles a year after winning only 24 games (24-58 record). But the term was tossed around without fear at the annual Celtics media lunch yesterday.

"Last year, we had one of our first player meetings when you go around the locker room and ask the players their goals," said Rivers. "And one of the young players said that, 'I think we can win a world championship.' Last year ... we would have said that was unrealistic.

"But if someone said that this season, I don't think anyone would say it's unrealistic."

With the much-anticipated unveiling of "Boston Celtics 2.0" rapidly approaching, there is plenty of reason for excitement. And not just among fans.

"This is a different group of players I am coaching," said Rivers. "Before, we were coaching players 23 or under and there was not enough time in the day to teach and work. Now, instead of teaching guys how to play, you are teaching them how to play together."

Much has been made of the overhaul to the Celtics roster, which boasts a whopping nine new players including the well-publicized additions of perennial All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen along with less-celebrated veterans such as small forward James Posey and center/forward Scot Pollard.

And the C's brass looked like the proud owners of a new muscle car when discussing the new team.

"The Big 3 are going to have to give up things and do things they have never had to do to win," said Rivers. "Every player in the league says he wants to win, but is it under their own (rules)? Are they willing to get out of their comfort zone and win.

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