"Two years ago, we made the blockbuster deals, reinvented ourselves and went on a run," said the 62-year-old coach before last night's game. "Right now, (the Celtics) have put together a great team with three great players, and they are a force on defense."
It wasn't easy last night. In fact, it was a nail-biter. But that was good. It made for a more dramatic changing of the guard.
Want to know the best-case-scenario for this season's Boston Celtics? Look no further than the team sitting on the opposite side of the scorer's table last night, the Miami Heat.
Well, that's not really true, given the recent struggles the Heat have faced, including last night's 92-91 loss to the C's. But the team does still resemble the one that hoisted the NBA Finals trophy two seasons ago.
It was Miami who, before the 2005-06 NBA season, went out and grabbed all the veterans it could get its hands on (Jason Williams, Antoine Walker, Gary Payton, etc.), not unlike a certain team in green this season.
While the additions may not have been the caliber of the players the C's brought in this season (they already had Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade, after all), the spirit was still there.
That and the question, "Can they all play together?"
In Heat's case, of course, the answer was yes, given they won the NBA championship that season. Miami managed to overcome a sea of egos and finish off the Dallas Mavericks in the finals.
But the NBA finals are a distant memory for Miami.
The Heat are not rebuilding. Four of the five starters from the title team (O'Neal, Wade, Udonis Haslem, Williams) remain and veterans such as Ricky Davis and Penny Hardaway have been added.
But that hasn't stopped Miami from falling to 1-8. Wednesday's loss to then-winless Seattle was rock bottom, and its lone win was against the lowly New York Knicks.
"You got to watch out for teams like this," said the Celtics' Paul Pierce. "They're desperate for a win and they had Wade back. We let our guard down for a minute and they struck."
Miami did push the Celtics to the brink, taking the lead with less than a minute to play. But that in itself showed where the two teams are.
Last night, in many ways, was symbolic. Two very similar teams, one surging to the top of the NBA while the other suddenly sinking to the depths of the league.
In previous years, would the Celtics have stood as the taller team at the end?
The Heat were what the Celtics want to be, a team built to win a championship in the way that the Red Sox constructed their recent title teams.
"They have three Hall of Famers out there," said O'Neal after the game, "and they do very well working together."
To this point, the C's have made it work famously, like Miami did two years ago. Kevin Garnett has been better than advertised, Ray Allen is showing no ill-effects of his ankle surgery from last season, and Pierce remains the guy, including muscling his way in for the game-winning shot last night.
"The tough part about great players is to have three or four that are all motivated," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "When they all have the same agenda (like the Heat did two years ago) then you have a chance to make it work. When one or two don't, that's when problems occur."
Regardless of records, having Miami in the house last night as the Celtics surged to one of their best starts in team history was appropriate.
Those who say a team built on big stars and big egos can't win a title need only to look at the 2005-06 Miami Heat.
Now, the star-filled Celtics look to do the same.
David Willis is an Eagle-Tribune sportswriter. E-mail him at email@example.com.
Final score: Celtics 92, Heat 91
Attendance: 18,624 (sellout)
Records: Boston 8-0; Miami 1-8
Play of the game: With time running out, Paul Pierce drove to the lane and knocked down a layup in traffic for the game-winner with 25 seconds left. That after nearly sitting out the game with a back strain.
Player of the game: James Posey was immense in his first game against his former team. Posey spent nearly all of his 27 minutes on the court guarding Miami star Dwyane Wade, including the stop on the final play of the game. He also helped fill in for Pierce, who only played 30 minutes.
Unsung hero: Kendrick Perkins did an admirable job on Shaquille O'Neal, holding him to 17 points and six rebounds. He added 10 points of his own.
The streak: The Celtics have opened the season on an 8-game winning streak. That is the fourth best start in team history. The best is 14 straight wins by the 1957-58 C's.
Quote of the game: "They (the Celtics) have three Hall of Famers out there and they do very well together." Shaquille O'Neal.