As soon as Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen entered the Fleet Center this summer -- joining All-Star Paul Pierce -- the Boston Celtics had their best trio of players since their title runs of the 1980s. And that has Pierce, a survivor of last season’s train wreck and some other dismal years, excited about what could happen in Boston during the next eight to nine months.
Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish did not walk through the door this summer at the Fleet Center.
But as soon as Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen did -- joining All-Star Paul Pierce -- the Boston Celtics had their best trio of players since their title runs of the 1980s.
And that has Pierce, a survivor of last season’s train wreck and some other dismal years, excited about what could happen in Boston during the next eight to nine months.
“I’ve been carrying a heavy load for the Celtics over many years, and I’m not getting any younger, and the load was getting heavier every year,”
Pierce said last week. “So I’m real happy to have the chance to play with these guys and hopefully aim for a championship.”
NBA training camps open this week, with Boston taking its new look to Europe for the start of its camp today. Talking to media during a conference call last week, Pierce made no attempt to lower expectations for a team that went 24-58 last season, then suffered awful luck in the lottery.
When asked if an NBA title was possible, Pierce said, “Definitely. I don’t see why not.”
Just last spring, the Celtics were hopeful to land the top pick in the draft lottery, rebuilding with either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant.
But for Pierce, who has won just three playoff series in nine seasons, the prospects of rebuilding did not seem pleasant. Injured much of last season and tired of waiting for more pieces to be added, he had grown impatient even before the Celtics slipped to fifth in the lottery.
“I started to think that it wouldn’t happen and that they would get the No. 1 pick and probably trade me in a rebuilding process,” he said. “Once we didn’t get the No. 1 pick and then we traded for Ray Allen, then I started to think that things were going to work out.”
Once he found out about the trade for Garnett, it “was icing on the cake” “I get to play with guys that want the same thing I want and nothing more than a championship,” Pierce said.
With the team’s 16 championship banners hanging overhead every home game, Pierce is well aware of the team’s tradition. “As soon as you put on the uniform, you know that (expectations) will always be high, given the past and the history.”
That’s fine with him.
“This will be the first year that I’m coming into the season, and there are lots of expectations on us,” Pierce said. “In all of my nine years, I don’t think we’ve been expected to do much. So it’s going to be a lot of fun. There are going to be ups and downs, but I think we’ll get through it.”
Welcome to Europe
The Celtics will spend 10 days overseas, playing a preseason game in Rome against Toronto before heading to London for another game with Minnesota. Pierce thinks it’s a good opportunity for the team to create chemistry.
“We’ll get to know each other on and off the court. That’s the good thing about us going out of the country,” he said. “After practice, guys will have a chance to bond together instead of going home to their families. It’s just going to be us out there, and we’re going to have to get to know one another 24/7.”
Phoenix forward Shawn Marion, often the subject of trade rumors, requested one last week.
“I’m tired of hearing my name in trades,” Marion told The Arizona Republic.
“I love my fans in Phoenix, but I think it’s time for me to move on.”
The highest paid of the star-studded Suns, Marion said his situation “is like a nightmare. ... It’s hurting me in my stomach.”
His teammates, including two-time MVP Steve Nash, do not want to see Marion leave.
“It’s sad to hear he wants to go,” Nash told Phoenix media Wednesday. “We’re very close to winning a championship, and we want everyone on board.”
If the Suns move Marion, the Jazz or the Lakers could be trading partners.
Former all-star forward Andrei Kirilenko had his own nightmares last season in Utah and wants out. The Lakers could move the enigmatic Lamar Odom.
C-Web to Greece?
Chris Webber has received two-year offer worth $10 million to $12 million to play in Greece, according to ESPN.com. It would make him the highest paid American player in Europe. Webber is considering a return to the Pistons and may wait a month or two to join them because of roster issues in Detroit.
No more ‘Nasty’
Corliss Williamson, who won NBA and NCAA titles, retired this week after 14 seasons. The “Big Nasty” was the Most Outstanding Player of the 1994 NCAA Final Four, when he led Arkansas to the title over Duke. Ten years later, he helped the Pistons win an NBA title. Williamson is going to be an assistant coach at Arkansas Baptist College.
Able to joke
Greg Oden has not lost his sense of humor despite the knee injury that will force him to miss his entire rookie season. He does not know how he suffered the injury that resulted in microfracture surgery but joked with Portland media Thursday about how it did not happen.
“I just want everybody to know: I did not hurt my knee getting up off the couch this summer, and I didn’t hurt my knee playing ‘Dance Dance Revolution’ (video game) and break dancing this summer. That did not happen.”
Reach Repository sports writer Chris Beaven at (330) 580-8345 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org