Thinking Big in Boston

Celtics veteran Paul Pierce, left, is looking forward to having Kevin Garnett, center, and Ray Allen aboard this season.
Celtics veteran Paul Pierce, left, is looking forward to having Kevin Garnett, center, and Ray Allen aboard this season. (Stephan Savoia - AP Photo)
By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 29, 2007

WALTHAM, Mass., Sept. 28 -- Ever since Kevin Garnett's arrival in August, the Boston Celtics have made a concerted effort not to single him out, or any other individual, and instead place the bulk of the attention on Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Pierce called the trio, which has a combined 24 all-star appearances and zero championship rings, a group of players "who have been in the same situation, carrying franchises for a long period."

So inseparable, it seems, that they won't even have to carry a news conference alone. As the Celtics met with reporters in Boston before embarking for Rome for training camp on Saturday, Garnett, Allen and Pierce shared a podium at the teams' practice facility. For 20 minutes, they appeared at ease with each other, as they joked about the feel of their uniforms ("It's good material," Garnett said), expressed their desires to add another banner to a gym that is adorned with them and voiced their pleasure about taking this journey together.

"I'm privileged more than anything to be in this situation, where I'm at, in my career," said Garnett, who joined the Celtics after spending his first 12 seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves. "These are two very humble people. This makes it a little more peaceful. We're three unselfish guys who want to win."

Locally, Garnett, Allen and Pierce are already referred to as the Big Three -- a term once reserved for Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish as they led the franchise to three of its 16 NBA championships in the 1980s. And the trio adorns a huge billboard off Interstate 90 that reads, "Think Big."

"This organization has so much history," Garnett said. "The best part about coming in here is potentially, the three of us, creating our own history here. I'm looking forward to that."

Pierce has spent his entire nine-year career in Boston, and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals in 2002, but said he has never been a part of a team that enters a season with such high expectations. Pierce added that he was excited to finally have two hungry veterans alongside him, after playing with an inexperienced team that failed to win more than 33 games the past two seasons. "Most young players, their agenda is making a name for themselves in the league and they don't understand how to win," Pierce said. "These guys are at a point in our career that it's only one thing left. We've played in numerous all-star games. I know they share my hunger for a championship. Every day I walk into this building and see these banners up, I want to say one day that I was responsible for one of them."

Allen, who joined the Celtics in a draft day trade, said his goal this season is "for the TD Banknorth Garden to be feared every night."

Allen and Garnett have both experienced being parts of three-pronged attacks. Garnett won the 2004 MVP award playing alongside Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell in Minnesota and Allen teamed with Glenn Robinson and Cassell for almost four seasons in Milwaukee. Both players said that experience should make this transition smoother. "For me, it's a lot different," Allen said. "Even though this is the same situation, when you have three guys, all-star players on the floor, you still have to respect your [other] teammates. Regardless of who they are, you've got to make them better and expect the best out of them."

Coach Doc Rivers said Allen, Garnett and Pierce have already displayed their leadership the past few weeks by organizing workouts and practices for the players in town. "Give them all the credit. They made all the calls to the guys to come," Rivers said. "I was amazed that every morning they were always there. Ray is an early riser. All of a sudden, Paul became an early riser. So did KG. Then all of a sudden, [point guard] Rajon [Rondo] came in early, then [center Kendrick Perkins]. They didn't have to say a word. Just their actions."

Garnett, who has a reputation for intense, early morning workouts, said he is already impressed with the work ethic of Allen and Pierce. "I used to think I was a little different or crazy when it came to working out, how I saw myself, but after talking to these two I feel right at home because they are just as crazy as me," Garnett said. "No one told us that we had to come here. We're committed to this thing. We haven't proved anything. We haven't won any games. We haven't set any records. To be the best, we know it starts now."

Rivers is hopeful that the three stars get a better nickname. "I know the word we're using around Boston is the Big Three," Rivers said. "Honestly, I don't like that, because McHale, Parish and Bird, to me, were the Big Three. Come up with another word if you can."

Later a reporter referred to them as the "Terrific Trio."

"Terrific three? T.T.?" Rivers asked. "Okay."

Okay, maybe not.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company