We ask a lot of the athletes in this town. We want them to perform, of course, but even more than that, we want them to care as much as we do. 

Last night as the Celtics raised their 17th championship banner, Paul Pierce showed how much he cared. As John Havlicek presented him with the Lawrence O’Brien Trophy, tears were clearly visible in the Pierce’s eyes, and when he took the microphone to address the crowd, there was no doubt. The man was more than choked up.  He was having his, “We love ya Cooz” moment.



While it's hard to see past the historic turnaround and 17th NBA title, it was only a year ago that many basketball pundits were questioning the depth of the Boston Celtics bench. There was no way of knowing that veteran journeymen like James Posey, Eddie House and P.J. Brown would come up with clutch shots during the playoffs or that a young talent like Leon Powe would emerge in the Finals.



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Mike Gorman loves to tell the story from the summer of 2007, a few days after the Celtics had acquired Kevin Garnett. The longtime broadcaster was en route to the State House for the team’s Heroes Among Us banquet. It was raining and Gorman was running late, so he did what any of us would have done—he busted out and made an illegal turn.

Out of the darkness a state trooper emerged.



If the West was a mind-blowing trip through the pastiche of day-glo psychedelia, the East is a can of Pabst and a shot of Wild Turkey. The mantra here is de-fense, de-fense and is personified by the collection of journeymen players turned coaches such as Scott Skiles, Sam Mitchell and new Pistons head man, Michael Curry. 



The West is the best. That’s what drunken pseudo-poet Jim Morrison once told us, and while it’s advisable not to take his advice too often (dropping psychedelics in the desert is really only useful for producing a half-decent episode of Entourage) the Lizard King was right about this one. The Western Conference race is going to be crazier than Ron Artest.



It’s early in the first quarter, but the Nets have already tipped their hand. They’re going to be playing off the point guard and looking to help on the Celtics stars. Gabe Pruitt, in his second year out of USC and getting his first extended run with the top unit, recognizes the defense and knocks down a 3-pointer. Over on the Celtics bench, Doc Rivers allows himself a little smile.



It has been four months since the Boston Celtics captured the NBA championship and the players can still smell champagne on their shoes. The memories of celebration are still fresh on their minds and the magnitude of their accomplishments still leave many at a loss for words. A lingering air of victory welcomed the Celtics back home when they played their first preseason game at the Garden this weekend. Returning to the place where they won it all was a long-awaited trip for the team.



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J.R. Giddens wasn't sure what to expect from Bill Walker. Even though he had seen him play plenty of times in college, the two rookies had never crossed paths in the NCAA circuit. It wasn't until this summer when they were both drafted by the Boston Celtics that they finally met and Giddens got to see the other side of his new teammate.

"We got to see each other from afar but never really hang out with each other," Giddens said. "There's a difference between Bill Walker on YouTube and hanging out with him in person."



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Winning a world championship gets you a lot of things-a big shiny trophy, a Duck Boat parade, face time with Stuart Scott. It also gets you validation. It is a strange world we live in when Charles Barkley and Karl Malone have the lack of a title engraved on their hoops tombstone, but Pat Cummings gets off scot-free.

Which brings us to Paul Pierce. Before last season, the Captain was never placed in the celestial orbit with Sir Charles and The Mailman. Good player? Yup. Very good player? No question. Star? Sure. Superstar? Eh.



The separation was obvious last season when the Golden State Warriors came to Boston. On one side of the locker room, Baron Davis and Monta Ellis studied film together. On the other, Andris Biedrins and Mickael Pietrus compared game notes. In the middle, Patrick O'Bryant sat at his locker. Alone.

By now it's no secret that O'Bryant was a never a fit for Don Nelson's Warriors squad. His style of play didn't mesh with the coach's up-tempo system. In just two disappointing seasons, the former first-round pick from Bradley was dubbed a bust.



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