QUINCY, Mass. – Another summer gone, another training camp set to get under way. But this time, the 2010-11 Celtics are ready to rumble. After a painful loss in Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the hated Lakers, the climb back to the top of the mountain begins next week.
Maybe if the Celtics had won the Finals and raised a banner to the TD Garden rafters, as they did in 2008, things would be different. But with the bitter taste of defeat still in their mouths, the C's are eager to take the court.
"I think we're ready to go," coach Doc Rivers said Thursday at the Celtics' Shamrock Classic charity golf tournament. "I can compare this to the year we won it. It was a short summer. That summer, when we got back, guys were like, 'Oh, man, we've got to start over again?' I think these guys, they can't wait to get started. So that's a good sign."
Rivers will have most, but not all, of his troops lined up and ready for battle when the C's take the court in Newport, R.I., on Tuesday to begin camp. Veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have taken the summer to relax and repair their ailing bodies, leaving only recent draftee Avery Bradley and center Kendrick Perkins waiting on the sidelines. Bradley is still on the mend from arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle; Perkins is on the long road to recovery from a torn ACL sustained in Game 6 of the Finals.
"I don't think Avery will be ready for training camp," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Thursday. "He's a couple weeks away, at least. It's day-to-day with Avery, so we'll just see how that goes. We certainly won't rush him."
As for Perk, the picture is a little less clear. He's likely to miss half the season, but the exact details are still very much up in the air.
"Nobody knows," Ainge said. "He's doing well. He's ahead of schedule, according to him and the doctors. But he's always going to say that. I have yet to see an unsuccessful surgery."
As for the guys who are healthy and ready to play, Rivers and the front office have a lot of questions to answer. The C's signed 11 players this summer, and it'll be an adventure to piece them together in camp and see how this team clicks.
We don't yet know how things will shake out between Jermaine O'Neal and Shaquille O'Neal at center — who starts, who logs how many minutes, who plays what role on each end of the floor.
We've yet to see how much Pierce or KG still has left in the tank, or how Delonte West will fit into the Celtics' already chaotic locker room, or how much Nate Robinson will grow with another year of experience in Celtic green. We don't know whether Marquis Daniels will bounce back from a disappointing first season in Boston, or whether Glen Davis has a breakout year in him, or which rookies — Bradley, Luke Harangody, Semih Erden — will see significant time or even make the team at all.
There's a lot we don't know. But perhaps that's the fun of it.
"I think there's a lot of excitement," Ainge said. "You can see it even in players that have been around a while, like Jermaine and Shaq. They're very enthused about coming here and playing with our group of guys. They have a perception of our team of great chemistry, great camaraderie and a lot of talent. So I think those guys are very excited.
"Delonte's looking for another chance and really wants to reestablish himself as a player. Nate's looking for an opportunity to come to training camp. And Marquis is looking for a chance to redeem himself and get back to the player that he knows he can be. I think we have a lot of guys — a lot of new, hungry guys, and the guys who are coming back from last year have a sour taste in their mouths from the difficult loss in Game 7."
No doubt about it — everyone's excited, from the superstars getting top billing to the youngsters at the end of Doc Rivers' bench.
"The environment in the locker room right now is something special," said Tony Gaffney. "I know there's obviously a lot of talk about the Miami Heat right now, but we're a team that's determined and ready to get this thing going."
This may look like just another training camp, but to these Celtics, it's more. It could be the precursor to something big.
"It's a new start," said Robinson. "Every year is a fresh start. And for us, guys want to get better. And I think that's how we jump into things. We're not like 'Aww, another training camp.' No, we're excited about playing the game of basketball. It's what we love to do. We can't wait until the season starts."