HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The Boston Celtics don’t have to search hard for motivation this season.
They came into training camp with all that they needed.
Pop on the tape (if that’s even an appropriate phrase anymore) from Game 7 of the NBA Finals and it’s staring them in the face.
They were minutes away from securing their second title in three years and No. 18 for the franchise.
It never happened, of course, the Lakers stormed back in the fourth quarter to win their second straight title, denying the Celtics the joy of winning No. 18 on the Lakers’ floor.
But that loss set off a chain of events that has energized the Celtics at the start of the season in ways we haven’t seen since the original Big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen was formed in the summer of 2007.
There’s no guarantee things work out this year, or any year for that matter. A motivated team stocked with veterans eager to add to their own legacies, however, is always a great place to start.
And if you don’t think it all starts with that Game 7 loss just listen to them talk about it, as Allen did in the video above or Pierce did to WEEI radio in Boston:
How long does it take a competitive person like you to get over a seventh-game loss in the NBA (finals)? A week? A month? Ever?
“I still haven’t gotten over it. It’s tough. Because you envision back, and say, ‘if we could have done this different, that different in the game, it would have been a different outcome.’ So, it’s hard. You think about the what ifs and all of that. I don’t think you ever forget it.”
What’s the process? Do you go in your bedroom for a couple of days and sleep, and then don’t shave for a while, or don’t bathe, and then finally come out of the shell?
“I didn’t talk to people for a long time. I didn’t watch any basketball for a long time. I sort of kind of did go into a shell. I didn’t want to leave the house. I didn’t even want to go out and eat for a while, because you just felt that bad about the loss. But then as I got back into the gym and working out, I just used it for motivation and just sort of loosened up from there.”
Did you feel like last season was the final run this team was going to have? And are you surprised to look around and see the same crew back together, indeed with more big, old guys like Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal?
“No, I wasn’t surprised at the run. We struggled a bit during the regular season at home. When I looked at our team from the beginning, I told people that we were more built for the playoffs than the regular season, because we didn’t have the up-and-down athletes, high-flyers that a lot of teams in the NBA have that can beat you in one game, on any given night. When you have to break down a team and really scout them and put us in the playoffs, then I knew that we could be successful. As far as our team this year, I’m glad that we had a chance to pick up the guys that we did and just kind of reload. Just seeing these guys back for another year, Ray (Allen), getting him back was huge, Kevin (Garnett) getting healthy, and adding Shaq and Jermaine was huge for us.”
I can’t remember the last time I saw a team use the agony of defeat as well as the Celtics have to reconstitute themselves and spur their quest for 18.
This is the sort of knock-me-down-I’m-getting-back-up psychology that was used routinely in the 1980s and even the 1990s, when the Lakers and Celtics battled regularly in the NBA Finals and the Eastern Conference champion always faced a gauntlet to get to the top (Boston ceded the throne to upstarts in Detroit who ultimately were dethroned by Chicago).
It probably seems extreme to some people for the Celtics to carry on the way they have about that Game 7 loss. But not here at the hideout.
We love it.
There’s no motivation as pure or pungent as vengeance. It’s worked for centuries.
Empires have risen and fallen on less.