"Think Big," that’s the slogan the Celtics organization has chosen for this season. With Kevin Garnett front and center on billboards throughout the city, it is an apt description of both the player and his expectations.
But Garnett is not the sole face of this franchise as it looks to raise the bar this season. Garnett may be the most important piece of the puzzle, but he is aware that putting another banner in the rafters takes more than one man.
"I'm privileged more than anything to be in this situation, where I'm at, in my career," said Garnett. "These are two very humble people. This makes it a little more peaceful. We're three unselfish guys who want to win."
Garnett is of course referring to his two All Star counterparts, who will serve as his wingmen, both in spirit and role responsibility this season. The image of the three together has been the subject of water cooler talk around the nation for some time now. With training camp just days away the expectations and excitement are becoming even more palpable.
"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."
The key phrase here should be "making our own history," because that’s what this newly minted Celtics team should be all about. There have been many references to the new "big three" and every media pundit has looked to draw comparisons to the Celtics of yester-year.
It’s ironic that none within the organization wish to be perceived that way, despite the insistence on associating them with the legends of the past. You can count Doc Rivers as one who is not a fan of putting this team within the context of the past.
"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."
Ainge agrees. "The Big Three will always be The Big Three until someone puts another banner up there. Those guys were being called The Big Three after they won championships. These guys are being called it before they've even won a game."
Read more after the jump.
G.P.A. – 3.0
It seems a fitting moniker for more reasons than the clever usage of each players initials, the numeric significance, and the allusion to scholastic achievement. In a modern age of technology it seems a fitting testament to the "upgrade" this team just received this summer. Hopefully this installation is one that [i]leads[/i] to new hardware, as each of the three comes without any of their own.
Garnett, Pierce, and Allen represent an NBA rarity in that all three are franchise players playing together in their prime. While the real "Big Three" spent more time together than G.P.A. will be able to, they played in a different era.
The reality of today’s NBA is that salary caps and escalating contract prices simply don’t allow for this sort of thing. Younger players are often too focused on individual achievement in order to earn the dollar values that seem to verify their status in the league.
"Young players, their objective is making a name for themselves,'' Pierce said. "We're at a point where there's only one thing left. I want to walk into this building, see those banners, and say, 'I'm responsible for one of them.''
"We're three unselfish guys who want to win,'' Garnett said. "We know it starts right now. To be the best, we know it starts right now.''
Allen echoes this sentiment. "It's not just the three of us that are going to make this thing work. There's more to the team than the three of us sitting here.''
"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, Rajon came in early, then Perk. They didn't have to say a word. Just their actions."
Those are strong statements from the three tri-captains to be sure. The level to which they’ve gotten involved in chemistry building beyond themselves also adds fuel to the fire that this will work. The three have discussed taking other teammates under their wings and serving as mentors to those they recognize as important pieces to success.
It has to be mentioned that not one leg of G.P.A. - 3.0 has taken a cut in pay to make their championship dreams come true. It’s the age we live in, where the modern athlete equates financial standing with "respect." Accolades and accomplishments on the court are weighed with equal value to their standing on the income hierarchy.
The One Ring
Putting the financials aside, the mindset of this team is sound. Everyone in the organization seems to be on the same page, which is an important step in the process."You have to make sacrifices," said Pierce. "We’re each used to carrying the load for our franchises. Now we have to make ourselves better and make ourselves winners."
"For me, it's a lot different," Allen said. "Even though this is the same situation [as Milwaukee], 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."
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," said Garnett.
It really all begins with the Big Ticket, who is already becoming the emotional leader of the group. Garnett’s intensity on the practice court has set the tone and raised the level of expectations that each teammate has for themselves.
"KG has got his approach when he gets mad and he’s got his way of telling you. Guys shouldn’t take it personal including (me)," Kendrick Perkins explained.
While that intensity can sometimes appear harsh or exacting in nature, it is a necessary component of reaching the level of performance necessary to compete for a title. In the post season, there are no concessions given for mistakes and little time left for hurt feelings or bruised egos-its put up or shut up come playoff time.
"There is no longer just hope of making the playoffs and developing young players," said Ainge. "Now I know there is hope of having great things happen. It’s the hope of putting up a banner. And that possibility exists."
The restrictive nature of the NBA salary cap coupled with the extreme figures that superstars command makes this type of commitment a very delicate proposition, one that will take precision planning and a little luck going forward.
Operations boss Danny Ainge will have to be on his A-game when it comes to future personnel moves for his team. Trends in performance must be identified quickly and solutions to flaws will have to be addressed accurately when they arise. There is little wiggle room for error when it comes to future player acquisitions.
Fortunately, the cheapest way to add talent is also Ainge’s strongest suite, the draft. The Celtics have proven to be adept at finding quality role players that transcend their draft position. Late first round picks can often be acquired and the draft has become deeper over the past couple of seasons.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Ainge supplement G.P.A 3.0 with an incoming freshmen or two. What better environment to learn in than Hall of Fame University. The curriculum may be tough, but a championship degree is worth its weight in diamonds and gold.
There is no doubt that it helps the cause to be a desirable location for free agents in search of being a part of a winner. Big name players generate big time interest around the league, as the hype around this Celtics team is testament to. James Posey, Eddie House, and Scot Pollard all iterated the same sentiment when arriving for their respective press conferences. If the team starts earlier in the free agency process it shouldn’t be surprising if they lure a bigger fish into the fray.
But the buck still stops with the three superstars, G.P.A - 3.0 is the standard that will carry this team no matter what subsequent moves are made. What they accomplish going forward will have as much to do with the quality of their character as it does with the size of their skill.
G - "It’s what you look at when you come here,’’ said Garnett. ‘‘It’s the first thing that catches your eye when you come in here.’’
P - "Most young players, their agenda is making a name for themselves in the league and they don't understand how to win," Pierce said.
A - ‘‘The tradition here in this franchise is probably one of the biggest traditions of any sports teams in America, in the world for that matter," said Allen. "To be part of that means a great deal to me.’’