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Projo: Spinmeister Pitino & Celtics Starved For Respect
Spinmeister Pitino: Starved for respect, Celts
long to achieve
By MIKE SZOSTAK
Journal Sports Writer
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Only one Boston Celtic, Dana Barros,
has appeared in an NBA conference final, and that was
1993 in Seattle.
Another Celtic, Kenny Anderson, can boast of three
trips to the NBA playoffs, each ending in a first-round
Five other Celtics have experienced one playoff series
Not impressive, is it? And how about this? The 15
players listed on the Celtics preseason roster can
account for 59 NBA seasons of experience, but only 10
So why, aside from his stash of eternal optimism pills,
does Rick Pitino believe that his band of backups and
journeymen, and potential stars Antoine Walker and Paul
Pierce, can make the playoffs this season?
``Starvation for credibility,'' the coach replied
yesterday as the Celtics smiled their way through their
annual media day at their still new-looking Healthpoint
Starvation for credibility? What phraseology from the
Indeed, so few of the Celtics have won in the pros that
that they have scant credibility when it comes to the
postseason, which is why Pitino is convinced they will
pay whatever the price to win now.
``Once you get by compensation and security, it's all
about winning and championships,'' he said.
Pitino has a new four-point success strategy for his
players this season: financial security; winning
championships; improve life for those you touch; earn
the respect of your peers.
All the Celtics are under contract, so security should
not be an issue, unless somebody can't make it on $2
million a year.
Which brings us to Point No. 2. Winning. The Celtics
last enjoyed a winning season in 1993, Kevin McHale's
final season. They last reached the playoffs in 1995,
when they finished 35-47 and lost to Orlando in the
Six consecutive losing seasons and four consecutive
non-playoff seasons are franchise records for futility.
``Winning and building a championship team,'' Pitino
said, ``is what I hope they're all about.''
Pitino has said the Celtics will make the playoffs this
season, although yesterday he preferred the term
``playoff contender.'' Based on their comments, the
players seem to have heard the word.
``We have the team that can do it,'' said Calbert
Cheaney, one of six new Celtics and a 1997 playoff
veteran with Washington. ``We got size. We got
quickness. We got people who can play defense. We got
people who can block shots. We got the whole package.''
``To win in the NBA you got to have determination and
togetherness,'' said Anderson, the veteran point guard
who made the playoffs twice with New Jersey and once
with Portland. ``This team is trying to get a
championship. Guys see the banners. They want to have
that. Once we retire, all we have is that ring. We got
to compete as a team. That's my main motto this
Anderson will turn 29 Saturday, and he feels time
``I got some time frame in my mind,'' he said. ``This
has to turn or it will never turn. It's really going to
be interesting. The people on this team don't want to
go through what we went through last year.''
The Celtics were 19-31 during the abbreviated 1999
season. They played so poorly at times that even Pitino
``This is my fifth year, and I haven't made the
playoffs,'' said Eric Williams, returning to Boston
after two years in Denver. ``With the system we got
here, I think we'll cause havoc with a lot of teams at
``This is my fourth year, and I haven't been to the
playoffs,'' Antoine Walker said. ``We feel very
confident going into the season that we got a chance to
be a contender, a playoff team. We just don't know. We
got to see how quick we can jell and get things
Walker is without question a big key to the Celtics. He
must play as he did his first two years, when he made
the all-rookie team and then the all-star team and
averaged 20 points per game.
Walker and Pitino have met and resolved any differences
they may have had at the end of last season.
``We talked all about getting the team better. It was
all about the team. It wasn't necessarily about me and
him personally. I respect him as a coach. He respects
me as a player. He just told me what he expects of me
and that he will give me the same respect that I give
him. That's all you can ask for in the NBA,'' Walker
But with Walker and Pitino it's a little different
because they go back to their Kentucky days together.
``I've been with him a long time, so it's a little
deeper for me and him. It's more personal. I owe him a
lot. He made me a great player. He got me to the NBA.
So I feel like having success with him, that's what I
want to do. . . . Me playing for coach Pitino is the
best thing. I'm looking forward to having a great
season. I'm just hoping my teammates are on the same
page. That's the main thing. I think me and coach are
on the same page, but sometimes it's hard to get 13 or
14 pros on the same page. If we can do that, then the
sky's the limit for us.''
Pitino said Walker was tired of hearing his name in
trade rumors last year and that he assured his young
star that salary cap constraints make a trade involving
him virtually impossible.
``We're both on the same page. It's all about
winning,'' Pitino said. ``He wants to be a Celtic. He
wants to be a winner. He doesn't want to be judged on
the lockout year. He's fired up and ready to go. I'm
fired up to have him.''
Even Pervis Ellison is fired up. The perennially
injured forward uttered the improbable yesterday.
``I feel fine physically. I feel fine. Write it
twice,'' he said, adding that he will participate in
morning workouts only during training camp and that he
expects to be ready to contribute 10 minutes when the
preseason schedule starts next week. Ellison missed all
last season with ankle woes.
The Celtics will begin two-a-day sessions today. Greg
Minor, who suffered a hip fracture in a fall in the
Miami game last April 29, is the only absentee. He may
miss the entire season.
Everyone else is ready.
``They should be,'' Pitino quipped. ``Basically, they
enjoyed a vacation last year.''
Copyright © 1999 The Providence Journal Company
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