Reversal of fortune
WALTHAM - Cedric Maxwell took a look around at dozens of cameras, microphones, notebooks, and media badges and summed up the scene in two words:
Maxwell, who played with the Original Big Three before they were champions or Hall of Famers (Max started instead of Kevin McHale back in the day), has been working Celtics radio broadcasts through the lean years and hadn't witnessed a media frenzy like yesterday's Media Day since the golden days when Larry Bird, Robert Parish, and McHale were walking through that door every single day.
The Celtics are back and the bandwagon is SRO. They haven't won a game yet, but the addition of megastar Kevin Garnett put them back on MapQuest, back on "SportsCenter."
Garnett is a Celtic and No. 5 green jerseys are flying off the racks from coast to coast. Season tickets are hot. Hoop junkies are picking the Green to win 50 or 60 games and make a return to the conference finals.
There's a lot of effort to include Paul Pierce and the classy Ray Allen on the same platform with Garnett and that's why they were presented together at the tap-off press conference. The Celtics are stressing team harmony in this starlit, comeback campaign. They don't want any gold/silver/bronze levels for their three superstars.
It's a little forced. Pierce has certainly paid the dues, carrying this team for several seasons. Allen, meanwhile, is one of the great shooters in NBA history.
But Garnett is the guy who put the Celtics back in the game, locally and nationally. The Celtics already had Pierce and won only 24 games last season. They traded for Allen on draft night and were widely ripped for acquiring an aging star who just had ankle surgery. But when Danny Ainge closed the deal for Garnett, everything changed.
Garnett is legitimate NBA royalty. Try to imagine Ted Williams being traded to a contender for the final five years of his career and you pretty much have the picture. Garnett is a league MVP. He's a 10-time All-Star. He's one of five players in NBA history with 19,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, and 4,000 assists. The other four are Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, and Charles Barkley. Garnett has led the league in rebounding the last four seasons.
Here's another stat that's a little more alarming. Garnett is only 31, but he came into the league at 19 and has already played more NBA regular-season games than Larry Bird played in his entire career.
Early reviews on Garnett are spectacular. He looked good throwing out a first pitch at Fenway ("a sinker") and was on the sideline tossing footballs before the Patriots played the Bills at Gillette last Sunday. He could probably make a bid for president of Red Sox Nation if he cared to mount a last-minute, write-in campaign.
Most important, there also have been multiple sightings of Garnett participating in voluntary workouts at HealthPoint at 7:30 a.m. Not many of us knew Garnett is a workout warrior.
The new star doesn't want to be interviewed or photographed without his wingmen. So there he was yesterday, sitting behind a microphone, flanked by Allen and Pierce, talking about how much he wants to win a championship and how much he respects his fellow superstars.
There were a lot of questions about which gunner would take the last shot at the end of a close game. All said there won't be any issues.
"The thing the three of us shared is that the three of us have carried teams," said Garnett. "It feels good to have help, to be honest. To know that you're not always front and center. It's great to know that you have two other guys who have the know how, along with the experience. We haven't proved anything. We haven't won any games or set any records or anything. To be the best, we know that it starts right now."
Garnett paid homage to the 16 banners overhead ("The first thing that catches your eye when you come in here,") and seemed attached to his new jersey.
"I love the way this feels on me," he said, touching the sides of his white No. 5 home top. "I've been telling Paul that this material, it's not like this everywhere. It's good material."
He used the word "privilege" several times. He said he was getting acclimated to his new surroundings. He spoke about his love of history.
"We know the city is excited. This is a great time to be in New England right now . . . This place has so much history, this organization has so much history. But the best part about coming in here is potentially the three of us creating our own history here. I'm looking forward to that."
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.