Celtics player introductions signal step forward


WALTHAM - When the Celtics held an introductory press conference two summers ago after trading for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, and MarShon Brooks, it felt more like a funeral than anything else.

After all, the C's had traded away their two superstars in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and the players coming to Boston weren't exactly thrilled about joining a rebuilding team.

But on Monday, the mood was much different. There was a buzz, a feeling of hope - not that the Celtics were all of a sudden title contenders, but that they were making legitimate progress in becoming a better team.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge sat at the podium alongside Jonas Jerebko, Jae Crowder, David Lee, Amir Johnson, Perry Jones, owner Wyc Grousbeck, and president Rich Gotham, as the players were formally introduced as members of the team.

"It feels like we’ve taken a step forward in this offseason by adding these guys and our draft picks, bringing back Jonas and Jae and adding Perry and Amir and David," Grousbeck said. "These are team players, these are high work-rate players, these are players I’m personally proud to welcome to the Celtics and I’d know they’d love to try to fill the little space we have in the corner for banner 18. These are the kind of guys we want to have on our team and I can’t wait to see how this works out, so welcome to Boston."

The feeling is mutual for all involved. Unlike two years ago, three of the four players introduced on Monday had a say in where they ended up, and chose Boston. The fourth, Jones, welcomes a change in scenery after being buried on the Oklahoma City Thunder bench for three seasons.

Crowder, who was a bit of an afterthought when traded over in the deal for Rajon Rondo last season, was the C's biggest offseason signing. As Crowder earned more and more playing time, the Celtics began to win more often. Crowder was one of the driving forces in the C's clinching a playoff spot, and he's back to help the team progress even further.

"I think these guys are going to help us -- the guys who were here and with us last year -- move forward," Crowder said. "I don’t think we’re going to go backwards. I think we’re in the right direction moving forward. That’s to win playoff games like Danny said, and we didn’t do that last year. So that’s our next goal. We’re taking steps. Of course we want Banner 18, but at the same time we have to win a playoff game first before we get to Banner 18. I think we’re moving in the right direction."

Give credit to Lee, too. He's leaving a NBA champion in Golden State and coming to a team that realistically is a few years away. Regardless, Lee's embracing his new surroundings and genuinely seems to want to help this Celtics team improve. Lee's played for the Knicks and Warriors over his career, and sees the Celtics resembling one of them. Luckily, it's the one out west.

"I’m just very excited overall about the opportunity," Lee said. "I’ve played for just about every kind of team possible now. I was on some interesting ones in New York (chuckles), as you guys know. And then now to build what we built out in Golden State, I think it’s very similar. They’re building here with character guys, guys that fit into a system that they want to run. And that’s the way to do it now. I think the days of having a bunch of jerks on the same team and thinking you’re going to win a championship – it’s pretty tough in basketball nowadays. I love how they’re doing things here, and we have a chance to do some special things.”

Brad Stevens' first and second seasons as Celtics head coach were filled with transactions that surely made things harder on him. But with the trade for Isaiah Thomas last season and the signings of Lee and Johnson this offseason, the C's are now bringing in the types of players that when put together should translate to wins.

"I think continuity is always important but we’re trying to get the right players," Ainge said. "Last year was the opposite of continuity. Brad did a great job of managing the many different players we had on the roster. These are guys we just think are better players than what we’ve had. We think they can add to our team. Not necessarily better individual talent, but as Wyc mentioned, great team players."

Contact Us