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Why Boston is lucky to have the Celtics

Ode to the Celtics.

Paul Pierce played with Antoine Walker, who played with Rick Fox, who played with Larry Bird, who played with Dave Cowens, who played with John Havlicek, who played with Bob Cousy.

This is one of the things I love about the Celtics. There are only five guys separating Truth from the Cooz.

Friday night is the 67th home opener for our local NBA franchise.

We are fortunate to have this team representing the city of Boston in the National Basketball Association.

Let me start with the disclaimers. The Celtics of 2012-13 have become far too isolated from media and everyday people. Access to NBA players has dwindled to almost nothing — how much do you really know about Kevin Garnett or Rajon Rondo? — and team officials are afraid to ask their own players to do anything.


It's unfortunate that Rondo's amazing talent allows his abject petulance to go unchecked (Dwyane Wade was correct when he accused Rondo of a "punk move" at the end of Tuesday's game).

The NBA is easy to harpoon because there is not enough competitive balance, there are way too many regular-season games, and the sport is almost impossible to officiate.

All that said, I love what the Celtics mean to our city.

The Celtics are about tradition, history, continuity, and winning. They deliver.

The first Celtics home opener was played on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 1946, at Boston Arena. Gene Autry's rodeo was playing at the Celtics' permanent gym, the Boston Garden. The Celtics played their first game in Boston on the day that 29-year-old war hero John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress. The game was played on a parquet floor that had been cut from scraps because of a wartime shortage of good wood. Chuck "The Rifleman" Connors shattered a backboard during warm-ups. The newborn Celtics were beaten by the Chicago Stags, 57-55 (pre-shot-clock era). Tickets ranged from $1.25 to $2.75.


Sixty-six years later, the Celtics are still playing on a parquet floor, and there is another baby-faced Kennedy running for Congress for the first time. Tickets are slightly more expensive.

This is Boston. And the Celtics are a thread that connects.

Thanks largely to Red Auerbach and Bill Russell, the Celtics are a brand known around the world. They are like the New York Yankees and Notre Dame football. Fans tuning in around the world see the parquet floor and know they are watching a game in Boston, at the Garden.

There is an amazing amount of continuity around this team. They have the banners, the green, and the dark shoes (on the road). Tommy Heinsohn, who arrived in 1956, can be seen with a microphone in his hand near center court before the start of most home games. Cedric Maxwell, who first played here in 1977, works every game as a color commentator. Francis O'Bryant, a well-dressed local court officer, has been helping Celtics players with their game-day tickets since the Vietnam War era.

Want to ask about the greatness of Rondo? You can always call the 84-year-old Cousy, the original all-world point guard. Havlicek comes around to hand out awards. Jo Jo White works in community relations. Cowens delivers commentary for Comcast. Danny Ainge is in charge of building the team.

All ex-Celtics.

All still Celtics.


Last spring, the Celtics advanced to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. It was an unexpected gift, something we all needed after the Super Bowl loss and the Bruins' early elimination. The Celtics playoff run of 2012 was a nice demonstration of heart, something the local baseball team has been lacking for a while.

Now in Year 6 of the Garnett-Pierce Era, the Celtics are considered one of the top two teams in the conference again. They are not the Miami Heat, but Ainge did a good job in the offseason. The Celtics again have a chance.

Coach Doc Rivers is the total package. He is accessible, thick-skinned, and he wins. He could have moved on to an easy TV gig or become a professional dad, but Doc stayed the course. This is Rivers's ninth season. If he is still coaching the Green in mid-January, he will surpass Heinsohn and trail only Red as the Celtics coach with the longest tenure.

Hard as it sometimes is to admit, the Celtics ownership group is doing a pretty good job. Here at 135 Morrissey Boulevard, we are trained to afflict the comfortable. We are cynics. We question motives. We try to represent the interests of the fans.

But this current Celtics group has given us little to challenge. Wyc Grousbeck, Steve Pagliuca & Associates are fans, but they aren't calling plays from the bench. They deliver a pretty good product. They haven't insulted or pandered to their fans.

We were skeptical about them in the early days, but as owners go, they have ranked surprisingly low on the buffoonery scale.


There is no hockey at this hour. The Garden essentially has been in darkness since June. The Red Sox are rebuilding and the Patriots are in the bye week as they prep for the second half.

The Celtics are back home Friday night.

It's something to celebrate.

Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.