WALTHAM — With heavy hearts, the Celtics gathered here Tuesday to practice. They were supposed to be preparing for a game against Indiana at TD Garden, but that game was canceled in light of the deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon Monday.
The NBA office had the final say about whether to cancel the game, and it announced the decision Monday night. Celtics president Rich Gotham said, from the team’s perspective, the cancellation was not about public fear but “it was more a feeling about what’s the right thing to do in this situation.”
Said coach Doc Rivers: “I didn’t want to play the game. We made that clear -- Rich and [owner] Wyc [Grousbeck] and our ownership, they were great. It wasn’t the right place, it really wasn’t, to be playing a game of basketball today. No one would have been into it. No one wanted to go to it.”
Gotham said the Celtics are working on a commemorative patch to wear for their final regular-season game Wednesday in Toronto. Gotham added that the Celtics are working on a more extensive patch for the playoffs, which begin Saturday in New York as the Celtics play the Knicks in Game 1 of the first round at Madison Square Garden.
Gotham said Celtics management has not yet sat down with TD Garden officials to discuss increasing security for the playoffs, “but that’s certainly something we’ll be doing along with the Garden, and along with the City of Boston and the police.”
Among the players, Tuesday was a time for reflection and perspective.
Forward Jeff Green lives downtown -- he’s the only Celtics player who does, he said -- and he was on his way home when he received several text messages.
“Then when I got home, I saw it on the news,” he said. “That’s when it really hit home.”
Green said it was “absolutely” right to cancel Tuesday’s game and that it’s hard to focus on basketball at a time like this.
“I mean, you’re talking about people’s lives in danger,” he said.
“Compared to somebody’s life, basketball is nothing. We just want to make sure everybody’s safe and do the right thing.”
“It really sets in, because any one of us could’ve been driving through that area,” said forward Shavlik Randolph. “I even thought about going and watching [the race]. I haven’t spent a lot of time up in Boston, and knowing how big of a deal that marathon was ...
“It could’ve been any one of us to be one of the people that got injured or hurt in that.”
Green added, “This is a strong city. I think we’re going to do everything possible to help the victims and families and help the city come back and get back to the way it was. It’s going to be tough, because I don’t think the city really had anything like this happen before.
“Whatever we can do, whatever I can do, I’m willing to help, because it’s a tough thing to get through.”
Rivers lives just blocks from where the bombs exploded near the finish line.
“I always go down after practice and watch -- I’ve done it every year that we’ve been in town, because I live literally two blocks from the finish line,” he said.
“I was on my way, actually -- I had just gotten out of the tunnel -- when the bomb exploded. It’s just awful. It takes the joy out of sports -- because that’s what sports is supposed to bring is joy.
“You just saw the people running and the ambulances, just everything. It was hysteria.”
With roads blocked off, Rivers estimated that it took him more than an hour to travel five blocks and get home.
“I just got a million texts,” he said. “But again, my phone wasn’t working. On a lighter note, I’m not the best at returning texts anyways. Last night, my kids laughed, because I actually did. They knew.
“My daughter especially -- now I know who’s going to take care of me -- my daughter, I think she called or texted me like 16 times in a row. But I couldn’t -- you couldn’t get to them. Finally when I did, everything was good.”
Rivers was told not to leave his building, but he watched from a window.
“You could see people wandering around, like the park -- a lot of people didn’t have places to go last night,” he said. “And the park, there was a lot of people, you felt like -- the Common -- you could feel that, that they didn’t have anywhere to go. That was where a lot of people went. I had a bird’s-eye view of that.”
More than anything, Rivers said, he was encouraged by what he saw.
“Being in the city, the one thing I will say, you’re just really proud to be part of Boston,” he said. “I saw people who didn’t work for the police or anything like that, directing traffic, showing people where to go.
“I just thought the spirit of Boston was phenomenal last night. In a tragic event, it either separates you or brings you together. It clearly brought the city of Boston together, which was awesome.
“The city has responded. The city, it was awesome, watching people help people. I’m driving and I can see people helping people walk, helping go to the right places. This city has an amazing amount of spirit and I think that showed last night. And today still.
“Then you’re angry, too. I think that starts now. You really are. When you keep thinking about it. It does make you very angry at what happened. And that’s because you love the city, and love where you’re at. So that bothers you.”
Is it tough to move on, to move it out of your mind? Of course, Rivers said.
“I don’t think you should get it out of your mind,” he said. “I don’t think anyone’s going to get it out of their mind, it will be on your minds. Whether you were in the city or out of the city, you’re part of Boston. And if you’re part of this city -- or this country, for that matter -- it’s something that will be on your mind. And that’s fine.
“You put things in compartments, and that’ll happen for this hour and a half of practice. But it was a sad day yesterday, and it’s sad today, too. That’s part of life.”
Rivers said it’s important to return to a sense of normalcy.
“That’s what our city wants,” he said. “I think that you can hear the police commissioner today talking about that. We want to return things as soon as possible back to normal because that tells whoever did this that you don’t stop the spirit of Boston.
“We are going to be back, we’re going to work the same, we’re going to play the same, we’re going to do things the same, and there’s nothing you can do to stop us from doing this.
“Next year, the Marathon will be bigger and better, and you’re not going to stop us, and I thought, of all the messages, the police commissioner said that and I think that’s a fact.”