Philadelphia coach Jim O'Brien found the tight confines of the visitors' locker room a tad uncomfortable as he prepared to face Boston in the season opener last night at the FleetCenter. But knowing Celtics history firsthand, he could understand the less-than-inviting accommodations.
"I walked in this morning and it's different being in the FleetCenter," said O'Brien. "I'd been here eight years and this is like a second home to me, so it's a little different being in the opposing locker room. Comfortable? Hell, no. I think they purposely make sure it's uncomfortable in there. This goes back to Red Auerbach. He never treated Philadelphia very well."
O'Brien might have felt he was treated a little better during pregame introductions, when fans gave him a standing ovation.
Setting an example
Members of world champion Red Sox, including Derek Lowe, Trot Nixon, Doug Mirabelli, Kevin Youkilis, Mark Bellhorn, Gabe Kapler, team owner John W. Henry and president Larry Lucchino served as honorary captains for the game. Wearing Celtics warmups and green Red Sox hats, they paraded onto the court during the pregame ceremonies with the championship trophy in tow and received a long, standing ovation.
"[The Red Sox appearing with the trophy] is significant, probably more significant to the people in the crowd who have been here for years and years and years who have cheered for that team," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "It's significant for us because it's a local team that has done well, especially under the circumstances. Not the 1918 thing, but more the fact that they were down, 3-0, in the [AL Championship Series] and fought their way back and won a series. For me as a coach, that gives me material. I can't use the 1918 thing because I don't think Al Jefferson would really understand that."
Last night, any time FleetCenter officials wanted to raise the volume at the arena, they simply played highlights from the baseball playoffs.
Playing in pain
Despite a fracture of his right thumb, point guard Gary Payton started and Rivers had the veteran "penciled in for 30 to 35 minutes." Playing with the thumb heavily wrapped in tape and padding, Payton finished with 6 points, 8 assists, and 4 turnovers in 28 minutes, though the injury had worsened since he first practiced Sunday.
"It's probably the same [as Tuesday]," said Rivers. "It's definitely not better. It looked great the first practice, and from that point on, I think it's actually gone the other way. If you could have done it all over again, you probably would have held him out of all the practices, though then he probably would have been pretty rusty for the game. It was a Catch-22 and we went on and had him practice. But honestly, if I did it over again, I probably wouldn't have."
Speaking of broken thumbs, Delonte West sat the end of the bench, recovering from a broken right thumb. Doctors have said the fracture could take anywhere from two to eight weeks to heal. West is planning on a quick return.
"It was really disappointing, but being angry can't do anything, can't make it better," said West. "All I can do now is bring a positive attitude every day and hope for a speedy recovery. I'm thinking it will be two weeks and a day [to heal]."
The break came at a particularly bad time for West, who looked forward to playing the 76ers - he went to school at St. Joseph's in Philadelphia.
"I was anxious for this game," said West. "The game was being shown back in Philly. All my old classmates and teammates and all the people I know in Philly are going to be watching and I'm going to be sitting behind the bench."
The Celtics will give away Doc Rivers bobbleheads to the first 5,000 fans in attendance when they host the Pacers tomorrow. "I just don't want them to throw them," said Rivers. "That's the key. I'm glad it's early." ... Walter McCarty is among 12 professional and Olympic athletes named as semifinalists for the inaugural John Wooden Trophy, which honors athletes for their character, teamwork, and citizenship.