BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics' new highlight video isn't a collection of great plays from their NBA-record 16 championships.
Not a series of clips from their more recent, forgettable seasons, either.
Instead, the theme was "a very eventful offseason," with scenes from the news conferences where Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen -- and Scot Pollard and Eddie House -- were unveiled as the saviors of the once-proud franchise.
And it's just what the sold-out crowd wanted to see.
"I felt like a young boy again, just trying to relax," Garnett said after scoring 13 points with eight rebounds to help the New Big Three dispatch the New York Knicks 101-61 in their new Boston Garden debut on Wednesday night. "I was excited to be here. I want everybody to know that my effort is going to be there night-in, night-out. I was more than excited tonight."
Making their home debut in an otherwise meaningless exhibition game, Garnett and Allen -- and those other guys, too -- brought excitement to the recently dormant Boston Garden. In a deafening introduction and a first-quarter run that helped the Celtics open a double-digit lead, the change was immediate.
"These fans came to see this team," said Allen, who scored 13. "This was the first time we've played in this building, and they are so excited and that's transferred right along to us."
After a bricked shot and a traveling call on his first home possessions, Garnett brought the crowd to its feet three minutes into the game with a behind-the-back pass to Rajon Rondo under the basket. The 10-time All-Star drained a 20-footer from the right of the circle midway through the first and hit another two baskets before the quarter was over.
He also set picks for his new teammates and created a minor scare when he landed on Kendrick Perkins' ankle with 3:30 left in the first, but stayed in the game, playing 11 minutes, 57.4 seconds of the 12-minute first quarter and 29 minutes in all. In the third, he one-timed an entry pass back out to Allen for a jumper that gave the Celtics a 70-43 lead.
On the bench, Garnett went over plays with his new teammates, using hand motions to show them the proper position. When coach Doc Rivers turned the game over to the reserves in the fourth quarter, Garnett was no less involved: He kneeled on the sideline and shouted to the players on the floor, occasionally jumping to his feet and waving a white towel to celebrate.
"I'm just a cheerleader," Garnett said. "I root for my teammates, man. They're rooting for me when I'm in the game, and I'm trying to give them some encouragement."
Rivers was impressed with his enthusiasm as much as his play.
"I don't know if he sleeps, ever," the coach said. "He just has energy that I've never seen. When you take him out, you think he's exhausted. Then he's up cheering and yelling."
Paul Pierce scored 22 points to lead the overhauled Celtics, who have 10 new players on their 16-man training camp roster. Despite a substantial number of no-shows -- the place was almost empty by the end -- the building pulsated in a way it rarely did recently, even in the regular season.
"Paul kept telling us the atmosphere was going to be off the chain," Garnett said. "I didn't know it would be like this for a preseason game. We're looking forward to the regular season being totally nuts."
After going 24-58 last season and missing the playoffs for the second successive season, the Celtics traded for seven-time All-Star Allen at the draft and then pulled off an unprecedented 7-for-1 trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves for Garnett, the 2004 NBA MVP.
Together with Pierce, the New Big Three has Celtics fans excited for the first time since the original Big Three won the last of Boston's 16 NBA titles in 1986.
After opening the exhibition season in Rome and London, the Celtics returned to Boston on Wednesday night to the first of what is expected to be many sellouts. Rivers pretended to be taken aback when he found the full, regular-season complement of reporters waiting to talk to him outside the locker room before the game.
"What are all you guys here for?" he asked with mock surprise. "It's an exhibition game, guys."
But the coach admitted that the excitement might even be creeping into the locker room.
"I don't know about tonight, but I hope there's excitement," Rivers said. "There should be."
|New York (1-1)||18||17||11||15||61|
|Boston (3-0) «||30||20||27||24||101|