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WALTHAM -- Now the Boston Celtics know how the New England Patriots feel.
As the Celtics prepare to open their 2009-10 season Tuesday night in Cleveland, the most common line of questioning following Friday's practice at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint was about how this year's squad compares to the championship team of 2007-08.
Sound familiar? It seems like Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his teammates have fielded a never-ending stream of questions about how this year's offense compares to the record-setting team of 2007. (Never mind the coincidence that both Brady and Celtics forward Kevin Garnett are coming off knee injuries that detoured their team's playoff chances in 2008.)
And like the Patriots, the Celtics are pleading for a wait-and-see approach before making those comparisons.
"I really don't even judge," said guard Ray Allen. "I don't compare. Even if it were the same team, it could be better or it could be worse. The league changes. That conversation can only really be had after the championship is decided and we hoist that banner. Then that decision could be made about which team is better."
Here a sampling of opinions from Allen's teammates:
Forward Kevin Garnett: "I think it's a deeper team. Depth wise, there's a lot more guys who are more effective. That being Rasheed [Wallace] and that being Marquis [Daniels]. Year 1 -- the first year I was here -- we really didn't know what we were going to get. On paper, this is kinda parallel to that, but I'd definitely say this team is deeper."
Forward Paul Pierce: "I definitely think we have more talent. It's yet to be proven that we're better than the team that won a championship. If we win the championship, then ask me that question."
Guard Eddie House: "We want to be better than two years ago. Two years ago won a championship. The only way we can be better than that is if we won a championship. Everybody keeps on comparing us to two years ago. It's a totally different team. We're trying to create our own identity. We're trying to not talk about the past, we're talking about the future and what we can do here. Everyone knows our goal. We don't have to talk about it, we just have to go out and do our jobs."
Tyronn Lue, a veteran of 11 NBA seasons, has joined the Celtics' staff as director of basketball development.
Lue visited practice Friday in Waltham and Celtics PR chief Jeff Twiss stressed that Lue is here to assist the coaching staff and not return to the court. Evidently, there's no Sam Cassell in Lue.
The Celtics tried to bring Lue to Boston as a backup point guard last summer, but he took more money to sign with the Milwaukee Bucks. He finished his career with the Orlando Magic after being traded there in February.
The 32-year-old Lue appeared in 554 career games, averaging 8.5 points and 3.1 assists per game. He was a first-round pick of the Denver Nuggets (23rd overall) in 1998.
Reporters couldn't get enough of the comparison questions Friday, so after asking about the 2007 team as a whole, the questions started comparing individual personnel. Mainly, whether Marquis Daniels is this year's version of James Posey.
"They are different players," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, dismissing the comparisons. "They are so different. Posey stood behind the 3-point line, he didn't handle the ball. Marquis handles the ball and he's on the post. The only similarity is that they are both veterans and they are both multi-dimensional, but Marquis more so. The one thing about Posey, is he did stretch the floor."
Rivers noted that both forward Brian Scalabrine and guard Tony Allen remain sidelined indefinitely with right ankle injures. Both are expected to miss the season opener, as will guard Bill Walker, who continues to recover from right knee surgery.
That means, barring any further injuries, the remaining 12 players on the roster will be active for Tuesday's opener in Cleveland.
Rivers also noted that forward Glen Davis is fine after sitting out the preseason finale with a sore back (he took a charge from the Knicks' Al Harrington last Tuesday). Davis stayed on the court shooting perimeter jumpers after the practice session.
More from Doc
Rivers stressed his team is ready to launch into the season, but said practice the next few days will focus on improving areas like transition defense.
"I felt that our transition D wasn't great," said Rivers. "It has to be great by opening night. Besides Sheed, [Kendrick Perkins], Kevin, and [Rajon] Rondo, we need to talk more. Especially the second unit. We need to be a louder team."
Rivers also took a moment to laud Michael Sweetney, the camp invitee waived by the Celtics on Thursday.
"I think he's an NBA player, no doubt about that," said Rivers. "We've got 15 guys, the numbers didn't help him at all."