Boston Celtics: Ed Lacerte
"Last year when the Clippers were blowing us out and I was sitting there with Eddie Lacerte, our trainer in Boston, and he taps me on the leg and he says, 'Look at that,'" Rivers said. "I didn't want to look at anything at that point, we were literally down 30 points, and I looked up and you see all the banners. And he said, 'Man, I would never have that.' I thought, wow, he's right. So, again, the Lakers can blame a Boston guy."
Rivers said he has heard positive and negative reviews of his decision to cover up the Lakers' championship banners and retired jerseys with seven giant banners of Clippers players during Clippers games this season.
"I've had the gamut of feedback, I can tell you that," Rivers said. "Mostly positive, even from a lot of Lakers fans. The other day I was in the drugstore, and a Lakers fan said, 'I can't believe you covered up our banners but I was always wondering why you hadn't done it in the past.' It's the Clippers' court, and that's the way we feel. It's not a disrespectful thing at all. It's not intended that way at all. When we play in our arena, it should be about us and only us."
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Lacerte, now in his 26th season with the Celtics, is Doc Rivers' right-hand man when it comes to injuries (Rivers loves to joke that "Doc" is just a nickname), and Lacerte's efforts are not lost on Boston's head coach.
"Eddie is probably the hardest-working man in the league right now with some of our guys," said Rivers. "He’s here all night. So I’m very proud of him."
Lacerte is an integral part of keeping Boston's players upright, including Kevin Garnett, who goes through lengthy pregame and postgame treatment sessions.
"Eddie's good people, man," said Garnett. "He's been in this league countless years and it's good to see. With the vets and some guys like [media relations czar] Jeff Twiss and [team massage therapist] Vladimir Schulman and Ed Lacerte, it's good to see those guys get some recognition. Because those are the guys who have helped build this league, been in this league, and you never hear about the old-timers who help create some of the foundation in an organization, so it's good to get some recognition for that. Congrats to Ed Lacerte, man."
This is the second time Lacerte, a trainer on the original Dream Team, has won the O'Toole award. Celtics captain Paul Pierce suggested he was well on his way to being in the mix again this season.
"Ed is one of the better trainers in all of sports," said Pierce. "The way he comes in, he’s here night in and night out. He’s done a great job this year, we haven’t had that many injuries, so he deserves it."
Rivers joked that one of the perks of Lacerte's job is being a fly on the wall, particularly the way Boston players gravitate toward the trainer's room before and after games.
"I think if you got all of the trainers in the league to write a book, if they changed the names, it would be terrific," said Rivers.
With a veteran roster, Lacerte has earned his money during the Big Three era, but particularly during this condensed season where the most popular pregame lounge was the trainer's room. Celtics coach Doc Rivers went so far to suggest that Lacerte was the MVP of the Celtics this season, but also jokingly offered a less flattering nickname because of all the times he arrived bearing bad news about the health of Boston players.
"Eddie, we call him the MVP all the time -- and the Grim Reaper, because I don't talk to him now when he walks in my office," Rivers joked near the end of the playoffs. "When he comes in your office, it's not good news coming. I told him it feels like he's been in my office all year.
"But when you go back in that training room (during the playoffs), it is packed. It really is. And even with some of the guys that are -- quote, unquote -- healthy on our team right now, they're in there. So he's been put to the test. He's had an MVP year for us. He's such a positive guy. Without that, I can guarantee you there's no way we would be (in the Eastern Conference finals)."
The award is voted on by the league trainers for exemplary achievement or outstanding service to the NBA, the NBATA or the community. Lacerte was selected for his outstanding service to the NBATA. The award is named after Joe O’Toole, a longtime former head athletic trainer of the Atlanta Hawks who is regarded as the father of the NBATA.
This is the second time Lacerte has been selected as Athletic Trainer of the Year. He was also honored for the 1992-93 campaign.
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