Celtics start practice with 9 players

The blank banner hangs on the wall above the Boston Celtics’

practice court – a white rectangle with a green border.

If the current players want that filled in with the words

”World Champions,” like 17 others adorning the gym, this season

very well could be their last chance to accomplish that feat.

That’s what coach Doc Rivers told aging stars Paul Pierce, Kevin

Garnett and Ray Allen and the rest of his players before their

first practice of training camp Friday night after the lockout

ended.

”I was very honest with them about that,” Rivers said. ”That

doesn’t mean we don’t have some of them back next year or not but

there’s a chance we will not and this is most likely our last

shot.”

Allen, who like Garnett is in the final year of his contract,

has heard that before.

”I’ve heard that every year that I’ve been here,” he said. ”I

don’t look at it any different. I count each day. I feel like I’m

on borrowed time right now.”

Rajon Rondo has plenty of time. Just 25, he’s the star point

guard who gets The Big Three the ball. At least for now.

For the second straight year, the sometimes moody Rondo has been

the subject of trade talks, even being mentioned in a possible deal

for Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets. But after meeting with

Rivers and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, Rondo

said he’s comfortable.

”They were straight up with me. They were honest,” Rondo said.

”Teams were calling. I don’t think they were trying to

intentionally ship me, but, obviously, you have to entertain the

calls. So he (Ainge) he told me he wanted me here and I’m still

here, so far.

”I’m excited to be here. I’m familiar with this organization

and I just want to get better and win a championship this

year.”

To do that, the Celtics need a veteran bench. Ainge has

assembled that after ending last season with just six players under

contract.

On Friday they finalized a deal for guard Keyon Dooling,

entering his 12th season, along with a protected second-round draft

pick while sending the Milwaukee Bucks the draft rights to

center-forward Albert Miralles. Rivers hoped forward Brandon Bass

could practice with the Celtics soon. Bass’ agent, Tony Dutt, said

a deal was being finalized that would send Bass to the Celtics for

forward Glen Davis.

The Celtics also signed free agent forward-guard Marquis

Daniels, who spent the early part of last season with them, free

agent center-forward Chris Wilcox, starting his 10th season, and

center Greg Stiemsma, who last played for Sioux Falls of the NBA

Development League.

Forward Jeff Green, a restricted free agent obtained from

Oklahoma City last season, has agreed to a one-year deal, Rivers

said, but didn’t practice because the NBA had not approved the

paperwork for the contract.

”We wanted players who were hungry and wanted to play with a

sense of urgency,” Rivers said, ”and I think Keyon fits that bill

as well as anybody we could have gotten in the backup role.”

On Friday, though, Rivers had only nine players to work with so

assistant coach Tyronn Lue participated in practice as the 10th

man.

”It’s a different first day of practice, I’ll say that,”

Rivers said.

Allen, starting his 16th season, said it was ”by far” his

oddest opening day of camp in his career.

”You get so used to doing things a certain way and this is our

livelihood. This is what we’ve been doing most of our lives,” he

said. ”When those leaves start to fall, you know pretty much where

you are and, for me, I was inside my house looking out the window

telling my landscape guy, `Hey, you missed a batch of leaves over

there.’

”I’m always micromanaging everything around the house so it’s

good that I’ve got a day job now.”