When I first received the news from coach Jeff Van Gundy, I was in my hotel room getting ready for our last preseason game against the Celtics in Boston. The phone rang, Jeff and I spoke for 10 minutes, and that was it. The next call came from then general manager Chris Wallace welcoming me to the team — he arranged to pick me up and bring me to the arena to watch the game.
The majority of the time, players are the last to know about getting traded. All of a sudden you are told, “You don’t play for us anymore; someone from another organization will be in touch.” The next moment you’re packing and grabbing things that will last for a week or two so you can meet your new teammates and coaches. You’re also picking up your family and moving them away. Your family is uprooting, your kids are leaving friends and changing schools… it’s not as easy as some may think.
I was very apprehensive about the trade. I worked extremely hard as a Knick and finally broke through and worked my way into the rotation subbing in for Larry Johnson and Charles Oakley. I also didn’t know anything about Boston except that my college teammates Antoine Walker and Ron Mercer were there, along with my former coach Rick Pitino. After becoming more familiar with the team and the franchise’s history, I quickly felt like a part of something very special. Being able to meet all the Celtic Legends and speaking to Red Auerbach, Tommy Heinsohn, Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, Satch Sanders, K.C. Jones, Dave Cowens and John Havlicek was surreal. It helped me understand how special the opportunity was.
The Celtic legends and players keep the Celtic tradition alive. I told myself — I may not be as good of a player as they were, I may not have my numbered retired… but every time I put this jersey on, I’m gonna play my heart out and pour every ounce of sweat and energy into the game. I knew it was such a honor and privilege to be a Celtic.
People always ask me about my favorite moments from my Celtics days. I was never fortunate enough to win an NBA title, but I definitely remember numerous games where I hit a big shot or a game-winner. My favorite moments range from hearing legends just speak about their experiences, or sharing in their family life. Some of my best memories included sitting and having dinner with Tommy Heinsohn and his family, or just spending time at his home and listening to him and Satch Sanders talk about basketball or even life in general. These moments were amazing, and are priceless to me. They outweigh any game I ever played at the NBA level.
I remember sitting at my locker before a game and Bill Russell walked over, grabbed a seat beside me, and started a conversation. It was surreal. I could always tell when Red was in the building. Before I had the chance to meet him, I remember being in practice and suddenly smelling a cigar. The team and I wondered who would be smoking inside, and who else could it have been but the legendary Red Auerbach. I definitely made sure to get one of those cigars…
I love the city of Boston as much as I did back when I played. I knew right away that Boston would be home no matter what took place in my career. New York is a great city, but I think it’s so big that you don’t get a chance to really explore it. I felt like an outsider. Boston on the other hand was a small Big City and won me over right away.
I enjoyed playing as a Celtic. Although we were a young team, we had to learn on the fly. We didn’t win a lot early but we played our tails off and I believe we were exciting to watch. I wouldn’t change a thing about my playing days in Boston. I couldn’t have been happier anywhere else.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments below. I’ll answer some of them in my next blog.