Celtics  owners Steve Pagliuca and Wyc Grousbeck stopped by to chat with D&C guest hosts Dale Arnold  and Bob Ryan Wednesday morning and discussed the upcoming season, Rajon Rondo ‘s mindset, and why this could be the best Celtics team Danny Ainge has put together.
After the Celtics’ disappointing loss at the hands of LeBron James  and the Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the owners expressed optimism about the C’s fortunes for the shortened 2011-12 season.
‘It’s going to be a frenetic season, obviously packed in, a lot of games,” Pagliuca said. “The good news for us is that we have a veteran core, but we’ve got a lot of young legs on the team. Danny’s done another great job of building this squad. It’s a very deep team, and that deep team will pay service. Also, with a short training camp, we have four veterans coming back. They know the offense; we have veterans coming in. Doc [Rivers] will have them in very good shape to play.”
Added Pagliuca: ‘The positive side early is that the team has a lot of depth. One through 15 we’re about as good as we’ve been. If you look at the players Danny’s added here, they can all play basketball. We’re going to get some offensive rebounding this year with [Chris] Wilcox and [Brandon] Bass on the boards, so we’re optimistic. It’s really early in the season, but so far they’ve looked really good.’
Grousbeck said the decision was made to stick with the Big Three and build around them for another shot at the title, holding off any rebuilding plans.
“We do think about the future every day. We really, really do,” Grousbeck said. “But this does look like another year when this core has a chance. And if we supplement them to the max, everything we can possibly do under the new rules, it looks like to us, and more importantly to the basketball staff, that these guys have one more chance at least. So, you make that decision and you put the throttle fully that way. We’re not halfway. … It wasn’t a bad team last year. This year it looks like we can have a chance. Shortened season, almost anything can happen. So, we’re going for it.”
Added Grousbeck: ‘It has been a shortened preseason. There hasn’t been a lot of chance to really settle in with this team yet, this roster, and see it, and get a sense of other rosters as well. Having said that, every time I see [Kevin] Garnett, [Paul] Pierce, [Ray] Allen, and Rondo walk out on the court and Rivers coaching them, I get goose bumps, actually. So, I’m hopeful, and we’ll see.’
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page .
Grousbeck on the Jeff Green  situation: ‘Everybody put his health first. And we’re very hopeful actually that he’s going to be back and actually on the NBA court playing.’
Pagliuca on Rondo’s attitude since the trade rumors subsided: ‘Rondo has handled this very well. He’s come back mature. He basically has said that that happens in the NBA and he’s got a great attitude, so we’re really excited about his season this year. … Rondo’s worked a lot on his shot. He’s really hitting the shot from the elbow.”
Grousbeck on re-signing Rivers: “Steve and I and our partners, we were talking and we said we really don’t want Rivers to go, we don’t want to see this without Doc right now. He’s still got the juice, he’s still got it in the tank, and he’s our coach, he’s been our championship coach. So, we went to him and said, ‘We’d like you to stay. If it’s not right for you, we understand that. But we’d like you to stay and we don’t want to delay this until June, July, August, dither around, there might be a labor situation, let’s get this done.’ And we did get it done. To his credit, he said, ‘I thought about it and this is the place I want to be.’ ”
Pagliuca on Rivers: ‘Part of the big thing here is that Doc sees the vision, he likes the way the team is going, he has a great relationship with Danny and the ownership group, and I think he stepped back and said, ‘These guys want continuity, they’ve treated me well.’ He’s treated us well, we’ve got a championship. And a big part of the NBA is really trust in the three groups: the ownership, the general manager and the coach. And we have that at the Boston Celtics , and that’s a rare thing to find. We’d love to see Doc be like Jerry Sloan , long-term coach. I think he’s the longest-ranking coach in the East at least, maybe in the league at this point.’
Groubeck on why the sides were finally able to settle lockout: ‘The general concept was this is regrettable to have this lockout. If there is a deal, we might as well just go ahead and get to it. If there isn’t, that would be very disappointing. That’s all I can really say. I don’t think you sit there at 3 in the morning going, ‘Well, 50 vs. 52 vs. 66 [games]. Christmas or not?’ ”
On the importance of starting the season on Christmas: “I think it was a logical place for both sides to look and say, we can put four or five games on national TV, keep the national TV revenues, which we’re splitting. But more importantly, it’s the kickoff of our season for a lot of more casual fans. It’s a big day. If this had dragged into January, February, I’m not sure that would’ve made all that much sense. Sixty-six games is 80 percent of the season. It was a logical notch in the calendar, and you either get to Christmas or you don’t. But it’s a big deal not to be in Christmas, we thought. And it enabled both sides to say let’s split the difference.’
Pagliuca on the NBA stepping in and stopping the Chris Paul  trade to the Lakers: ‘I think the criticism was totally unwarranted, because you’ve just got to look at the results. They got a very nice trade done for New Orleans. Universally, the basketball people say it was a better trade than the first trade. And what David [Stern‘s] job in that case is is to do the best thing in his view for the New Orleans Hornets . And that’s a tough position with everybody looking and second-guessing, but that’s what he did.’
Grousbeck on the renewed rivalry with the Knicks and the opening game: ‘It’s maybe not be like the old days, but it was just a couple of years ago Quentin Richardson  followed Pierce down the tunnel, Pierce is like hitting Spike Lee‘s hat off his head. Those were pretty big games down there, as it was. Then, I hate to mention this, but we did sweep them in a playoff series last year. I think it’s revved up anyway, and yeah, it’s going to be a lot of fun Christmas Day.’
Pagliuca on the Heat: ‘I think Miami is going to take on at some point a Red Sox-type of a thing that, boy, they should win it, they haven’t won it. That puts a lot of pressure on them, which is good for us. But now you have the Clips emerging, and you have some other great teams as well. It’s going to be exciting an exciting season. And when LeBron and crew come in here it’s going to be interesting to see how they play.’
Grousbeck on Bill Belichick : “Belichick was there with us at Game 6 in ’08. He was at courtside, but he was in our courtside club at halftime. We were up 28 points or something at halftime, some number. I go in and I look at him, he looks at me and I say, this is Belichick, you’re supposed to say, ‘Boy, this is going to be a tough second half. He goes, ‘Wyc, the hell with that, have a tequila. You’ve got this thing.’ I’m serious. He bought a round at halftime. He let the guard down. He’s like, ‘You’ve got this thing.’ “