Some of these answers won't arrive until the looming heat of May and June, months when the old Boston Garden used to steam up and Auerbach was said to have glued the windows shut in the visitors' locker room. But the best sign of how far the Celtics have already come is that Pierce can see things from management's view. "They were new," Pierce says of Ainge and the owners. "They were learning the business, still learning how to operate the day-to-day. They took their time, sat back, evaluated everything for a few years and then it was the right time. They made the move. This is the most excited I've been about playing a season. I know this type of opportunity doesn't come around for a lot of players. We've got to make the most of it."
In the meantime Ainge will keep returning to the best memory he has of his extended efforts to restore the Celtics tradition. "Paul came and gave me a big hug the day we made the KG trade," says Ainge. "He said, 'Never did I think you could bring me these kind of veteran players.' That was probably my favorite moment of the whole thing, to see Paul like a little kid again."