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By A. Sherrod Blakely
WALTHAM — When you listen to Jermaine O'Neal talk about the Boston Celtics, his respect for the organization is obvious.
But as much as he loves them now . . we'll just let him tell you how he used to feel.
"I hated their team for so long," O'Neal acknowledged during the C's media day on Monday. "But I always admired their team and what they represented. On that court, it was all about winning and playing together and playing hard."
In a separate interview, O'Neal acknowledged how grateful he feels to be part of a team that's totally committed to winning at a high level right now.
"I haven't walked into a locker room where we talked about winning a championship and a championship only, in a long time," O'Neal told CSNNE.com.
Just imagine Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Jermaine O'Neal and Shaquille O'Neal on the same team, in their prime.
In the video game world, it's very possible.
But in this place we call reality, it never had a chance.
Still, that doesn't stop guys like Garnett from playing the 'what if . . . ' game.
"It's a shame we gotta wait [until] our last couple of years of playing. Wish we could have done it earlier," said Garnett, who then quipped, "Dammit, Danny (Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations)."
But seriously, Garnett said he's "totally embracing this, and going to have some fun with it."
While it may seem like all fun and games now, these are the moments that speed up the bonding process of a team that has several new players added to the mix.
"When you're trying to get to know the next guy, it can make things on the court easier," Garnett said. "Playing with guys that you've played against countless years, you know what to expect. Shaq and J.O. [Jermaine O'Neal] along with Delonte [West], just sitting back and instead of competing with these guys, just getting to know them which is a first. It's a good thing. We have a locker room that's very open right now."
And those good times aren't left to the locker room, either.
Following media day, the Celtics took a chartered bus to Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., which is where the C's will have training camp. While on the bus, Celtics guard Nate Robinson tweeted one of what will surely be a season full of laugh-track moments.
Celtics rookie Avery Bradley, who underwent ankle surgery in July, said he will be able to participate in some parts of training camp.
"Right now, I'm taking it day by day," Avery told CSNNE.com. "I'm just excited to be on the court with all my teammates."
A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sherrodbcsn