LOS ANGELES -- A collection of news and notes after the Boston Celtics participated in media access following an Eastern Conference All-Star team meeting Friday at the JW Marriott:
Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn't deny there was a mild air of tension as the East stars gathered for their first team meeting Friday, but he kind of enjoyed watching the scene as the 12 players filed in for a brief afternoon session to lay the groundwork for the weekend.
"We just had our big meeting and guys were pretty good," said Rivers. "I’m an observer, that’s what I do. There's always some guys and I was just canvassing the room, watching where guys sat and who kinda kept to themselves. There was a little bit of that."
Much has been made about the fact that the Celtics have their own little clique with four reserves on this year's squad in Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett, along with Rivers and his coaching staff. Meanwhile, the rival Heat -- who sit in a virtual tie atop the East with Boston -- have a trio in Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh. The Hawks also have a pair of reserves in Al Horford and Joe Johnson.
Rivers said that naturally led to some pairing off at the meeting, and it left some on an island.
"The guy I felt sorry for was Dwight [Howard]," joked Rivers. "Everybody else seemed to have a teammate they could talk to. He didn’t have a teammate, so I sat by Dwight and just talked to him."
Howard is the odds-on favorite to end up paired with Boston's center-less quartet, with most of the players suggesting they wouldn't mind him being in the middle of that All-Star lineup (Heck, Pierce went so far as to suggest Howard, a soon-to-be free agent, wouldn't look bad in a green Celtics jersey).
Rajon Rondo offered to give up the point guard spot if Rivers himself wanted to make it a Boston sweep and join his players on the floor for a few minutes.
"Yeah, get the tight shorts," Rivers joked in regards to the style of shorts that were popular during his playing days.
--GARNETT DISMISSES NOTION OF HIM AS A 'DIRTY' PLAYER--
Kevin Garnett kept a steady crowd of reporters, even towards the end of his near-45-minute session. That meant a lot of repeat questions about his reputation as a "dirty" player, a word he dismissed despite far-ranging criticism recently from the likes of Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry and Knicks superfan Spike Lee.
"Listen, I don't play for the Phoenix Suns," said Garnett. "I could care less about what Spike or whoever else has something to say about me. My organization is happy with what I'm doing, so I could care less.
"I'm a competitor and play hard, but don't call me dirty. Just like, if you dislike me, dislike me. 'Hate' is a strong word, just like 'dirty' is a strong word. It is a different league. It's a more offensive league. I'm sure the league likes to promote offense and it's cool. Don't call me or make me out to be something I'm not."
Asked if his high-intensity style of play might be working against him, Garnett simply shrugged.
"I don't know what it is," said Garnett. " Just came out of the blue. Came out of the blue from nowhere, the situation, whatever it was. I'm not going to speak about it. Just, if you don't like my play, don't watch it. I'm out here trying to win, period.
"It's competitive. If you and I were doing something that caused me to be competitive, I would be competitive. But I don't know anybody in this room that wants to lose, and, if so, that's them. I go out there a certain way, always have, always will. I don't make any more about that or any excuses about that.
"I respect the game and I respect the players in it, damn not trying to hurt anybody. I don't want to be hurt."
--LOOSE BALLS: PIERCE & HOLLYWOOD; RAY ON ANOTHER ALL-STAR GAME--
* All the players (and Rivers, too) fielded some off-the-wall questions. One inquisitor first told Pierce he could be a movie star in this town before asking for his favorite actors. "Man, you put me on the spot," said Pierce. "There's a few people I really, really like. I really like Denzel [Washington]. I really love Johnny Depp and Leonardo [DiCaprio], too."
* Ray Allen on being an All-Star at age 35: "Well, obviously to be in this building in this room is always a lot of excitement. Being one of the top 24 players in the league, the first half of the season, is a great accomplishment, not only for me, but we are able to highlight and showcase our city, our fans that are here for us and my family. That's probably one of most important things: [My family is] riding on the journey with us, and they get the chance to be an All-Star themselves. They wear jerseys and they get to meet celebrities, so I think for the first time, really they get a chance to see what it's like. It's a great time."