It takes dedication, first and foremost.
When former Boston College star and NBA veteran Dana Barros addressed the crowd at an NBA Cares Hoops for Troops event at a submarine base in New London, Conn., on Saturday, that was his message.
“We talked about fitness, we talked about dedication to things you enjoy doing,” the former Celtics guard and current C’s community relations department member said by phone. “We told them no matter what you do, even if it’s not a sport, dedication is important.”
Barros, the Boston native who starred at Xaverian High School before moving on to BC, worked his way to a 14-year NBA career. Drafted by Seattle after four seasons in Chestnut Hill, Barros signed with the Celtics as a free agent after two seasons in Philadelphia. That was in 1995-96, the season prior to the infamous 15-win campaign that former Celtics coach Rick Pitino famously hoped would land them the first pick and Tim Duncan.
Injured in '96-97, Barros admitted it was a trying time to be in green and white.
“The good thing about the NBA, or you can call it the bad thing, is every game there’s new challenges,” Barros said. “You go from [facing Stephon] Marbury to [Allen] Iverson to Jason Kidd, there’s no nights off. Each game is a separate experience.
“If you’re dwelling on the game before, and now you’re facing Charles Barkley or Michael Jordan you’re in trouble.”
The losing got to some of the Celtics.
“Some players handle it better than others,” he said. “I played with players who just tossed in the towel and said, ‘We’re gonna stink’ and then there were others who worked harder. That’s why I was in the league, period. I was someone who pretty much earned every single thing that I had gotten to that point -- it was easy for me to maintain because the obstacles were constant for me.”
Though he works for the team’s public relations arm now, Barros didn’t try to spin the situation the Celtics are currently in. With Doc Rivers now coaching the Clippers, Ray Allen polishing his Miami Heat championship ring, and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett suiting up for the Nets, things may not be pretty on the parquet at TD Garden during the 2013-14 campaign.
“Definitely, it’s gonna be struggles,” he said of the upcoming season. “We have to try to find an identity, immediately. I think we had an identity when Doc, Paul, Ray and KG were here those six years. We knew who we were -- we were a defensive-minded team.
“I’m not sure what our identity will be. Figuring out what we do best will be difficult.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.