Three years ago when the All-Star game was in Los Angeles, the Boston Celtics showed up with four players and the team's entire coaching staff in tow, making it impossible to turn on the weekend's festivities without catching at least a glimpse of green.
And that's the way it's been for the better part of the last 13 years. Paul Pierce carried Boston's star torch while appearing in 10 All-Star games from 2002-2012. The one year that Pierce missed the festivities, Boston still reveled in watching Gerald Green win the 2007 Slam Dunk contest.
Which is why it's simply a bit striking that -- after Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger participated in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night -- Boston is set to endure a star-less weekend, a rare sort of anonymity as it navigates the early stages of a rebuild.
With a rare blast of free time, Celtics coaches and players planned to downshift this weekend and divorce themselves for basketball for a couple days.
"I’ll work on Friday, just to kinda get myself organized heading into [next week's West Coast road trip], then I’ll take the weekend with my family off," said Celtics first-year coach Brad Stevens, who, save for a brief Christmas respite, has been pretty much full-go since he got hired on July 3.
"We’re going to reconvene [in Phoenix] -- we’ve got a gym on Monday for guys that get in early if they just want to shoot and work out. We’ll reconvene Tuesday and practice. I think it’s imperative and important that everybody in our travel party gets mentally ready for the next 28 games ... and make sure that we’re playing our very best basketball when we reconvene. But also take a couple of days, and take a breath."
Team captain Rajon Rondo, a four-time All-Star who missed last year's festivities after tearing his ACL, said he planned to utilize the four-day break for rest and relaxation.
"Gonna chill," said Rondo. "Take a trip. Undisclosed location."
Asked if a tiny part of him was distressed not to be in New Orleans this weekend, he offered a matter-of-fact "No." With his focus on his return to basketball after missing nearly a full year, Rondo was happy to utilize this bit of downtime to rest those achy muscles that have been put back in service.
Even Sullinger said that, after Friday's rookie/sophomore mixer, he was headed back to Columbus, Ohio, to spend time with his family. With no teammates around for the rest of the weekend's festivities, Sullinger was planning to get his fill of All-Star weekend on Friday (and a bit on Saturday morning) and join his teammates in relaxation mode.
With 54 games in the rearview mirror, Gerald Wallace noted this weekend was a rare chance to "relax your body. We put so much on our bodies that ... we need a couple days. Don’t even have to think about basketball. Just get away with your family, enjoy the weekend, rest your body."
With the trade deadline looming next week, the Celtics know that nothing about this team is guaranteed moving forward. The one thing that was assured was this weekend's break and they planned to utilize every second of it.