High on all four walls around the court at the Boston Celtics' practice facility in Waltham, Mass., hang the testaments to the storied franchise's postseason pedigree, like sacred scrolls. Some are a bit discolored, some are a bit frayed, and one -- from the early '60s -- has what appears to be a huge coffee stain on it ... how something hanging indoors from the roof of a building could get splattered so messily is probably a great story in itself, but I digress.
The point is, as they practice under the watchful presence of those NBA record 17 championship banners, the the Celtics are literally surrounded by history. And sometimes, history visits in the flesh.
So it was yesterday. Down 2-0 to the Heat in their Eastern Conference semifinal series, one Celtics legend felt the time was right for an inspirational visit. Before heading to the airport to catch a flight to Scotland and a tee time at St. Andrew's, John Havlicek paid a surprise visit to the team's practice.
The catch here is that Havlicek was a member of the Celtics' 1969 championship team, the only one in franchise history to come back from a 2-0 deficit and win a series. Those Celtics trailed the Lakers 2-0 and wound up winning in seven games.
And for some of the younger Celtics, Havlicek's appearance added context to what might have been their only awareness to the Hall-of-Fame great -- his name being screamed repeatedly in one of the most famous sports calls of all time.
"I was talking to Havlicek -- you know, 'Havlicek stole the ball!' '' an inspired Glen Davis said. "I asked him, 'Which one of these banners ... He said the one that stood out to him was 1969, when they were down 0-2 and came back to win it in Game 7 against the Lakers. He was just saying, 'It's going to take everything in you to fight and claw back to get back to 2-2, and then it's going to take something special to finish them off."
The Celtics, with a host of players nursing nagging bumps and bruises, should get a boost from the return of Shaquille O'Neal, who is expected to play for the first time since April 3 due to a calf injury, and Paul Pierce should also be good to go, despite his strained left Achilles.
All told, though the Celtics are down 2-0, they look to be much more upbeat and in a much better place than that other storied franchise, the Lakers, who are similarly down 2-0 in their Western Conference series against the Mavericks. The biggest reason is Boston is going home with a chance to get back in the series while the Lakers lost their first two games at Staples Center.
And even better thanks to some inspiration from a real-life legend.
"I love all of them coming around," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "They've got more stories and the history above them."
Coffee-stained and all.