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Courtside chatter

Brown feeling green

Memory of ’08 colors his world

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / June 18, 2010

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LOS ANGELES — In a Virginia hotel room last night, P.J. Brown flipped on the television to root for his former team in Game 7.

In 2008, Brown played just 18 regular-season games with the Celtics, scoring just 39 points. But the midseason acquisition will be remembered for his game-sealing shot in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals and for being a calming influence on that championship team.

He came out of retirement to join the Celtics after a chance meeting with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen at All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, and his decision to return to the NBA after a brief hiatus was career-defining.

“They talked to me and felt like I’d help the team,’’ said Brown, who was in Charlottesville for the NBA Players Association Top 100 High School Camp. “They felt like I’d contribute to their championship run.

“They kind of cornered me a little bit and told me a lot of good things about the team. I thought about it, tossed and turned on it, and it took me about a week, week and a half, and I decided it was something I wanted to do.’’

Brown was the veteran presence and solid-shooting big man the Celtics craved. They tried re-creating that with Mikki Moore last season and with Rasheed Wallace this season.

“I was worried about how they would accept me,’’ Brown said. “They had been together for a while and had a nice chemistry going, so I really didn’t want to go in there and be that guy who said, ‘I deserve to be here.’

“Whatever team I was going to, I wanted to work for it. They welcomed me in with open arms. Winning the championship was a cherry on top, putting my hand on that Larry O’Brien Trophy. People mention it to me, say, ‘What’s up, champ?’ and I ask whether they are talking to me.’’

Now Brown is tutoring high school players in hopes of landing an NBA coaching job soon. He took a year away from the game, rejected any overtures of returning last season, and remained home with his two teenagers. But he has closely followed the NBA, especially the Celtics.

“I think they’ve done awesome,’’ Brown said. “They’ve shocked the world. Everybody picked Cleveland to come out of the East, but the Celtics are the best in the league, still.

“The cohesiveness and the championship pedigree have carried them through. They have been great throughout the whole playoffs. It’s something I am not surprised about.

“And I bleed Celtics green, so you know I want those guys to do it again.’’

Chasing down Fox
Statistically, Rick Fox spent his best seasons in Boston, and his final year with the Celtics was a career year in terms of scoring and steals. But two months after the season, he was released.

Fox accepted a less-prominent role with the Lakers and won three championships in seven seasons, but his Boston ties are still strong. Although he admittedly was rooting for the Lakers — and former teammates Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher — his Celtics days are not taken lightly.

“I remember them as a pretty strong foundation because it was laid by not only just the guys on the court I played with but the surrounding legends who were part of the organization,’’ said Fox, a 1991 first-round pick who remained with the team until July 1997.

“You are talking about Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish teaching me how to be a professional. That was the ultimate. It set me on a course in the area of professionalism and expectation, and every season is about playing for a championship, not getting paid and making commercials.

“I can remember many times Larry righting my ship in terms of focus and concentration in the layup line. It was different than what I played with at North Carolina.’’

Fox smiled when asked about the 1996-97 season when the M.L. Carr-led Celtics won a franchise-low 15 games, leading to a major house cleaning.

“It wasn’t a very pretty season,’’ said Fox. “That was a nightmare, man, an unbelievable nightmare for many reasons. We were struggling, aging. The team the year before turned into a team that was looking to win the Tim Duncan sweepstakes. Being a middle-of-the-road successful team wouldn’t have given us any hope for that.’’

Fox shakes his head when discussing his final season.

“There were times we were flirting with worst start, flirting with only winning nine games,’’ he said. “I think it was something like nine guys on the roster had surgeries.

“It made me a stronger captain on that team, so when I came here and was captain of the Lakers, I had enough experience on what not to do and what not to say from that season.’’

Because of his success in Los Angeles, Fox said, he is biased toward the Lakers. In Boston, he was a victim of the Rick Pitino regime, released just after the 1997 draft.

“I had a bitter exit from Boston after really visualizing a career there for 15 years,’’ he said. “When I go back to Boston, I am always warmly received. There is a level of appreciation for the time I spent there.

“The current owners and the people who work there are very pleasant to me. And so I tend to focus on the positives in my time there. There is a lot I take away from there.’’

Fox summed up his split feeling about the teams: “It’s like being married to two different women and having kids with each one of them and you don’t love them any less.’’

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