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Celtics-Lakers redux

September 30, 2008 | 12:33 pm

Left, to right, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen share a laugh during the Celtics' media day on Monday.

The Boston Celtics start training camp today with the lofty goal of repeating as NBA champions, a feat that hasn't been accomplished by a Celtics team since Bill Russell's last season in 1968-69.

Monday, at media day, Paul Pierce and Celtics Coach Doc Rivers took a few gentle shots at Kobe Bryant and the Western Conference.

Pierce, who won the MVP award for the finals after the Celtics beat the Lakers in six games, got some heat during the summer for saying, "I don't think Kobe is the best player. I'm the best player." On Monday, Pierce explained that when he was vacationing in Europe, "every other question was about whether Kobe was the best player. I just felt like, I just won the championship. It wasn't a knock against him, but I think I am [the best]."

What isn't debatable is that during the NBA playoffs last spring, Bryant topped Pierce in every key offensive stat: In 21 games, Bryant averaged 30.1 points, shot 47.9% from the field, got 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game, versus Pierce's 19.7 ppg, 44.1 FG%, 5.0 rpg and 4.6 apg over 26 playoff games.

As for Doc Rivers, he thinks the competition in the Eastern Conference might be even tougher this season. During last season, he noted, "I said all year the best three teams were in the East. ... The West had gaudy records, but the bottom of the West almost guaranteed wins. You could get 15 to 20 wins against those teams, so almost everyone had a good record."

The Lakers host the Celtics at Staples Center on Christmas Day.

-- Barry Stavro

Photo: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, left to right, share a laugh during the Celtics' media day on Monday. Credit: Elise Amendola / Associated Press