WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) – If Paul Pierce’s play is as scary to opponents as the mask he wore for Halloween, the Boston Celtics star is headed for another outstanding season.

The last practice before Wednesday night’s season opener was over. Coach Doc Rivers said the team was better than it was last year, when it went 33-49, but he was concerned about consistency.

Then Pierce emerged from the locker room dressed in street clothes and a mask of the Jigsaw character in the movie “Saw III” – stringy black hair, chalk white face, red pinwheel design on the cheeks, blood red bowtie and black lines coming down from each corner of his mouth.

“You all don’t watch movies?” he asked a crowd of puzzled reporters Tuesday. “It’s Happy Halloween. I’m going trick or treating once I leave here. So this is going to be the start of my tradition. Every year I’m going to come in something new.”

Rivers has dealt with newness each year as he enters his third season as coach. This season five of the 15 players are new. Only two, Pierce and Kendrick Perkins, were with the team before Rivers arrived.

“When you have so many guys who haven’t played a lot of NBA basketball, you worry about consistency,” Rivers said.

The Celtics begin the season at home against the New Orleans Hornets.

Former Celtics president Red Auerbach, who died near his Washington home Saturday at age 89, will be honored by the city of Boston at a City Hall Plaza ceremony from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be a salute to Auerbach at TD Banknorth Garden before the game, with NBA commissioner David Stern in attendance. At halftime, former Celtics players will participate in a panel discussion.

All NBA teams are honoring Auerbach with a highlight video, player address, and moment of silence. Celtics players will wear on their uniforms a black shamrock emblem with the name RED on it.

During the game, the Celtics will face a team that added Peja Stojakovic, Tyson Chandler and Bobby Jackson in the offseason. Of Boston’s first 10 games, seven are at home.

“It’s not going to make or break our season,” Rivers said, but “it’s a team that’s really just starting to come together, if that, and then the young guys are still growing so, obviously, if we could get off to a great start that would really set us up for the second half because I think we’re going to be a much better team by midpoint.”

The Celtics won 12 fewer games last season than they did the previous season.

Since missing the playoffs, they acquired two new point guards, Sebastian Telfair in a trade with Portland and Rajon Rondo in the draft.

“They have great speed. Both have great vision and great feel,” he said. “The thing I like most about them both is for 48 minutes we can play at the same speed. We never have to slow down.”

The Celtics acquired Rondo for a future first-round pick from Phoenix, which took him with the 21st pick of the draft.

“I’m very confident,” Rondo said. “I think my style of play fits the NBA game a lot better. I just play with a lot of energy and do the little things. I don’t try to go out and score every night. The things I do you can control – play defense, rebound, take charges, the intangibles.”

The Telfair trade also brought center Theo Ratliff, an intimidating shot blocker. But he’s been sidelined much of training camp with back problems and should miss some more time.

“He was the last line of defense and I haven’t seen him in three weeks,” Rivers said.

Pierce, meanwhile, is coming off his best season and seems excited after a few years of worrying about the team’s direction with the addition of so many youngsters.

“You really don’t know if you’re better until you go out there and play some games,” he said, his words muffled by the mask he wore throughout the interview. “Do I think we’re more talented? Definitely.”

Maybe even scarier.


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