BROOKLINE, Mass. -- One by one, they entered the gym for the final time. Some had children in tow; others arrived empty-handed. All left with stuffed garbage bags.
It's an annual routine for the Celtics and every other team: cleaning out the lockers. Monday, most did just that in person, including Kevin McHale and Brian Shaw. Others, including Larry Bird, had surrogates.
McHale talked about impending surgery and the pros and cons of returning next season. It sounds as though he'll be back. Shaw discussed his difficult playoff experience and how it was unfair to assign blame only to the "kids."
Dee Brown was there, too, and he said Shaw should not be traded and that there would be no controversy such as the one the Knicks had with Mark Jackson and Rod Strickland. And Joe Kleine said he wouldn't be stunned to playing elsewhere next season.
"I like it here, but I didn't play a lot," he said, "and I don't feel very secure. That's just the way it is."
McHale, asked about surgery to repair his left ankle, which he severely sprained Feb. 14, said, "It's not that big of a deal, really. The surgery I'm having is small compared to something like Larry's got to have. If I had to have Larry's surgery, I'd be a lot more concerned."
McHale said he probably will be in a cast for two to three weeks and then spend another month staying off the foot before rehabilitation. He said he didn't want the operation but that "what you want and what you need are sometimes two different things."
What about coming back? He has an option year on his contract and hasn't committed himself. He was still ambivalent Monday, although he seemed to be leaning toward another year, saying it would be "way off base" to rule him out.
"There's a part of me that says, 'Yeah, maybe you've had enough.' And there's also a part of me that says, 'Geez, you want to come back and play some more.' "
McHale said he will never lose his zest for the game but acknowledged that "you come to a point where you can't go anymore. I don't know if I'm at that point yet. That point, for everybody, is different. And only one person can tell you when you're at that point: yourself. Some people get to that point physically, and some people get to that point mentally. I'd say right now I'm more mentally at that point."
But, McHale said, he knows that as the summer progresses, and he starts to feel better, and there is no one elbowing him in the low post, he probably will get the urge again. He knows. It happens almost every summer.
As for Shaw, he wants to forget. He was pretty much supplanted by Brown in the last two playoff games against Detroit, and everyone seemed to forget how important he was to the team during the regular season.
"It was frustrating. You want to be out there," he said. "You say, 'We played a certain way for 82 games, and we're in the playoffs now, and why change the way which got us here?' That's not on me. All I can do is go out there when the coach tells me it's my turn to play. It didn't happen that much, so I was relegated to a different role."