There's a pro basketball team in town again. The Celtics just got legit. It's fair to go to the entertainment center known as the TD Banknorth Garden and expect a basketball game to break out.

They can get rid of the belly-button struttin' dancing hotties now.


They can tell the leprechaun on the trampoline to go take a flying leap. Literally.


They can stop filling the scoreboard screen with utter inaneness.


They can tell the Barbie doll-like blonde with the killer smile she doesn't have to toss dumb questions at dumber fans anymore during timeouts.


Yep, get rid of it all. There's a pro basketball team in town again. The Celtics just got legit. It's fair to go to the entertainment center known as the TD Banknorth Garden and expect a basketball game to break out.


Kiss the youth movement goodbye. No more waiting for the peach-fuzz kids to develop. Delonte West, Ryan Gomes, Al Jefferson and Sebastian Telfair have been pawned off. Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are what they brought, to partner with Paul Pierce. These guys aren't kids. They have 23 years, cumulative, of NBA service.


What they mean to the Celtics is, no more excuses! It's not just about making the playoffs now. If Garnett, Pierce and Allen can't get Boston to the postseason, then life itself is a sham. Last weekend the Celtics weren't even on your mind. The Red Sox were bracing for a final push and the Patriots were just starting up. You long ago had put the Ray Allen acquisition out of you mind. You didn't even know if Allen was enough to make that much of a difference.


Different story now. No, just making the playoffs isn't enough. The Celtics should be eyeing the Eastern Conference finals, and if you get that far, why not the Finals? OK, maybe the Finals is a stretch. But the notion is already out there.


If the Allen deal was met with part skepticism and part ennui - he was 32 and coming off surgery on both feet - the Garnett deal is heavy stuff, even better since it was thought the deal was dead. Celtics fans had given up hope, passing it off as wishful thinking.


Now, it's 'Where can I get tickets?' What the hiring of Bill Parcells did for the Patriots' box office, the trade for Garnett should do for the Celtics, and since they were drawing good crowds even in their misery, the Celtics might be a hot ticket this season. Been a while since we've been able to say that.


The tab next year for Garnett, Pierce and Allen runs about $55 million. It gives new meaning to The Green Team.


And, let's get this out of the way right now. Yes, the Celtics have three vereran studs who are used to getting the ball. But no, this will not be a problem. Pierce has been begging for an experienced presence. Now he's got two. So if his touches go down, it's for the greater good. Allen came here knowing Pierce has been The Man, although a frustrated one at times. Allen signed off on the deal anyway. And Garnett knew Pierce and Allen were here, and he's coming.


Garnett is coming because - well, let's be honest, things didn't work out with Phoenix.


But he's also coming because he feels the Celtics are in the future-is-now mode. After carrying the burden of being the face of the Timberwolves for 12 years with painfully unsuccessful results (one trip to the Western Conference finals) Garnett must look at this chance to play with Pierce and Allen as a.) his chance to be part of something big and b.) his last chance to be part of something big.


This won't inspire Garnett to play harder. He's always played hard. It was never enough for him to be a 20/12 guy. He actually took a liking to playing defense. He made All-NBA first-team defense six times.


So Danny Ainge, in his roundabout way, and with the noose around his neck getting tighter, pulled it off. He got Allen off the top and Garnett on the rebound. It may not be time to start stitching flag No. 17, but maybe somebody should look for the needle and thread, just in case.


I know, Al Jefferson was starting to grow on you. Too bad. You thought Garnett was going for chump change? Gerald Green? Sure, he could some day put up 20 points consistently, but there was a question of whether he'd ever mature, and if he could spell defense, never mind play it, if you spotted him the D. The same criticisms could be made of Sebastian Telfair.


Ryan Gomes was like breakfast at a country inn. Complimentary.


Look at the trade as Garnett for Jefferson. Sure, Big Al's 10 years younger. But the Celtics had to get older to get serious. They've done that.


Expect Kevin Garnett to toss out the first pitch at Fenway one of these nights.


Lenny Megliola is a MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Mass.) columnist. His e-mail is lennymegs@aol.com.