Project Greenlight

Updated: February 17, 2005, 1:48 PM ET
By Ric Bucher | ESPN The Magazine
This article appears in the Jan. 31 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

Gary Payton strolls into the locker room on a January evening, sees Al Jefferson lounging in front of his stall and stops dead, a look on his face as if he's smelled something awful. What is this? The rookie the Celtics didn't even plan to put in uniform this season has a photographer snapping his picture from every angle and a writer at his elbow. "Just because you're getting your picture taken, don't think you're anything," Payton snaps. "Just because he's talking to you don't mean you're s---. Don't think you are. You hear?"

The half-dozen other Celtics in the room lean forward, enjoying the show. Jefferson sighs, mumbles under his breath and heads for the training room. "That's my youngster," Payton explains, with a devious grin. "Got to keep 'em right."

Ric Bucher

NBA Reporter, ESPN The Magazine Senior Writer