Red Claws basketball team renamed Maine Celtics

·5 min read

May 24—The Maine Red Claws have gone green. Boston Celtics green that is.

Maine's NBA G League team since 2009 will now be known as the Maine Celtics, complete with a new logo that features a snarling green lobster.

The change was announced Monday morning at a press conference at Ocean Gateway on Portland's waterfront.

"Today I am excited to announce that the Maine Red Claws have been reborn," said Maine Celtics President Dajuan Eubanks, who has been a member of the team's staff since the first day. "It's an exciting time for us. The Maine Celtics are here for good. We're here to represent the work ethic, grit and pride of the people of Maine. We're here to give back and do good in our home community. And we're here to represent the pride of the greatest sports region in the world."

Eubanks, who was named the NBA G League Executive of the Year for the 2019-20 season, said the name change has been in the works for the last year-and-a-half. The coronavirus pandemic, which shut the 2019-20 season down weeks before the playoffs were to begin and then forced cancellation of the Red Claws' 2020-21 season, delayed the discussion and gave the organization time to prepare for the change before the 2021-22 season.

"As we come out of a long, dark hiatus, now is the perfect time for a fresh start," said Eubanks. "Crustacean Nation now bleeds green."

The Boston Celtics — who barnstormed across Maine high school gyms throughout the 1950s, 1960s 1970s, and most recently played an exhibition game in Portland in 2014 — have been affiliated with the team since its inception, sharing the first two seasons with the Charlotte Bobcats and the third with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics became the franchise's sole affiliate in 2012 and in 2019 bought the franchise.

"When we purchased the Maine franchise in 2019, we immediately made that organization a part of our family," Boston Celtics President Rich Gotham said in a news release. "The decision to rename the team to 'Maine Celtics' is the next step in that evolution, and a nod to our diehard fan base, which extends throughout the great state of Maine."

The G League franchise has played at the Portland Expo since its inception. The Expo provides an intimate setting with just 2,717 seats. The team's lease with the city of Portland to use the Expo expires on June 20, 2024, with an option to extend it to 2029. Crusher, a basketball-playing lobster, will remain the team's mascot, although it will now be green, instead of red.

And there are those who are going to miss that.

"It's interesting," said Brian Ritchie of Augusta, who attended Monday's announcement with his son, Tyler. "You want me to be honest? I like the uniqueness of the Red Claws better. ... I guess I like the old, I guess I like the unique."

As did Tyler. "The lobster looks uncooked," he said, his father nodding in agreement.

But the change was met with approval by many of the Red Claws fans who attended the announcement.

"It's got a kick to it," said Nicolas Wilson, a sophomore basketball player at Maranacook Community School in Readfield, of the new name. "It's got more of a hook. I think it will make more people want to come to watch them play and have fun."

Kirk Jones, who lives in Portland's Back Cove, was wearing a Red Claws sweatshirt and hat — items that now have a certain collectible value to them. A season ticket holder for the Red Claws since the first game, he is embracing the change.

"I love this move," he said. "The brand recognition is going to be beneficial for both sides, for the Celtics and the Red Claws. We always had a good turnout at the Expo but I think now that we are the Maine Celtics that might resonate more with New England and Maine residents."

Jones admitted that he will miss the red lobster, but is glad the lobster is remaining part of the logo. "As long as we have the lobster, everyone knows it's part of Maine," he said.

Eubanks said the new name could open up sponsorship opportunities.

"Who wouldn't want to be affiliate with the Celtics brand directly?" he said. "You're talking about sports brand icons."

He promised that the Red Claws will not be forgotten, noting that the team will hold heritage or throwback nights. "We're not straying away from our history and our foundation," he said. "We're building on it. It's great that we were able to establish ourselves with the Red Claws brand. The community embraced us right out of the gate and I have every reason to believe the same thing will happen with the Maine Celtics."

Eubanks said that the name change simply furthers the Celtics ties to Portland and should end any more talks of the team ever moving. Just before the Boston Celtics purchased the Red Claws in 2019, the city of Worcester, Massachusetts, sought to lure the Red Claws from Portland.

"There are no more rumblings about Worcester, I can tell you that," said Eubanks. "We are the Maine Celtics. This solidifies our relationship with our parent team. We are the Celtics here. I am thrilled for this community."

Eubanks said that the NBA G League is progressing toward having a normal season for 2021-22. The team has not played at the Expo since March 8, 2020, because of the pandemic.