April 10, 2008

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LONGSHOTS: For C’ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
by Dave Long

When it comes down to it, you’re either a college basketball fan or a pro basketball fan. And, while I like the excitement of the crowds, shorter season and of course the tawnament, I am a pro basketball fan. Always have been, because the players are just so much better and there is nothing like a gripping seven-game playoff series when your favorite team is playing against another you truly hate.

That’s why I look at the coming playoff spring for the Celtics with such anticipation. Because it’s been a really long time since they truly have had a chance to win it all, I feel like a guy getting out of the big house at the end of a 20-year stretch. I’m almost giddy. So here are a few observations of this wonderful season and the coming playoff season.

Before folks in The Nation say what they’re thinking, a basketball seven-game series is not the same as baseball. In the latter, they play every day, which means with the way things are with TV, you spend a week watching them in a total sleep-deprived state as most go past 12:30 a.m. In the NBA games don’t last as long, and there’s a day or two off between games to recover, reflect and anticipate the next one.

And for the young’ns in the crowd who have no idea what I’m talking about since the Celtics haven’t been regulars in this stuff for almost 20 years: If neither team gets knocked off, I think a playoff series like that with Detroit could be in the offing. A series with the Lakers, if we’re lucky enough, would be the same thing — especially since Kobie is a built-in villain right from the start.

So where’s Johnny Most when you need him most?

That’s not a knock on Comcast Sports Net’s Mike Gorman, by the way, who I think is the best announcer of them all in ANY of the local sports. “Got it!” on a big basket is his best call.

Incidentally, while I’m no big fan of the Kobster, my vote for MVP goes to him. Kevin Garnett has changed the culture here and been excellent from day one, but the Lakers started in chaos, lost their center in January and didn’t get second star Pao Gasol until February. Yet they’ve been around the top in the freakishly competitive West most of the year and he’s the prime reason.

Speaking of that, while everyone is talking Detroit and Cleveland, what scares me most is getting the 76ers as the second-round opponent. They are really athletic, with a good point guard in Andre Miller, push the ball like crazy, have the size and strength to overpower teams and are HOT! Watch out for them.

If you’re like my friend the insurance mogul Dick (big mistake, huge) Lombardi and whine that you don’t watch the NBA anymore because all they do is pick and roll or isolate match-ups on the box, it’s time to wake up and smell the Bigelow Tea. These Celtics run as much as any previous edition I’ve seen, with outlet passes on almost every possession and Rajon Rondo as the trigger man. As Chris Farley said in Tommy Boy, “Gad I love that.”

And if you want to blame someone for that, look no further than the last Celtic to win a title, as that’s all the 1986 Celtics did as Kevin McHale became a killer in almost every match-up. Besides, I never thought it was the style that turned everyone off. It was that they weren’t good enough to live up to what we’d come to expect when Bird, McHale and Parish walked through that door on a regular basis.

Was it just pure luck Leon Powe didn’t go in the Garnett deal, or Kevin McHale barely knew who he was or that Danny and Doc saw something in him during the 63 games he got in a year ago? He’s Paul Silas-like, in that he doesn’t look that good but just gets his hands on everything and produces good things after that. He scored 22 Saturday in Charlotte when he only took eight shots. That’s hard to do.

Speaking of Silas: who did the Celtics trade to Phoenix to get him? Hint, he was traded back here before 1975-76 and was a vital cog when they won the title that same year.

Here’s the stat I like best: their leading scorer is Paul Pierce and he ranks 30th in the league at 19.9 points a game. And it’s not like they’re offensively challenged since Pierce, Garnet and Ray Allen all have at least one 50-point game to their credit. It’s because they’ve played as a team from day one.

Number two: they’re holding the bad guys just to a league-best 89.9 points a game and 41.8% from the field.

The latest example of Danny Ainge’s ability to judge talent is the fact that in the last three drafts he’s gotten three solid players in Ryan Gomes, the aforementioned Powe and Big Baby Davis in the second round. It’s rare that second picks stick around long, let alone guys doing it from three straight drafts.

Celtics 101 answer: Though he had never actually played a game for the Celtics, as he had played in the ABA after leaving North Carolina, the rights to Charley Scott were traded to the Suns to get Silas. Scott came back east a few years later in a trade for Paul Westphal.

Hey, where’s the Herald’s Steve Buckley now, along with the others for running Paul Pierce out of town after he got tossed a few years back in that playoff game vs. Indiana? I defended him then by saying it was a split-second reaction by a decent guy after getting smacked in the face by Jamal Tinsley. A mistake most would’ve done after getting purposely hit by a punk who’s been in his share of shady incidents (most recently a drive-by shooting after an altercation in a club). Then he acted stupid in the press conference — no excuse there.

But given how it’s turned out I get to now say: I was right and you were wrong!.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two

3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did

02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon

Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat