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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.