May 8, 2008

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LONGSHOTS: Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
by Dave Long

Iím sitting there Sunday morning still stewing about what happened in Atlanta on Friday night and it occurs to me that if the Celtics lost later in the day, after waiting about 20 years to write about them in the NBA playoffs it might be over before I could.

Fortunately they didnít let that happen in the most ho-hum Game Seven Iíve ever seen, so they lived another day to face King LeBron and his Cavaliers, where Game One will be over by the time you see this. But since who knows what will happen after the way the Cís played on the road, I better get a lot of thoughts about the playoffs out of the way today rather than write the epic column on one topic and risk not being able to blurt out the rest before it ends. So here goes.

I knew the Celtics were in trouble when Dan Shaughnessy said the Hawks had zero chance of winning. And while he (barely) got it right this time, when predicting, he makes Pete Sheppard look like Nostradamus, whose Lock of the Day was yanked off WEEI because his percentage of being correct on calling ďlocksĒ was below the Mendoza line.

I can take losing incidentally better than most. For me itís how you do it. Iím fine if it happens when a team gives 100 percent while playing with grit and you just lose as the Patriots did in the Super Bowl. But in Atlanta, it was like the youngíns were bullies on the playground after the Celticsí lunch money and the veteran team just handed it over without much of a fight. I didnít like that.

Also I get how they got the name, but to me the real Big Three of this Celtics team is Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. Rondo is more indispensable than the esteemed Ray Allen. Especially with Sam Cassell looking like the Eric Gagne of the basketball season through most of the series.

But Iíll say this about Ray: Iíve pretty much spent the year thinking he was mid-way through the back nine, but I checked his numbers recently. All except points per game and shots taken compare favorably with vintage Ray. The points are down in deference to those around him, so he took nine shots a game less than a year ago in Seattle. A drop like that for a shooter is a very big adjustment.

Have I mentioned this before? I love Leon Powe. Tough as nails.

Hereís the cautionary tale for those willing to throw Jacoby Ellsbury into that Johann Santana deal ó Joe Johnson. The Cís gave him up for Rodney Rogers in a late playoff season push in part because then coach Jimmy OíBrien had buried him. Now Rogers and OíBrien are long gone and Johnson toasted them in Atlanta. In trades like that, itís not just the guy youíre getting, but youíve got to know who should be untouchable.

Hereís one more ďIím so oldĒ from last week. Iím so old I remember paying $4 at the box office for a ticket 15 minutes before the start of the cataclysmic Game Seven in 1974 between the Celtics and the Knicks at the Garden. Thatís Boston, not Madison. Which is more startling, that an NBA ticket ever cost a mere four bucks or being able to buy tickets for Game Seven with any New York team on game day?

You donít suppose the suspension of Darius Songaila for Game Six in the Washington-Cleveland series after a rough encounter with LeBron James had anything to do with insuring that the NBAís major TV drawing card advanced in the playoffs, do you? I know I sound like Oliver Stone, but if it didnít, why didnít Jason Kidd get bounced for a much worse hit in the Dallas-New Orleans series?

Speaking of that, Marvin Williams was trying to hold Rondo up when he did to Rajon on Sunday what Kevin McHale did to Kurt Rambis below the Pete Tarrier line in Game Four of the 1984 finals with the Lakers.

From the ďWith Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?Ē department comes the story of the Papa Johnís Pizza chain making up T-shirts with LeBronís number 23 on it just below ďCrybaby.Ē What do you think would happen to business for a local one like those in the Dick Anagnost empire if they did one with Tom Bradyís number 12 on it? Iím guessing the buzzword would be boycott. Unless the late John Belushi were there ó then it would be FOOD FIGHT!

Hereís Mondayís headline on the sports page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer: Cavaliers Praise Celtics, Dismiss Mystique.

And hereís the first entry in the blog under the story from a yahoo called bluebengal: ďWhere did this mystic CRAP come from. The last time we met the Celtics in the playoffs the Cavaliers we put them OUT of the playoffs and ended Larry Birdís great career!! They are more worried about us then we are about them. RELAX and play ball Cleveland. Nothing to lose (weíre the underdog here) and everything to gain!!Ē

Now I know what Barack Obama was talking about at that fundraiser in San Francisco.

Excuse me for going below the Pete Tarrier Line (though when weíre talking about the Celtics and the playoffs itís hard not to), but while his supporting cast is better than Michael Jordan had with the Bulls in 1986, this series brings to mind that one, where the team seems to be taking on one guy. In 1986 it was Jordan against the Big Three, along with DJ, Bill Walton and Danny Ainge. He had 49 in Game One. Danny held him to 63 in the Game Two double overtime Celtics win and in Game Three every one of those previously mentioned guys covered him at the same time and dared any other Bull to beat them, which they couldnít as the Celtics won the series and held MJ to 20.

In case youíre interested: Michael didnít take one three-point shot that day. He was 22 for 41 from the field and 19 for 21 from the line. And if youíre into the steroids conspiracy, when you check it out on YouTube as I did, tell me skinny, skinny 22-year-old Michael looks much different than Barry Bonds did while playing for the Pirates.

Iím getting ahead of myself I know, but if I get one sports wish for the year from the tooth fairy, I want it to be getting Kobe and the Lakers in the finals.

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


5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...

4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 ó 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 ó 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 ó 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 Mís 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
Heroís 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