June 26, 2008

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LONGSHOTS: Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
by Dave Long

Since I didn’t get to close out the season before they closed it out in my deadline dead zone last week – here’s some final thoughts on the remarkable turnaround season for the Boston Celtics in 2007-08.

My guiding lesson in life about what the majority has to say is this: just because more people think a certain way, it doesn’t mean they’re right. And that was upheld once again by a few recent examples of what the majority had to say about the NBA Finals before it started, in an ESPN Sports Nation poll with a hair under 300,000 voters:

57 percent said the Fakers, er Lakers, would win — though 17.7 percent predicted the C’s in six.

79 percent said the Lakers offense was better than a team that has three guys who are going to score 20,000 points in their career. Wonder how they figured that.

68 percent said the Lakers bench was better. The final tally was: Points: Cs 29.1, L.A. 21.8. Rebounds: Cs 14.5, L.A. 7.1. Assists: Cs 4.1, L.A. 3.5. The Lakers bench did miss more threes, though.

But the most egregious of all was 55 percent saying Larry Bird was the greatest Celtic of all time, compared to 39 percent correctly saying it was Bill Russell. Sorry, I like Larry, but it ain’t close, as 11 titles in 13 years makes Russell not just the greatest Celtic but the greatest player in American team sports history.

Actually, more egregiouser (if that’s a word) was seeing KC Jones (who I love) rated better than Dave Cowens and Pierce picked the third-best Celtic ahead of All-Time Top 50 NBA players Bob Cousy, John Havlicek and Big Dave.

Earth to Mark Jackson: Tim Duncan is the best player on the planet. The four titles he’s won while being THE MAN in San Antonio back me up.

Speaking of the finals MVP: where is the “I Was Wrong” column from the Boston Herald’s Steve Buckley about his overreaction by wanting to run Pierce out of town after one stupid incident in the 2004 playoffs? I think was a case of sometimes good people do stupid things and deserve a second chance.

How would the Celtics have done if they had lost Perk in February? Maybe as well, but it would have been a big hit. So it should be noted that L.A. probably lost even more when young Andrew Bynam went down for the year around that time — because he was coming on and is going to the low-post player the Lakers desperately needed and Pao Gasol clearly was not.

Yes, he’s got unusual “skills” for a seven-footer, but after my first extended time watching him play, I’ve got Gasol as a cross between Hank Finkel and Barney Fife.

Of course if you watch Sasha “the matador” Vujacic on defense, he makes Gasol look as gritty as Bronco Nagurski.

The best team the Celtics played in the playoffs was Cleveland. They were the toughest and had the best clutch player. And in descending order from best on down, here is how I rank the most effective performances during the playoffs against them. (1) LeBron James — he still filled the stat sheet even when the Celtics defense had him struggling from the field and no one was close to his 45-point Game Seven that almost derailed the season. (2) Josh Smith — even with his horrible Game Seven, as he had heads swiveling looking for his blocked shots throughout. (3) Joe Johnson — no one had a quarter like he did when he won Game Four of the Atlanta series by himself. (4) Richard Hamilton — a real pain until he got hurt. (5) Kobe Bryant — he had one good game and a couple of good first quarters — which doesn’t sound Michael Jordanesque to me.

So to Jeff Gore, the SNHU basketball assistant, guess I win our argument in a knockout, the one when I said if Pierce were playing for the Lakers with Shaq instead of Kobe they would have won all three of those titles. Although now I’m thinking it probably would have been four, since he wouldn’t have gotten into the jealousy battles with the big fella that derailed a fourth.

Not that it matters, but one thing you can say about my spelling ability is I’m versatile. As depending on the moment I can spell it Kobie, Koby, or Kobe. Don’t ask me how it happens — it’s just a gift.

The fan in me spent the week trying to act like I’ve been there before, which I have, but I had a hard remembering how to, since it’s been so long.

Here’s the thing these young’ns did for Red Auerbach. They gave Phil Jackson his second (straight) loss in the finals. So while the Zen Master may pass Red for the coach with the most NBA titles someday, he’ll always have at least one more finals loss than Auerbach — which means with a record of 9 wins in 10 appearances Red will ALWAYS have the better series winning percentage in the finals.

Plus the elimination game to the St. Louis Hawks in 1968 when Russell had a severely sprained ankle by Red’s Celtics was not by the embarrassing margin of a whopping 39 points either.

Raise your hand if you thought that in the playoff-clinching game and their finest of the season, Rajon Rondo would be the guy to take the most shots in the game. It’s true, he was 8-20, while KG led the big three with 18 shots.

With all due respect to Garnett in the regular season and Pierce in the playoffs: the MVP of this Celtics season was Danny Ainge, who had one of the greatest years a general manager has had in any sport ever. And Red Auerbach, for one, never had one quite as good either.

Have I mentioned yet that I think Kobe is over-rated by one and all? His supporters are still out there saying he doesn’t have the supporting cast. Talk about denial. I mean maybe he’ll be like Harry Truman and 50 years after he’s done, my opinion will change if he rectifies all the playoff no-shows since he’s been the man — but for now I don’t think so.

In case you’re interested in seeing me pat myself on the back as I like to do over predictions, here’s what I wrote before the series began: “Prediction: I had the Celtics in six over Detroit and road wins in Game Three and Six. The ultimate edge is their defense. It’s an instant replay — Celtics in six.”

Anybody know if the baseball season has started yet? I’ll look into it and get back to you next week.

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.


6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals

6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
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 — 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