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 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.