May 7, 2009

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LONGSHOTS: Celtics bull their way into round two — finally!
by Dave Long

Now that the Celtics-Bulls series has settled the non-sense over which is more entertaining at its peak — college basketball or the NBA — I can get on to some other matters from the truly great series.

Contrary to what a meatball like Michael Felger said on his new Sunday night show on Comcast Sports Net (which ain’t bad, by the way), the series shouldn’t have been a walk. It is standard practice for the media to say a team underperformed when challenged unexpectedly by a surprising (usually) young team. And if you disagree you’re a “homer,” because you have to always say tough things about the favorite to earn journalistic props. It’s also typical from someone who can’t judge the talent of a rising team. Or maybe he can’t see past prevailing perception of the Bulls, like the national media with the Cs and L.A. before last year’s final.  

From the time they made the trade for John Salmons and Brad Miller that dramatically improved the team, the Bulls went 18-10. That included a St. Patrick’s Day thumping of the Celtics and it’s a 52- or 53-win pace — hardly a typical seven seed. Throw out the early adjustment period and it’s more like a 56-win pace. During the same period the Celtics were a nearly identical 18-8 without KG. Since trends at the end of a year are usually more important than the 62 wins the Cs put on the board (43 with KG), that looks like the teams, as constituted for the series, were pretty even. Minus the experience factor, which went to Boston. But considering they lost Leon Powe early (his six fouls with it) and got virtually nothing from Miki Moore and Stephon Marbury, does it really seem like a clear-cut Celtics win? It didn’t look that way before the series and it doesn’t now.

For a player or coach to expect they’ll be just as good without their best player and be unwilling to use it as an excuse is the right way to think. But for someone in the cheap seats to think they should play like the same team without KG is nuts. When Larry Bird didn’t play back in the day the Cs were a .500 team — in 1988-89 he played just six games and they went a lackluster 42-40. This team did a lot better than that with their top guy out. When Larry came back the next year they went out of the box at 25-5 before injuries hit again. They wound up winning 52, then blew a 2-0 lead over the Knicks to lose the mini-series 3-2. When Robert Parish didn’t play they were around .400, which should end the argument over who was more important, he or Kevin McHale, who they were around .600 without. Not even close, but I digress. 

Did the Sox underachieve in the ’08 ALCS, or did Tampa’s red hot rising stars and superior pitching beat them? I say the latter. So the bottom line here is I think the Bulls are the Tampa Bay of the NBA. I said last week they’re better than Atlanta, whose promise (largely fulfilled) many were drooling over after they pushed Garnett and company to seven games last year, when they did underachieve. If they can keep their core together — which is a big if with Ben Gordon and new Garden villain Brad Miller free agents — they’ll be the next team to climb the ladder to join the group of top-tier NBA teams. And when that happens keep those cards and letters coming to Mr. Felger. If it doesn’t, send them to me.

Now for some other thoughts on the great series.

I sent an e-mail to my friend Jimmy Connolly in Milwaukee. Grew up with him in NY. He went to Marquette during the Al McGuire era and knows what he’s talking about. He told me when the Celtics got Ray Allen he wouldn’t play well in the clutch. My note said “I’m pretty sure you’re wrong.”

I had no idea not only Derek Rose was as good as he is, but ditto for John Salmons. He can play.

And riddle me this, Batman: how many teams in playoff history have ever had THREE different guys go for 35 or more in the same series against the Celtics as Rose, Salmons and Gordon? The threesomes of Jabbar, Magic and Big Game James Worthy; Moses, Dr. J and either Andrew Toney or a young Charles Barkley; and Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt were all capable of doing it. But to my knowledge none did.

From the “I was right and most other hoopsters I know were wrong” department: Once you get past the ’do, Joakim Noah is a real player and will get a lot better. Most I know said/say Al Horford was the best player at Florida, and from a traditional skills sense maybe they’re right. But Noah is the kind of guy winning teams must have. Tell me how many guys you’ve seen who could regularly impact a game and not have to score at all. I’ve got five: Bill Walton, Bill Russell, Dennis Rodman, Ben Wallace and Will “the Thrill” Flowers. That’s it. Until now — ’cause he’s one of them. 

And how many seven-footers could’ve made all of what was involved in the play that sealed Game Six? KG, Hakeem Olajuwan and Dave Cowens. Maybe Bob McAdoo or Marcus Camby. Anyone else come to mind?

Thank god the APB put out on Eddie House before Game Seven worked. Those threes of his were and are very important.

Put a check in the “clueless” column for Felger’s notion that Rajon Rondo played badly in Game Six because he had just eight points. Must have missed the nine rebounds, tying a Celtics team record 19 assists and NO turnovers. You don’t have to be a math major to know when one guy goes off for 51 as Allen did, someone else doesn’t score as much. If you don’t believe me, check how many Danny Ainge had the day Bird scored 60. 

How can Bulls assistant Del Harris look exactly as he did as the head coach of Houston when the Celtics beat them in the 1981 Finals?

Even with the incredible number of lead changes, ties, five games decided by three or less and four OTs, I still can’t call this the greatest series ever. First because it happened in the first round and second because there’s no real history or rivalry between the teams. But it does set one up for next year, doesn’t it? 

Consolation to Felgi — at least I watched the new show and give it a thumbs up.  

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


4/30/2009 Tanked from the headlines, the Fenway series yanks it back

4/23/2009 Draft winds blow NFL teams to make interesting decisions
4/16/2009 Spring cleaning of a cluttered sports mind
4/9/2009 Red Sox Nation springs back to life
4/2/2009 Climbing sports Mt. Rushmore
3/26/2009 Mount Rushmore offerings and other spring thoughts
3/19/2009 B-Ball, Coach B and Baseball in the mailbag today
3/12/2009 Great talent a rush but not all it's cracked up to be
3/5/2009 In Bill we still trust?
2/26/2009 A mountain over this molehill
2/19/2009 Steroids muscle in on game's strength
2/12/2009 Bonner bombs away on Cs in garden party homecoming
2/5/2009 Nation's angst ends as V-Tek says what the heck and rejoins flock
1/29/2009 Super Bowl Sunday brings to mind past and present
1/22/2009 The elusive quality of greatness is the topic of the day
1/15/2009 Spring cleaning of the sports mind a little early
1/8/2009 Will hall have Rice on the menu come July
1/1/2009 Predictions and wants for the year ahead
12/25/2008 A look in the rear view mirror at 2008
12/18/2008 The Pats' playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
12/11/2008 Random thoughts and associations
12/4/2008 Pats should consider options when it comes to Cassel and Brady
11/27/2008 Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving
11/20/2008 News of the week has people talking
11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
9/11/2008 After disaster Brady's bunch won't pass on season
9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial — stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
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