LONGSHOTS: Mail bags talks of Pats, Celts and the Olympics
by Dave Long
Time to go to the mailbag to find out what inquiring minds want to know.
Dear Dave: I’m really concerned about this, so do you have any idea what has happened to the Celtics since the Christmas Day win in Orlando? Dick Lombardi, 12 Vince St., Giant Way, N.J.
Dear Dick: I can sense you’re a real fan of the C’s and the NBA, so brace yourself. Right now they remind me of the 1965 Yankees, who got old overnight as they went from the team everyone feared to the one no one feared. One that went from first place in 1964 to fifth the next year and, to the shock of people who grew up with the Yanks always at the top, dead last in 1966. I don’t think they’re quite like that, but right now they look like a team that can play about 34 minutes before crashing. Doc says it’s in their head. Others say it’s their heart. I think it’s their legs and that the chemistry mix just ain’t there.
While I’m not laying the blame on Rasheed Wallace and know a missing ingredient last year was length under the basket defensively, the reason Big Baby and Leon Powe so thoroughly outplayed him his last two years in Detroit was that they pounded him on the offensive glass and that brings energy to a team. They don’t have that this year. Then throw in the fact that Perk hasn’t played well the last month, Baby hasn’t for most of the year, Kevin Garnett’s diminished ups and the lack of rebounding is killing them. And then there’s injuries to KG and Paul Pierce — which you have to expect with an old team — and they’ve got issues.
The biggest sign of decline is not so much how you play against bad teams, like in the horrible loss to the Nets — that’s often lack of motivation. It’s how you do against the elites when you’re jacked and pumped. And they’ve been manhandled by Atlanta, Orlando and Cleveland while also blowing big leads vs. the Lakers and others at the Garden. Most perplexing about their troubles is blowing the big leads — as you first have to play very well to get them. So, the question becomes do they not have the stamina to close teams out due to age or desire or are they just in a really big funk. Danny guessed funk, so he didn’t trade Ray Allen’s expiring contract — which if this continues will prove to be a big mistake.
Dear Dave: I don’t know about you, but while I know he’s very good, all the hand-wringing over Vince Wilfork possibly leaving the Patriots is reminding me of last winter’s hysteria in Red Sox Nation of how the Sox would be in dire straits if anyone but Jason Varitek handled the pitchers and called the game. What do you think? T. Ed Washington, 2003 Patreeot Drive, Knosegard, Texas.
Dear T: You know the hysteria that blankets these parts over a guy they rightly or wrongly think is vital. Exhibit A on the side for how important a good nose tackle is in the 3-4 defense is the 2002 season when the Pats didn’t have one and they got eaten alive on the ground. On the other side of hysteria are all the folks out on the ledge last winter when the Varitek saga was going on and then were willing to trade him for Russ Nixon in July after it was clear the hitting and throwing wasn’t coming back. The fact is while Wilfork had a pro bowl season I don’t think he’s Reggie White, thus I wouldn’t break the bank for him. On the other hand, isn’t the reason they traded Richard Seymour that they knew they couldn’t sign both and the trade was their way of making the choice? And since it appears Wilfork is a reasonable guy, I think they will get it done in way that’s fair on both sides, while providing protection for the Pats in the event the expected 2011 lock-out happens.
Dear Dave: I know you’ve said you don’t have the same interest in the Olympics as you once did. Did the recent one change that at all? J. Claude Keylee, 1968 Gaymes Blvd., Grenoble, N.H.
Dear Jean: I’m glad you brought that up. Liberal Lou DeMato e-mailed the other day to say last week’s Tiger-mania column was lame and I should’ve written about the Olympics. And while I’m still waiting to see which won the ratings war, we know we’ve got to be fans just as Lou says we should, so at the risk of being called a drive-by Olympics fan I do have some thoughts. The spirit of competition and not the commercialism that seems to drive the summer games eventually lured me in to the point where I really enjoyed it. The hockey final was my favorite, but curling was cool, Bode Miller and the rest of the downhillers were awesome, as was regular ski jumping. But most amazing was aerial ski jumping — where the question is how do they maintain equilibrium amid all those twists, turns and altitude changes. Simply amazing. Have to ask Kip Griffin of the Bedford Griffins, who just missed going to the big games in that event a few Olympics ago, just how they do it.
Dear Dave: Did you follow men’s hockey in the Olympics? If so, what do you think it did for the game itself? Andy Bathgate, 12 Mapleleaf Ave., Ranger, N.H.
Dear Andy: I did watch some and was riveted for the gold medal game, which was spectacular. It made me think of two things. On the downside, how foolish the powers that be were to water down the talent and rivalries by expanding to backwater locations like Columbus, Ohio, and Nashville. It diluted the product and dimmed interest of folks like me on the outer edge of being real hockey fans.
But mostly it reminded of what a breathtaking game hockey can be when played at its highest levels. Not quite the USSR-vs.- Canada series in 1972, but it had the same talent and a real rivalry that even outsiders could identify with — though nothing could match North America vs. Russia during the Cold War. The speed in that game was phenomenal and it plainly showed because of the razor-thin margin of error in big games there is no other game that can regularly go as quickly from looking like your team has the advantage to — YIKES — it’s a three on one.
As the for hockey itself, it was a home run for both NBC and the NHL in terms of getting people to take another look once the Stanley Cup rolls around. Though I don’t suspect they’ll ever be smart enough to dump about 10 teams and go to a league of 20 so it’s the right size for the talent pool out there. But overall the whole thing got a thumbs up from me.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.