Kevin Garnett called Philadelphia 76ers fans “fair weather,” a Philadelphia columnist responded by calling Boston fans racist, and tonight we have Game 6, which is supposed to be attended by the Answer, or Allen Iverson for those of you too young or forgetful to remember his nickname.
Iverson reportedly intends to observe Game 6 from the Wells Fargo Center, which leads to absurd, hilarious fantasies like this one, but also serves as yet the latest reminder that the veteran Celtics stars are still succeeding in the year 2012 largely because of a fierce dedication to basketball. Iverson hated practice and he liked booze, and he couldn’t adjust when his physical skills began to erode later in his career. He is the same age as both Garnett and Ray Allen, but he will sit in the crowd tonight, his prime long gone, his NBA career ended years ago with a dull thud, while they try to dispatch his former team.
For as much as Game 6 isn’t about Iverson — playoff elimination games are rarely decided by spectators, after all — his presence provides a striking juxtaposition to everything that keeps the Celtics ticking. Iverson’s disdain for practice is famous. But if we talkin’ ’bout practice, we talkin’ ’bout how Paul Pierce would watch film before it and take jump shots after it, even during his younger days. Read how Tony Battie raves about Pierce’s work ethic and doesn’t seem surprised by anything his former teammate has accomplished. And Pierce’s work ethic is the third most-discussed among the Big Three.
Greg Stiemsma noted earlier today how willing the Celtics’ stars are to help the younger players. In a world devoid of knuckleheads, this wouldn’t be notable. But it is.
“They go out of their way to have little teaching points, pull us aside. They truly want us to succeed,” he said, according to the Herald’s Dan Duggan. “Guys with this much experience, this much knowledge about the game, they don’t always have to feed it to the younger guys.”
Admittedly, I don’t know everything about the way Iverson treated his teammates. If he did help his younger mates like the Celtics do, my imagination tells me his advice went something like this: “Be quicker than everybody, and more fearless. Shoot until your shoulder hurts, and then keep shooting. Play games like your life depends on it, but practice and workouts are very overrated. Also, if you plan to befriend Stephen A. Smith like I did, politely ask him to quiet down.” He might have imparted far more wisdom than that. He might not have imparted any wisdom at all. I really don’t care. My point is that the Celtics stars approach basketball the way coaches tell us to, while Iverson, in so many ways, did not.
Earlier in the season, Allen even noted Iverson as an example of how not to age while discussing his new role coming off the bench.
“This is Doc’s ship, and whatever Doc needs and wants, we have to do it for him,” said Allen. “It’s something I thought about years ago when you look at guys near the end of their careers. I saw it in Allen Iverson refusing to come off the bench.
“It doesn’t change a whole lot, but I understand it,” he said. “You understand you’ve been doing something for so long. But having the essence of the team and the understanding of the team and what we want to do to win, if that’s what Doc needs then it’s up to him.
“It’s like (Rivers) drawing up a play. I’m going to go with whatever he feels is necessary for us to score a bucket or to help win that game. That’s his call.”
The Celtics are old. They are still in shape. They are still employed to play basketball. They have a chance tonight to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
Tip off is at 8 p.m. Enjoy.