I’ll admit it: Bob Cousy had at least 25 sets of eyes. He had the creativity of Mozart, Beethoven or Michelangelo, and the foresight of a fortune teller. But let’s be honest — he was playing against the blind, deaf and physically challenged. I could have played in that era and averaged 40 points per game. At least. Half the players couldn’t dribble with their left hands. Dunking was unheard of. The weight room, players thought, was where you waited for an appointment. Put me back into the 1950s and I promise you I would average a triple double, blindfolded. Sorry, Cous, it’s nothing against you. You were great and you were a trail blazer for the game. But I play better competition at the local Y.
Posts tagged: Bob Cousy
It’s been awhile since I’ve thrown some dimes. For those of you who don’t know what this feature is, it’s not exactly rocket science: I simply link to some articles around the web and – bada bing, bada boom — you’re updated on all things Celtics.
- ESPN’s summer forecast continued today, asking whether the starting role should be Perk’s when he returns. For chemistry’s sake, it has to… right?
- Speaking of chemistry, Rich Levine describes the zany mix of characters in the Celtics’ locker room next season. He calls the 2010-2011 Celtics ”an unprecedented combination of personality, pride, skill and psychosis. A human experiment if you’ve ever see one.” Yeah, that sounds about right.
- Tom Ziller wonders how in the world the Celtics have such great chemistry: “Yet no one would say the Celtics have a locker room problem, or bad chemistry. In fact, good chemistry is the X-factor some observers credit when Boston plays over its head, as it did in its magical 2009-10 playoff run. How do they do it? How can so much — sorry for the insensitive word — crazy co-exist? Either queerness loves company, or Doc Rivers is a sorcerer of the highest order.” Team chemistry isn’t a mystery, folks. When you put five guys on a court who trust their coach and are willing to sacrifice anything for a W, that team will have chemistry. It doesn’t matter if those five guys are criminals, saints, or Von Wafers.
- J.R. Giddens has been invited to Kings training camp. I still don’t exactly foresee many All Star games in his future.
- Beckley Mason writes a nice piece for Dime, explaining how Team USA could use Rajon Rondo: “Over the last week it’s become clear that the attributes Rondo has in excess – ball-handling, the ability to decipher defenses and floor leadership – are in short supply on Team USA. Regardless of the reason he was left off the team, it’s hard to justify his absence using his history as a player, or the play of his peers in Turkey.”
The Celtics have gotten rid of their morning walkthrough, but that doesn’t mean we have to. Here are a few Celtics links, and maybe even an NBA link or two, to help wake you up and get you focused for the day.
A. Sherrod Blakely, CSNNE – “And while there are several variables and factors that weigh in on whoever the Celtics draft, it ultimately comes down to one thing. ‘You have to feel good about the player, now and looking forward,’ Ainge said. ‘You want to find someone who can help you now, obviously. But you want them to be someone who can grow, too.’ Among the players to work out for the Celtics was James Anderson, a 6-foot-6 swingman from Oklahoma State. A player with Anderson’s size and shooting range would give the C’s added fire power and versatility off the bench, especially when you consider there’s no guarantee that the Celtics will be able to re-sign free agents Tony Allen and Ray Allen. Boston might look to go for added size and target players like 6-10 Daniel Horton of Kentucky, 7-0 Hassan Whiteside of Marshall, 6-10 Ekpe Udoh of Baylor or 6-10 Larry Sanders of VCU – all projected to go somewhere in the late-teens and early 20s of the first round. While most teams would prefer to have one of the top picks in the draft, Ainge has proven repeatedly that you can find quality players late in the first round.”
Jeff Clark, CelticsBlog – “The official Celtics slogan headed into the season was ‘Reloaded.’ Now I’m wondering if the offseason slogan might be ‘unloaded.’ I still think there’s a very good chance that we keep our starting 5 in tact, but after that is seriously anyone’s guess. Here’s a quick rundown of our 15 man roster as it existed on the final night of the Finals.”
Mark Murphy, Boston Herald – “The Celtics captain doesn’t have much time. Pierce has until June 30 to exercise a termination option in his contract that would make him a free agent. This would require written notification. If July 1 arrives and the Celtics haven’t received the paperwork, then they know Pierce is coming back. And really, is there much question about this? For a kid from Inglewood, Calif., who grew up within a quick bike ride of the old Forum and dreamed of becoming a Laker, Pierce couldn’t be more serious about his place within the tradition of the Lakers’ opposite entity. Consider what he said on the eve of Game 1 of the Finals in Los Angeles. ‘I didn’t want to be a Boston Celtic, but I am a Boston Celtic, and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it,’ Pierce said. ‘I’ve had a chance to learn the history, been around the great players. It’s so much fun when you’re in Boston and you see the (John) Havliceks come around, you see (Bob) Cousy and (Cedric) Maxwell and you’re around (Tommy) Heinsohn all the time. Just soaking up the history of the Boston Celtics has been the best thing that’s happened to me as a player. Just to be a part of history, not a lot of players can say that. You know, I’m soaking this all in. Once again, being able to say I can help continue the rivalry of the Celtics and Lakers for another year, and knowing that when you go back and watch these tapes that I will be on them. It’s indescribable. I don’t think it’s going to soak in until my career is all said and done and I can really, really look back at it.’ No, this does not sound like a player who, in the disappointment of losing, will send that fatal letter to the Celtics front office.”
Dan Duggan, Boston Herald – “The question now is how the 34-year-old will respond next season. It’s highly unlikely that Garnett ever will return to his MVP and Defensive Player of the Year form. But he’ll be a full year removed from knee surgery when next season’s training camp opens, and Doc Rivers said last week he expects Garnett to be better as a result. Garnett isn’t the type to speak about other topics while there is a task at hand. When he was asked about his future during the Finals, Garnett simply responded that he has two years remaining on his contract (at $40 million total) and his only focus is on fulfilling that. Even if he’s not thinking too far down the line, Garnett has been forced to face his basketball mortality. The likely retirement of teammate and good friend Rasheed Wallace hit home with Garnett. ‘I see a lot of myself in him, and we have a lot of the same ties and a lot of the same characteristics,’ Garnett said after Thursday’s Game 7 loss. ‘Both (draft) Class of (1995) – so for him to come in and give his thanks and his regards after a loss like this . . . it was a difficult night.’”
Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe – “Rivers likes to brag that the starting lineup of Pierce, Allen, Garnett, Rajon Rondo, and Kendrick Perkins never lost a playoff series. He made this point after the Celtics finished with Orlando in the conference finals. ‘This starting five is 7-0 in playoff series,’ he said. He was correct then and he’s still correct. Garnett (knee injury) did not play last spring when the Celtics were eliminated by the Magic in the conference semifinals. And Perkins (torn knee ligaments) did not play Game 7 at the Staples Center. ‘The starting lineup still hasn’t lost,’ said Rivers Thursday. ‘It was a shame we didn’t have that starting lineup tonight. But I told them, ‘You’ve still yet to have a true chance to defend your title because Perk wasn’t there.’ ‘ After Game 7, you could hear the bell ringing for the Big Three Era. In many ways, Rivers was the perfect coach for this collection of talent. He gave them a lot of rope and allowed them to work out their difficulties themselves.”
Shira Springer, Boston Globe – While the Lakers celebrated and fans tried to talk their way past security and onto the court, the Celtics attempted to make a quick getaway. With the trophy ceremony still going on, Perkins headed for the team bus with a white towel covering his head. Inside the locker room, Ray Allen was surrounded by dozens of reporters. No other Boston player was around. As Allen talked, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar walked into the Celtics locker room and said, ‘Anybody seen Doc?’ The answer did not come quickly. The sight of the legendary Laker caught those not crowded around Allen by surprise. After a few moments, someone opened the door to the visiting coach’s office for the Hall of Famer. Upon seeing Rivers, Abdul-Jabbar leaned in for a handshake and whispered a few sentences to him. ‘I appreciate it,’ said Rivers. ‘I appreciate it.’ If Kareem Abdul-Jabbar can walk into the Celtics locker room and offer consoling words to the Celtics coach, it is proof that almost anything can happen at Game 7 of the Finals. Almost anything.”
Steve Buckley, Boston Herald – “From this point on, Rajon Rondo is the band leader. He may never be a great shooter, and it would be really nice if he spent the summer practicing free throws, but already he is a great player. As he gains experience, he gains wisdom. And never let it be forgotten that much of that wisdom was acquired during his apprenticeship under Pierce, Allen and Garnett. From the perspective of management, Rondo is the kind of supremely gifted player around whom a championship team can be built. To the rest of us, it’s much simpler: He’s enormously fun to watch. Thank you, Big Three, for your contributions to Boston sports history, Banner No. 17 and a brave run at No. 18. You never, ever will be forgotten. And the three men are welcome to return – as individual players, but not as a Big Three. Let the Rajon Rondo Era begin.”
Dan Duggan, Boston Herald – “Though he’s made strides, Davis still has some growing to do. The third-year veteran hasn’t yet discovered what it takes to be consistent on a nightly basis. Rivers frequently pointed this fact out after Davis had a big game. The coach remarked after one strong performance in the first round against Miami that Davis needs ‘a parade out there every good game’ and it takes him a few games to come back to earth. Regardless of how good-natured, Rivers seemingly can’t resist throwing a dig in Davis’ direction whenever the opportunity presents itself. Behind all of his bluster, Davis is quite sensitive, and he’s never known what to make of Rivers’ public jabs. Though Davis may not embrace his role as whipping boy, his comments about his coach after the Celtics’ Game 7 loss in the Finals showed a level of maturity. ‘He means a lot,’ Davis said of Rivers, who may not return next season. ‘He’s a friend, he’s a coach, he’s a father figure. He’s a lot in one.’”
Zuri Berry, Boston Globe – “Former NBA center Manute Bol died of complications from Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, according to a family member who talked to the Washington Post. He died at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville on Saturday morning, according to Tom Prichard, an associate of Bol’s, in an e-mail to the Associated Press.”
Bill Livingston, Cleveland Plain Dealer – “Now reports are that Kelvin Sampson is a serious candidate to be the Cavaliers’ head coach. That Kelvin Sampson? Really? I think back to what happened at the Final Four eight years ago, to the poor coaching job I thought he had done, and to the damage he caused to both of the schools who had played in that semifinal. And I have to believe Cavs owner Dan Gilbert can’t be serious. At Oklahoma, Sampson eventually brought the wrath of the NCAA down on the program for making, along with members of his staff, over 550 improper phone calls to 17 different recruits. Then, as the carpet-bomber of college basketball, Sampson brought the wrath of the NCAA down on Indiana, the most storied program in the Big Ten, for making 10 illegal conference calls to recruits. That Kelvin Sampson? Really? What’s the attraction, other than hiring a guy who fell upward with even more vim than John Calipari has done at Kentucky? There might be blazing ruins in the rear-view mirror, but coach Cal and coach Kel danced away from the messes to better jobs. At least for a while. But it didn’t last for Sampson, whom Indiana fired in 2008. His gravity defiance in college basketball ended then too, with a five-year coaching ban handed down by the NCAA. Any school hiring him before 2013 would have to ‘show cause’ why his punishment had been served. Now he is an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks. And reportedly he is a candidate to fall upward again, maybe all the way into the Cavs’ job. What, is John Lucas not interested?”
This year’s NBA Finals is about more than one championship. Just listen to Paul Pierce:
“A lot of guys have won one,” he said. “But all the great Celtics have won two, at least. I want to be mentioned in that group.”
That this series is between the Celtics and the Lakers is only one aspect of the rich history involved. Individual legacies are on the line. Teams’ reputations are at stake. History is in the balance, everywhere you’ll look on the Staples Center floor tonight.
Winning another ring will prove the Celtics are no one-hit wonder, will validate their run two years ago. Raising the 18th banner this season would put these Celtics on the verge of a mini-dynasty and mark these Celtics as one of the great teams in NBA history. It would put an asterisk on the Lakers’ title last year, one that would read “*Kevin Garnett was unhealthy or Boston would have three-peated.”
Lose, though, and the Celtics will be like the 2004 Detroit Pistons — good enough to win one title but not great enough to come back for more. Strong enough to win one and challenge for more, but not enough to break through another time. Yeah, the Celtics could come back next year and change all that, but there’s no promise of next year. In fact, and I apologize for my buzz kill, there probably won’t be a next year — at least a next year filled with another postseason run that lasts until June. So much is prepared to change this offseason — Ray Allen is a free agent, Doc Rivers might not come back, the old all get a little older — that nothing is certain beyond this series. This could be the Big Three-era Celtics’ last chance to win a title, last chance to cement their places in NBA history.
A ring is enough motivation, sure, but this series provides so much more significance than “just” a single title. Pierce, more than any other Celtic, has a lot on the line this series. He will go down as one of the great Celtics of all time regardless of the outcome of these seven games, but what happens if he wins a second title this season and — who knows? –maybe even wins another Finals MVP award? How high will he climb the Celtics’ pantheon then, with two championships and two Finals MVPs in his back pocket? It’s too late to catch Bird or Russell, but could Havlicek and Cousy be in his sights?
On the other side of the court stares Kobe Bryant, jaw jutted out and finger as crooked as Senator Clay Davis. If you’ve read a recent article comparing Bryant to Michael Jordan you aren’t alone. Comparing the two greats seems to be all the rage these days, after Kobe’s delightful two series that put the Lakers in the Finals. As stars fall from the playoffs all around him Kobe is peeking, proving himself greater than Lebron, greater than any challenger in the contemporary NBA. Jerry West called Kobe the greatest Laker ever, greater even than Magic Johnson. Kobe has proven himself an assassin time after time, but the outburst of support he is receiving now is greater than he’s received at any other time of his career. He deserves it, too — he’s the defending champion and has again made the postseason his personal highlight show.
But what if he loses to the Celtics, again, for the second time in three years? What if Kobe’s one title as the best player on his team (Shaq was the best player during the first three Kobe championships and won Finals MVP in all three years) is forever marred by that asterisk I mentioned earlier, the one that mentions that Boston would have won the title had Kevin Garnett been healthy? Kobe would go from being the greatest Laker ever to the superstar who could get it done against anyone but the Celtics. His one solo ring tarnished, Kobe wouldn’t be challenging Jordan anymore — instead, he’d once again be relegated to struggling to find his rightful place in the annals of NBA history. Sure Kobe would still have four championships, but with three of them coming as Shaq’s right-hand man and the fourth coming as a gift from the injury gods, none would place him anywhere near Jordan or even Magic. Without beating the Celtics, without beating the most powerful opponent of his era, Kobe can’t be considered with those two.
Kobe will deny seeing the importance in the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, but you can bet anything he realizes his legacy is on the line starting tonight. Kobe will end up one of the NBA’s greatest of all-time, but — as they have most of his career — people will find a way to question him should he again lose to the Celtics. He’s finally reached the point where people are ready to revere him, ready to praise his impossible abilities and endless obsession with winning, but it could all slip through that mangled finger of his if he loses to the Celtics and again underperforms against Gang Green. Should Kobe lose to Boston again, suddenly some of the doubts about Kobe and his place in history would come flooding back in.
Kobe and Pierce aren’t the only ones with reputations and legacies on the line either. Garnett’s reputation as a big-game player is always in question. Rondo has a chance to further solidify himself as a rising superstar. Ray Allen can cement his reputation as an big-shot kind of guy. Ron Artest can reverse the error of many of his former ways. Pau Gasol can once and for all shred the soft label, and Andrew Bynum can too. Derek Fisher can build on his growing label as a crunch-time killer. It’s the Finals now, the big time, the time when legends are made.
20 years from now nobody will remember that the Celtics beat the NBA’s top two teams to get to the NBA Finals, but everyone will sure as hell remember what happened once the Celtics got there. They’ll remember the hero, the goat, and the moments; the highlight dunks and game-winning or game-tying jumpers; the championship celebration, too; but they won’t remember what else happened in this postseason.
20 years from now, I won’t remember who was the Celtics leading scorer from 2010…
But I’ll sure as hell be able to tell you if he beat the goddamn Lakers.
The Celtics have gotten rid of their morning walkthrough, but that doesn’t mean we have to. Here are a few Celtics links, and maybe even an NBA link or two, to help wake you up and get you focused for the day.
Brian Kamenetzky, ESPN Los Angeles – “Phil Jackson loves the game within the game. Heading into Thursday’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, one piques his curiosity more than the rest. ‘I’m intrigued by the [Kevin] Garnett-Pau Gasol matchup. I think that’s a really good one,’ he said Wednesday after the Lakers completed practice. ‘Kevin is like the force of [Boston's] defense, he’s really the glue that kind of holds their defense together with his activity level, his ability to help and recover on guys,’ Jackson continued. ‘Pau is the guy we have to have be a part of the scoring combo with Kobe. So he has to provide some of that for us in this series against probably one of the top defenders in the game.’”
Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe – “Now it’s all about Kobe Bryant. Do not forget this. The Celtics and Lakers tap off in Game 1 tonight, and it’s impossible to understate the Kobe factor. Bryant won’t admit it, but he is on a mission to solidify his legacy by winning a championship against the hated Celtics. He has won with Shaq and without Shaq. He has beaten the Indiana Pacers, the Philadelphia 76ers, the New Jersey Nets, and the Orlando Magic in the Finals. But he’s never beaten Boston. You can’t be the best player in the world if you lose two championship series to the Celtics. You can’t be the greatest Laker of all time if Magic can say he beat the Celtics twice in the Finals and you never beat them.”
J.A. Adande, ESPN – “‘Phil always has that ulterior motive, that hidden message,’ said Will Perdue, who played on Jackson’s first three-peat teams in Chicago and was Rivers’ teammate on the San Antonio Spurs. ‘I think 90 percent of the time the players never figure it out. He guides them without them even knowing. Doc is very to the point, very blatant, very honest. ‘This is what I need you to do, this is what your responsibility is, this is how you do it.’ Some coaches can’t pull that off, because they either didn’t play or they don’t have the respect of the players or whatever reason.’ Perdue points to Jackson’s comments about Ron Artest taking too many 3-pointers early in the playoffs, which caused Artest to complain on Twitter that Jackson hadn’t spoken to him privately about the issue first. But what happened after two days of a minor media flareup? Artest produced his best game of the playoffs to that point, scoring 20 points in the Lakers’ victory over the Utah Jazz in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals. Another subliminal success for Jackson. Rivers doesn’t have to operate that way. ‘Everybody here, we’re at the stage where we kind of patrol ourselves, so Doc doesn’t have to do a lot of worrying about it,’ Ray Allen said. ‘He can throw the X’s and O’s out there, tell us what to do, how we’re going to do it, and everybody can do their job.’”
Chris Dufresne, LA Times – “The definition of a rivalry depends on whom you ask. A Celtic, sipping suds on a bar stool, could look a Laker square in the eye and say, ‘What rivalry?’ Notre Dame versus Navy in football was a rivalry, maybe, for Navy. It wasn’t for the Irish, which won 43 straight until Navy turned the ship in 2007 (and 2009). Was it a rivalry all those stretches the Yankees clobbered Brooklyn in the World Series … or just same time next year? Angels fans looked at the Dodgers as adversaries 25 years before Dodgers fans knew the Angels had been awarded a franchise. It is, frankly, impossible for a Celtics fan to wish a contagious skin rash on a Lakers fan more than the opposite is true because Boston has the half-baked bean facts in its can. Any L.A. sports fan born in the early baby boom, who went to bed crying after most NBA finals, and refused to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, knows this. When one team owns the other, as the Celtics have owned the Lakers, what you think is a rivalry may actually be ‘Oh, You guys again?’ vs. ‘Oh, YOU GUYS again!!’ It took the Lakers nine tries before they beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals. That’s misery, not rivalry.”
Jerry Thornton, WEEI – “But for me, there’s one thing above all others this series is offering up. And I thank God and David Stern for it (though that’s probably redundant). This series is giving us something Boston fans have been sorely lacking of late: a true hated enemy. But this series has it. Kobe Bryant: The ideal nemesis. The pluperfect sports jerk. The Ultimate Villain. I promise you I’m not just trying to talk some attention-whoring smack here. This isn’t some lame-ass, obvious attempt to answer back to Ted Green of the LA Times for trying to mine the comedy gold that was the near murder of Paul Pierce. Having weak cheese like that be published is the perfect punishment to him for having written it in the first place. No, I mean this sincerely, honestly, and from the bottom of my heart: Kobe Bryant is the biggest, most insufferable dink in all of professional sports. And we’ve had more than our share of villains over the years. A rogue’s gallery of miserable, unlikable misanthropes, vicious, head-hunting psychopaths and cheating, mentally-defective scumbags. From Ulf Samuelsson to Bill Laimbeer. Jack Tatum to Albert Belle. Thurman Munson to Alex Rodriguez. And every Dennis Rodman, Joey Porter, Joba Chamberlain and Mickey Rivers in between. But you could harvest body parts from every one of them and sew them together into one detestable package, reanimate it, teach it to jump shoot, and you’d end up with Kobe Bryant. He’s Frankentool.”
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “A David Ortiz jersey was nowhere to be found, so Celtics coach Doc Rivers asked for the next best thing. The Celtics were walking off the floor at Staples Center after outlasting the Lakers, 87-86, Feb. 18 and Rivers turned to his administrative right hand man, Jeff Twiss. ‘Do you have an envelope?’ Rivers asked. Twiss was puzzled. The game was over. There was no need for tickets. But Rivers wanted an envelope. So he got Rivers an envelope. They walked into the Celtics locker room, which was booming after breaking up the Lakers’ four-game winning streak. Rivers got their attention. He told everyone in the room to give him $100. The people in the room were more puzzled than Twiss was. Rivers took $100 from everyone in the room – players, coaches, managers – to the tune of $2,600 and put it all in the envelope. He then hid the envelope in the locker room. ‘The only way you’ll get it back,’ he told them, ‘is if you come back here and get it.’ The challenge was set months ago, and when the Celtics returned to Staples Center today, a day before Game 1 of the Finals, Rivers made good on his part of the deal, opening the envelope and giving each player his reward.”
The Hyperbolic Chamber – “You see, when you love a team that deeply, the ecstasy of winning a championship after years of misery (see: Red Sox, 2004) is unparalleled. That’s why I rooted for the White Sox in 2005 and the Phillies in 2008. There are only so many passionate sports cities in the U.S–I knew what those fans were going through, and I wanted them to feel how I felt in June 2008. I spent my teenage years (when I first discovered a love for sports) rooting for a punching bag that wore the same colors as former proud champions but shamed their legacy. To see them bring it back to its deserved glory made me an emotional wreck, but in the best possible sense. So now my favorite sports team is headed to the Finals, and potentially their second championship in three years. I love them but this year has been a struggle; they were a truly unlikable group of guys for several straight months. But that didn’t stop me from loving them. They say love is blind, but I’d like to offer a different opinion: love has correctable vision. During the Pitino Era, my love was far-sighted: the Celtics were an awful team, but I loved their glorious past and the hope in an unseen future success. Right now my love is near-sighted: I adore how this team is currently playing, but I am choosing to ignore that we will be in serious salary cap hell in the near future. This love sees clearly, it is anything but blind. I can see their warts (apathetic during the regular season, a star without a jump shot, several players with anger management issues, Hall of Famers on the down-slope of their careers) but that makes them all the more real. Love, of any kind, is about recognizing the good and the bad. So while we may lose, I’ll continue to bleed Green and I will scream until my voice goes hoarse. My favorite team is imperfect, and I wouldn’t dream of viewing them any other way. After all, that’s why I wear glasses, to see the world more clearly.”
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “The Lakers matched Kobe Bryant with Rondo, letting Bryant roam on defense without much regard for the young point guard. Other teams have copied the blueprint. And even though Rondo has learned to make teams pay, he still gets the treatment. The Heat’s Dwyane Wade did it in the first round. When Rondo made barebones out of Anthony Parker in the second round, the Cavaliers threw LeBron James at him. In the Eastern Conference finals, the Magic sagged off of Rondo, giving him the jumper. And as much as Rondo has changed as a player in two years, Rivers expects the Lakers to defend Rondo the same way. ‘They’re going to put Kobe on him at times, and they’re going to sag off him,’’ Rivers said. “I think teams still think at the end of the day, he’s got to make shots. He’s got to make decisions. They’re going to use his guy to roam the floor. I don’t think that’s going to change at all.’ The difference, Rivers pointed out: ‘Now, Rondo’s better-suited for it.’”
Bill Plaschke, LA Times – “Welcome to a series where the Lakers aren’t playing the Boston Celtics as much as both of them could soon be tangling with the one of the most majestic, maddening statistics in sports. It’s all about a number. A number so trivial that half the players in the series are unaware of it, yet so powerful it could end the series almost before it starts. A number with as much lore as Kobe Bryant’s 24, as alive as Kevin Garnett’s 5, even more important than the number of the paramedics that Paul Pierce will phone the first time he is gently pushed to the wood. You’ve probably heard the number. You’ve probably thought you heard it wrong. You haven’t. When Phil Jackson’s teams have won the first game of a postseason series, they are 47-0 in that series. Think about that. When Jackson’s teams win Game 1, it’s Series Done. If they win the first one, they will win the last one. Nineteen seasons. Every single time. [...] So I called the folks from Caltech. A couple of grad students in applied and computational mathematics —Stephen Becker and Mike McCoy — figured that the odds of going 47-0 by coincidence were less than three in a billion. ‘I would be demoralized if I were the other team,’ Becker said.”
Henry Abbott, TrueHoop – “Zach Lowe of CelticsHub has been on the Rondo’s shooting story all year, and last night wrote ‘Rondo’s shooting percentage on long two-pointers dropped significantly this season (and fell below even his ‘08 numbers), and he’s just 16-of-49 on long twos so far in the playoffs, according to NBA.com hot spot data.’ Synergy Sports lets you watch all of his jumpers, and finds jump shooting in the half court to be the one method of scoring at which Rondo is below average. He took nearly 300 jumpers over the course of the regular season, and made just a third of them. That’s not good. He was two percentage points better a season ago, and nine percentage points back in 2007-2008, when the Lakers decided to leave him open in the Finals. What’s more, his career 3-point field goal percentage is a miserable 24%. This season he lags behind even that, at 21%. It’s hard to find any evidence that his jumper has improved at all.”
Julian Benbow/Frank Dell’Apa, Boston Globe – “Kevin Garnett’s appreciation for the Celtics-Lakers rivalry originated with a meeting with Bill Russell. ‘You definitely have to have an appreciation for the ones that came before you, respect this game,’ said Garnett. ‘I think you have to have an appreciation for the players who built this rivalry, if not this league, and you can’t go in nothing short of that. I think it’s our responsibility as Celtics and as Lakers to leave everything out there on the floor — just because of the coaches and players and the personnel of the organizations that came before us. And that’s the responsibility of putting that jersey on, that’s what you take on.’”
Ron Borges, Boston Herald – “Fortunately for his mental health and the Celtics chances against the Lakers, [Tony] Allen doesn’t see it quite that way. He understands his role, which is to play the kind of pressure defense on Bryant that James Posey did in the Finals two years ago, but he also knows he is not alone in this job. He is a part of the whole, a piece that, if properly fit, will make a difference. But X factor? Take it easy, now. ‘I don’t know about that,’ Allen said yesterday during his last relaxing day at Staples Center. ‘I don’t know nothing about me stopping Kobe. All I know is all the heavyweights we went through has been about team defense.’”
Mark Murphy, Boston Herald – “It’s not a question of whether Rajon Rondo [stats] has achieved confidence in his second NBA Finals in three years. The Celtics point guard, known for cockiness and for self-belief that is often off the charts, was feeling his oats two days ago during a practice at UCLA. ‘I’m probably at an all-time high in confidence right now,’ he admitted.”
Dan Duggan, Boston Herald – “When the Celtics beat the Lakers in the 2008 Finals, the second-year point guard mostly was along for the ride. Rondo still was trying to figure out his role alongside three future Hall of Famers, and that led to inconsistency. Rondo showed flashes of his potential when he had 21 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and six steals in the Celtics’ clinching Game 6 win. But he was also a nonfactor in Games 3, 4 and 5, when he totaled just 16 points and was benched in favor of backup Eddie House for long stretches. ‘It was a little different,’ Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. ‘He wasn’t as good a player as he is today.’ Now, Gasol calls Rondo the Celtics’ ‘motor.’ It’s a fitting description, because when Rondo’s engine is in high gear, the Celtics typically are at their best. ‘He’s gotten better at a very fast rate,’ Lakers point guard Derek Fisher said. ‘He’s become arguably the most important guy on their team in terms of when he plays very well, they’re harder to beat.’”
Kirk Minihane, WEEI – “The real question, of course, is how much we’ll actually see Fisher defending Rondo in this series. My best guess? Phil Jackson will give Fisher a chance on Rondo to start each game. But it’ll be a short leash, because Jackson knows that when Rondo sets the tempo of a game it usually leads to a Celtics win. So you’ll see four or five guys — Fisher, Kobe, Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, even Ron Artest — taking a shot at slowing down Rondo. I can’t imagine Jackson uses Kobe for more than a couple of minutes at a time on Rondo. Can’t afford to wear Kobe out in a series that he’ll almost certainly play north of 40 minutes a game.”
John Powers, Boston Globe – “The similarities, across more than four decades, are striking. Both were veteran teams that finished fourth after arrhythmic regular seasons. Both beat considerable odds to reach the NBA Finals against Los Angeles. Both were built around a Big Three and emphasized defensive essentials. ‘Both were old and somehow knew how to win a little bit,’ says John Havlicek, who won the most cherished of his eight title rings 41 years ago. Yet there is one decided difference between the 1969 and 2010 Celtics. The 1969 team marked the end of the greatest dynasty in sports history, 11 championships in 13 years. The 2010 version is trying to prove that its triumph two years ago wasn’t a one-hit wonder.”
David Wharton, LA Times – “Things get a little more complicated for Pierce, the 6-foot-7 forward out of Inglewood High who used to catch glimpses of Magic Johnson driving to the arena and sneak into games. ‘The Lakers were always his team,’ said Sgt. Scott Collins of the Inglewood Police Department, who coached Pierce in a youth league and became his mentor. ‘He loved Magic.’ These days, Pierce says all the right things about being a Celtic, about meeting legends such as John Havlicek and Bob Cousy, about establishing himself among the greatest scorers in franchise history. And when it comes to the Lakers, well, this rivalry doesn’t allow for fence-sitting. ‘I really don’t have any friends on the Lakers. No one on this team does,’ Pierce said.”
Jessica Camerato, WEEI – “[David Ortiz on Kevin Garnett]: ‘KG is the monster down there. KG, he puts everybody in the mood. When he’s [trash talking] people out there and getting mad, that pumps me up. That even gets me ready to play baseball. I love it. I love it. I’m telling you, when I see KG doing that, I want to jump on the court and [kick butt] with him. It’s not a secret that his game is something else.’”
The only thing bad about this interview with Bob Cousy about Rajon Rondo is that Dan Shaughnessy was the one who conducted it. I’m going to excerpt it, but read the whole thing — it’s worth it. (Boston Globe)
Any other similarities, Cooz?
“I had big hands,’’ he starts. “Arnold’’ — Cousy always called Red Auerbach “Arnold’’ — “said that the reason I could do so much behind-the-back crap was that I had long arms. I’ve measured my hands against most people. I still do it today. Most normal people, I dwarf their hands. I’ve heard them talk about how big Rondo’s hands are, so I guess we share that. And obviously that’s a great asset for a point guard.
“Vision, I think, for a point guard, is the most important thing. I was constantly being told I had eyes behind my head. It would seem that way to people who didn’t know that much about basketball who couldn’t believe that I could see things I could see. It’s exceptional peripheral vision.
“People who have tunnel vision don’t usually become point guards. That happened with [Chauncey] Billups here before they traded him. I think it was the only thing [Rick] Pitino ever asked me. I didn’t think Billups would make a good point guard because he would penetrate and then run into people. Billups proved me and Pitino both wrong, but I still don’t see him as a great creator in the vein of Rondo.’’