Thinking about the Boston Celtics

I've been watching the Boston Celtics since the early 1960s. Lots of people are high on this year's team, though I (reluctantly) think we've seen the last few weeks what this year's edition really is: the lower part of the top tier.  I want to be wrong, but I doubt that the C's will get out of the second round; they're too young, too inconsistent, and too soft inside.

I've had the usual Facebook debates with family and friends, my biggie being that I think that Marcus Smart is way overrated. My jump shot isn't much worse than his and I've got a few decades on him. But I did start to think about how I'd rate the best Celtics of all-time. That's always a dodgy and perhaps a dishonest thing to do. How, for instance, does one really factor for differences in how the game is played, the training, the equipment, the competition, and so forth? You can't really, so I've created some categories of my own.

I will, however, say that the greatest to ever don the Kelly green and white was Bill Russell. When he was on the court, Wilt Chamberlain was cut down to size. So Russell carries off the award for Don't Bring This Shit into My House Unless you Want to Wear it on Your Face award.

Other Categories:
Best Clutch Players:

            1. Dennis Johnson: Did you ever hear anyone say that a game was lost because DJ didn't come up when the game was on the line?

            2. John Havlicek: Hondo had a way of being right where he needed to be when the Crunch Time came.

            3. Larry Bird: There was something about a big game that turned Bird into a velociraptor.

Best Players to Take Charge When Pissed Off:

            1. Larry Bird: Ask former teammates what it meant when Larry was stewing and said, "Just give me the damn ball." Nobody played mad like Bird.

            2. Dave Cowens: He loved it when people said he was too small to play center or tried to lean on him.

            3. Kevin Garnett: When he was on the court, Garnett was simply antisocial. It  didn't matter if you were an opponent or a teammate; KG would get in your face.

            4. Tommy Heinsohn: Tommy still rocks the 'tude.

Best Assists:

            1. Bob Cousy: Yeah, a different era but Cousy saw the court as well as anyone I can remember and was famed for spreading the defense so he could feed the ball to Russell who'd kick it out to an open man.

            2. Bill Russell: When Russell set a pick, defenders were dead.

            3. Rajon Rondo: When he was healthy and in his prime, few distributed any better.

            4. Larry Bird: One of the things that PO'd Larry was when a teammate wasn't paying attention. LB was known to bounce a pass off the side of heads as a wake up call. He only had to do it once.

            5. Jo Jo White: A vastly underrated player who had great court sense.

            6. Nate Archibald: What Isaiah Thomas might have been if he had caught on a bit earlier.

Best Agitators:

            1. Jim Luscutoff: He was the basketball what Dave Schultz used to be in hockey.

            2. Tommy Heinsohn: Anybody who tells you Heinsohn was a clean player never saw him play.

            3. Bill Russell: Russ often played with a chip on his shoulder and only a fool tried to knock it off.

            4. Robert Parrish: Parrish often agitated so guys would lean in on him, thereby leaving Bird, McHale, and Johnson open.

Best Rebounders:

            1. Kevin McHale: McHale invented the stretch forward position and he remains the golden standard.

            2. Bill Russell: The glass is mine, man!

            3. Satch Sanders: He didn't score much and didn't necessarily top the rebound leader charts, but when you needed a board, he got it.

            4. Paul Silas: The heir to Sanders.

Best Pure Shooters:

            1. Pete Maravich: He wasn't called "Pistol Pete" for nothing.

            2.  Ernie DiGregario: He didn't play a lot of minutes because he couldn't guard a one-legged man but he could he shoot out the lights.

            3. Ray Allen: His sweet shot was like something from a training film.

Steadiest Players:

            1. Paul Pierce: Your basic lunch bucket pro, which is why his number is in the rafters.

            2. K. C. Jones: Always overlooked. Seldom disappointed.

            3. Bill Walton: Came to the C's late in his career, had a role to play, and did so better than all the naysayers said he would.

            4. Kevin McHale: Often carried Bird's laundry when Larry had an off night.

            5. Bob Cousy: Just did what he did with grace and efficiency.

            6. Sam Jones: Not flashy, but played on ten championship teams and that will tell you all you need to know. 

            7. Bill Sharman: Jones with less hardware.

Best Coach:

            1. Red Auerbach: Who else? Nine banners and one of the inventors of the modern NBA. Red was one of the few people Russell trusted.

            2. Bill Russell: People forget he coached the C's for 9 years, two as player-coach, and hung two banners from the Garden Rafters.

            3. Tommy Heinsohn: He also hung two in nine years.

            4. Bill Fitch: Maybe the most forgotten successful coach. His .738 winning percentage over 5 years is the best in team history.

            5. K. C. Jones: Also won two NBA titles from the bench.

Guys on Current Team Who Might Become Immortals:

            1. Jason Tatum: He's a rookie. He 's also just 19 and he's already very good. He needs to condition better and work on consistency, but I think he's the best draft pick since Larry Bird.

            2. Kyrie Irving:  Looks like he was right that he needed to get out from LeBron James' shadow.

            3. Brad Stevens: Not many are better at tutoring young players. The question is can he turn them into veterans who will win championships.

Draft of Shame—Worst Number One Picks in Team History:

The Celtics, ironically, haven't drafted all that well in the past, but there have been some specialy stinkeroo picks. I won't count Len Bias (1986) who ODed before he ever put on a uniform. To be honest, I don't remember guys before the 1970s as the NBA used to draft ten rounds.

            1. Acie Earl (1993): Somehow managed to play almost four years and couldn't throw a basketball into the ocean.

            2. Eric Montross (1994): The next year the C's took a guy almost as clumsy as Earl.

            3. Michael Smith (1989); I'll give him credit. He knew after a single year he wasn't NBA material!

            4. Darren Tillis (1987): Who? Exactly!

            5. James Young (2014): Perfect example of the risk taken when you draft a one-and-done.

            6. Fab Melo (2012): And the risk you take if you draft a guy with an NBA body and D-League skill set.

I was surprised that the C's used number one picks on Glenn McDonald (1974), Norm Cook (1976), Clarence Glover (1971), and Charles Bradley (1981). You won't find them among the immortals.

No comments: