Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 38 vs. the Warriors

Celtics (28-9) vs. Warriors (12-25)
December 29, 1979
Oakland Coliseum Arena

The Celtics connected with old friend Jo Jo White on December 29, 1979 for the third game in three days against the NBA’s trio of Californian clubs.  After defeating the Clippers but dropping a contest to the Lakers, the C’s deafeated the Warriors, 104-88, to go 2-1 on the West Coast swing and improved to .500 four games into their six-game road trip.

Golden State, offering a line up featuring the likes of White, Robert Parish, John Lucas, and Clifford Ray, peaked in October with a 7-5 record in their first dozen games.  They then sputtered, losing 20 of the next 25 games, entering the contest with Boston.  (The Warriors held another connection to the Green: Golden State drafted Purdue University guard Jerry Sichting with the 82nd pick of the 1979 draft, though he was cut in October.)  While White’s tenure in Oakland had been a disappointment (Bob Ryan noted in the Globe that the Warriors were desperately seeking to move the 33 year old guard), his two-time championship tenure in Boston came to an end after he and player-coach Dave Cowens had a dispute over White’s future with the team.

“Nothing surprises me any more,” White said in a January 31, 1979 story from the Associated Press.  “Boston is my home but the way things were going, I guess I couldn’t stay.  This is my 10th season, and part of me will be left here.  I’ve made a lot of friends, and if I had to be traded I wanted to go a team with people who get along.  I hope that’s the case with Golden State.”

“It’s no secret that Jo Jo has been unhappy here for the past two years,” said Red Auerbach, “and we hope this move will be beneficial to him.”

White’s points-per-game total dropped to 17.2 PPG for his career, but his playoff numbers remained untouched at 21.5 (with his 33-point performance against the Phoenix Suns in triple overtime in the 1976 NBA Finals forever etched into the minds of Celtics fans).  Similar to Walt Frazier earlier in the 79-80 season, White ended his career with the Kansas City Kings the following year.  For the stars of the 1970s, including Dave Cowens, it was becoming abundantly clear around that times in the Association were a-changin’.

Bob Ryan also provided extension coverage to White’s departure from the Celtics.

… being a Celtic, and, specifically, being a part of the Celtic mystique, meant a lot to Jo Jo White.  In fact, being a part of the Celtics family and being able to come in and exchange quips with Red Auerbach and being able to identify oneself as a “Celtic” probably meant more to Jo Jo White than to any Celtic in the modern (i.e. post-Russell) era.  Circumstances dictated that he leave, but leaving Boston was far from painless.

That Jo Jo White did not become a lifetime Celtic is the product of many factors, both personal and professional.  The prevailing oversimplification is that he was simply incompatible with Nate Archibald, that one of them had to go, and that White was a more marketable commodity.  This is true, but it hardly tells the full story.

“There were a lot of things,” White explains, “and it goes way back.  It seems like everything happens at the same time.  It became difficult to play, difficult to have a proper role, not knowing when I would play or how I would be used.

****

It was never the same for White after he developed heel trouble.  First there was a continuing contract hassle with former owner Irv Levin.  He has little use for either Levin or John Y. Brown, and he feels that Auerbach has been unfairly victimized by meddling owners.  What Jo Jo perceived to be the fabric of the team was being ripped apart, almost daily.  Worsening physical condition problems (the heel would eventually require major surgery), compounded by important personal problems (culminating in a divorce involving three small children) mixed in with the daily professional problems being shared by everyone, and Jo Jo found himself yearning for the less tempestuous days of yore.

He signed a three-year contract this past summer, but from then on things deteriorated.  He did not relate well to Satch Sanders as coach, nor vice-versa, and when Satch was deposed, Jo Jo did not view the ascension of Cowens very kindly.

“What displeased me,” he says, “was the way it was done.  We (Cowens and himself) were both captains.  I learned he had been named coach at practice.  I thought at least I might have been given a call to see what I thought.”

He would prove to be of little use to Cowens, whose presence as coach White clearly resented.  Eventually, Cowens determined that he could not coach the others with Jo Jo around to question him.

 

Though White was part of the Celtics’ past, Robert Parish was in their future.  Parish was supported by Clifford Ray in his journey to becoming one of the greatest Celtics of all time.  Sports Illustrated’s Alexander Wolff profiled the Chief in a 1991 cover story.

Yet as a Warrior, when his heart was truly in the game, Parish was nonetheless blamed for his team’s struggles, and it led him to consider retiring. “I didn’t need the aggravation,” he says.

Enter Clifford Ray, the veteran center who was finishing up his career with Golden State. Ray had scars from 11 knee operations and a championship ring, won with the Warriors in ’75, that conferred credibility on everything he said. Bearded and with the same faintly arthritic bearing that has become the Chiefs signature, he even looked the part of the wise elder. Ray took Parish aside to counsel him; and Parish was a grateful pupil. Today, they agree their most valuable discussion went something like this:

Parish: “You know, if I had your drive, I could be great.”

Ray: “You can get that drive.”

Parish: “Oh, I’m kind of lazy.”

Ray: “You’re not lazy. You’ve just never had a purpose.”

Parish: “I don’t understand.”

Ray: “A center’s got to look at one thing—the outcome of the game. Did we win? Win often enough, and people will say you’re the reason why. You’re always going to have stars, you’re always going to have colorful players. But you can’t win without someone who rebounds and plays defense and brings people together.”

Parish: “But I’m not as vocal as you are.”

Ray: “You can be a leader without being vocal.”

Though Parish encountered some initial issues in Boston (In the crucible of his first Boston training camp, a fortnight that would mark the difference between early retirement and likely Hall of Fame enshrinement, Parish was mercilessly ridden by coach Bill Fitch. “No matter what I did, it wasn’t enough,” Parish says. “Not that I was in the best shape. But I was his whipping boy, along with Cedric Maxwell. All you heard was ‘Parish and Maxwell’ all through training camp. It was like being in an echo chamber.”), Parish learned an enormous amount from Ray during his time in Oakland.

While the Boston sports media market scrambled after Bob Lobel shocked the airwaves by moving from WBZ Radio to Channel 4, as reported by Jack Craig in the Globe’s SporTView, the Celtics and Larry Bird were having an affect on the NBA that was not going unnoticed.

How much is CBS relying on Larry Bird? 

The first three Sunday games may involve the Celtics at the Garden, Jan. 13 vs. LA and Magic Johnson, Jan. 20 vs. Seattle and Jan. 27 vs. San Diego if Billl Walton has returned.  All the games are almost assured of being sellouts and thus on Ch. 7 … Three Celtics games on Ch. 4 this season achieved a 10 rating, compared to a six average for Bruin games on Ch. 38.  A few years ago those numbers regularly were reversed.

As for the game itself, the two teams played to a standstill at halftime.  The Celtics pulled away in the third, and in typical Bird fashion, went for the dagger early in the fourth.  Parish led all scorers with 28 points, but a balanced attack  from the C’s — one that included M.L. Carr and Rick Robey combining for 34 points — and Boston’s ability to force GSW into turning over the ball made the difference.  Bird was again spectacular, finishing the night with 16 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists (and very quietly limiting his turnovers).  Robey led the Celtics with 18 points.

 

 [The lack of corporate nature, evident by the fact that the Celtics were only televised a handful times during the year, also became evident when viewing the names of the NBA stadiums, with Golden State's Oakland Coliseum Arena serving as a prime example.]

Since the game was played past deadline on Saturday night, Bob Ryan provided further commentary about the win in the 12/30/79 edition of the Globe.

It was evident at halftime (47-47) that the game would be won with a spurt of some kind, and so it was as a seven-point blitz in one 37-second span that turned things around.

When Robert Parish (28 points on 11-for-19 shooting) laid in a back-door lob pass with 8:28 remaining, the Warriors, who had trailed by nine points (75-66) a minute earlier, had pulled to 75-70.  But Carr swished a three-pointer 13 seconds later to trigger the big spurt.

Chris Ford hit another 3-pointer, treating a sellout crowd of 13,257 to the 19th game in the last 20 he had hit a basket from international waters.  The win marked the Celtics’ 29th victory of the season, matching the season total from the previous season.  Though the Celtics had their share of doubters earlier in the season, Bob Ryan noted, people were beginning to look at this team in a new light.

Hey, Elvin Hayes, what have you to say now?

Way back before the 10th game of the season, [Bullets forward] Hayes sneered at the idea that the Celtics were back.  “Come and see me when they win 29,” was his appraisal of the Boston entry.  And now they have Saturday night’s 104-88 victory over the sad Golden State Warriors was indeed Boston’s 29th of the new season, and it was accomplished before the halfway point in the season.  Hell, it was accomplished before New Year’s Day.

“We all knew we’d win 29,” said Fitch.  “What I would like to remember is that we won our last game of ’79.  Our next goal is to win our last game of the entire season.  Then I’ll be happy.”

Bob Ryan summed up the transition from the 1970s — which saw the Celtics win 68 games in a season and capture their first (and then second) championship in the post-Bill Russell era — to the great unknown of the 1980s.

The “Old Celtics” laid the foundation of local basketball interest.  The “New Celtics” of the ‘70s provided the framework.  And now the “Modern Celtics” of Bill Fitch and Larry Bird are actively building the roof of Boston’s Great Hoop Mansion.  For basketball fans, these are truly the best of times.

Ryan foreshadowed it, but as great as the Celtics were in the 70s, the C’s in the 1980s were about to reach a popularity level never before imagined in a town so devoted to the Boston Bruins.

The Celtics returned to action against Moses Malone’s Houston Rockets (fresh off a victory over Philadelphia) at the Summit on January 2, 1980.

 

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Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 37 vs. the Lakers

Celtics (28-8) vs. Lakers (26-13)
December 28, 1979
Great Western Forum

Just like in the NCAA championship, Larry Bird’s team walked in with the better record.

Magic-Bird

And, just like the national title game, Earvin Johnson’s team walked out the winner.

The Celtics would struggle all night to stop Los Angeles, allowing the Lakers to score at least 30 points in three of the four quarters, and lost 123-105.  For LA, as Bob Ryan wrote in the Globe, the game met the hype.

And so the Celtics were welcomed to sunny Los Angeles for the single most awaited regular-season game in Laker history.  The Forum had been sold out for weeks, and everyone from Pacific Palisades to Pomona wanted to be on hand when Earvin Johnson and Larry Bird, accompanied by such satellite stars as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dave Cowens, Jamaal Wilkes and Cedric Maxwell resumed their rivalry…

Though the Lakers began the evening as a second-place team in the NBA’s Pacific Division by a half-game (26-13 to Seattle’s 25-11), in the mind of the local populace this game was to be a clear confrontation between the best in the East and the best in the West.

The game also allowed for the continued rivalry of Dave Cowens and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  Cowens’ shooting woes continued, and though he did contain Abdul-Jabbar offensively to just 15 points, Kareem added 18 boards and 7 assists all from his perch in the paint.  Just like Bird was out-dueled by Magic, Abdul-Jabbar got the better of the man who delivered one of the greatest Game 7 performances ever in NBA history with 28 points and 14 rebounds to bring home a record twelfth NBA championship for the Celtics.

Kareem-Cowens

In his finale as Celtic in LA, Big Red ended the night with four points, three boards, but managed to collect 9 assists in a foul-plagued 27 minutes.  The Celtics received major contributions from Tiny Archibald (8 assists), Cedric Maxwell (10 boards of the offensive variety), Chris Ford (two more three-pointers), and M.L. Carr (16 points in 24 minutes).

“Although we scored over 120 points,” Lakers coach Paul Westhead told the LA Times, “and shot the eyes out of the basket, the difference clearly tonight was our defense…It was our best defensive effort of the year and when the team got going the defense just became contagious.”

With so press coverage for the game, Bird actually held a press coverage before tip off.

Lakers

[Bird] came prepared to correct an impression of brashness caused by a statement he had made in front of an NBC camera during last Saturday’s “Sportsworld” show.  In that interview he had jokingly referred to Magic as “the second best player in the world,” the unspoken implication being that he was the best.  What he meant, of course, was “best in the college world last year.”

“I knew they’d ask me about that,” Bird explained.  “I was ready for them.”

Steve Aschburner added on NBA.com that tempers flared between Bird and Magic in their first professional contest.

Look, they didn’t even exchange words late in the fourth quarter when Bird, his Celtics hopelessly behind, put himself between Johnson and the basket for a bone-jarring collision. The two rookies glared at each other, according to the New York Times’ game account. “He just looked at me and I looked at him,” Bird said.

The funny thing is, that memory stuck with Bird more than anything else from that night — other than the miserable loss it hung on the Celtics two games into their five-game, post-Christmas, Western Conference trip.

“There had been talk about it in Boston for a few days, so I was ready for it,” Bird said by phone last week from the office he keeps as the Indiana Pacers’ president of basketball operations. “I knew that if I had a chance to knock him on his ass, I was taking it.”

Both men were rookies and, looking back now, so very young. Bird, who false-started his college career at Indiana before transferring to Indiana State, had turned 23 on Dec. 7. Johnson, who had left Michigan State after his sophomore year and that NCAA championship game over Bird’s Sycamores, was just 20. They were lugging heavy expectations from their respective teams, from the league, from fans both East and West. Yet they were, in many ways, still getting their pro legs under them.

“I was just feeling my way around then,” Bird said. “This was a West Coast trip, so it was all new to me. It was very exciting to be heading out there for the games, and I remember Dave Cowens telling me — just like it was yesterday — that we needed to be in shape because we were going to be running. In Boston, we played a halfcourt, slow-it-down type of game, but at that time, you had teams like Phoenix and Denver playing fast, and if you didn’t run against the Lakers, you didn’t have a chance to beat them. You could slow ‘em down late in games sometimes, but not for the whole game.

You knew when you went to L.A. that it was different. You’d see our fans who couldn’t go to games in Boston. You’d see a lot of green in their building.”

Bird shot well from the field but, with only four rebounds and three assists, was unable to dictate the pace of the game.  Johnson and his Laker teammates controlled the boards — a 49-39 advantage — and controlled the flow from the opening tip-off.  Aschburner detailed how Bird refused to buy into the game’s hype:

“A special game,” Johnson called it, playing along. Fitch labeled it a “glamour game,” while Bird called all the hype stupid. Afterward, he hadn’t changed his view: “The NBA has got to do it to get publicity, and I think they’re blowing it out of proportion,” Bird said.

Think maybe the result had something to do with his orneriness? Bird was hampered by foul trouble in the first half and pestered defensively by L.A. forward Jamaal Wilkes for most of the night (Bird and Johnson, playing different positions, almost never guarded each other). The Lakers erased Boston’s early lead and never were seriously threatened again, using a 12-2 run deep in the third quarter to push the score to 105-87.

Johnson led the Lakers with 23 points and had eight rebounds, six assists, four steals, seven turnovers … and plenty of help. Wilkes scored 22 points, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar grabbed 18 rebounds and backcourt mate Norm Nixon led with eight assists. Boston’s Cedric Maxwell had 19 points and 16 boards, Cowens had nine assists and Bird wound up with 16 points, four rebounds, three assists, four steals and two turnovers in 40 minutes.

“Tomorrow we’ll forget about this game,” Bird said in the visitors’ locker room. “We’ll be so far away from here. … In a few days we’ll be home, and we won’t even know what night we played the Lakers.”

Except that 30 years later, because of all that followed, we know exactly what night they first played.

The Celtics returned to action the following night to play Golden State.

 

12_28_79

Patriots To Wrap Up 2012 On Sunday

It’s hard to believe, but another NFL regular season winds down this weekend. Another season of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will be in the books. What a run it has been. Why not try to enjoy it while we still have it?

As for Sunday, it seems pretty simple. If the Texans win, I think the Patriots treat this week as their bye. As many key players as possible will be rested. There is simply no chance that Kansas City can beat Denver in Denver on Sunday. The Patriots best chance of a bye rests with the Indianapolis Colts and them being fired up at home against Houston with the return of their head coach from his cancer treatments. I happen to think though, that you’re safe making plans to watch the Patriots next weekend at home on Wild Card Weekend, likely against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Unless of course, they believe the easier game would be Indy, and if  so, you may well see a whole lot of Ryan Mallett on Sunday.

It’s somewhat amusing that the Texans have now made this game “the biggest game in franchise history.

As far as the game being flexed to 4:25 on Sunday, there’s no truth to the Jim Lazar joke that Belichick used leverage to force the league to flex the game.

Get all the Patriots coverage this weekend at PatriotsLinks.com.

Sports Hub No. 1 in fall radio ratings – Chad Finn reported on the fall ratings book yesterday, where 98.5 blew the doors off of WEEI, who fell to 7th place in the ratings, tied with WBUR, which might just make Gerry Callahan’s head explode.

It’s time for changes at WEEI. Unfortunately for them, they are the New York Jets of sports radio at the moment, in salary cap hell, tied into several huge contracts for their “talent.”

Cool off on the ‘hot team’ talk in the NFL – Is it just me, or is there even more of a “flavor of the week” theme this season in the NFL? My SB Nation media column looks at the week-to-week changes in the team to beat.

Networks ratchet up challenges to ESPN – Chad Finn has a very good look at the two latest challenges to ESPN on television – the NBC Sports Network, and the CBS Sports Network, and notes that FOX will likely switch SPEED to Fox Sports 1 later this year.

Fill In Notes

In the battle of the fill-in shows this week, I’ve actually found WEEI’s combo of Pete Sheppard and Kirk Minihane to be the best of the lot, though Bob Beers has been terrific over at 98.5. He’s clearly more than just a former hockey player and current analyst, he’s been able to speak well on all sports. I also knew Sean McAdam was obviously very good on baseball, and always knew his NHL knowledge was top rate, but he really surprised me with his NFL knowledge across the league, not just surface talking points, but deeper issues and analysis. I liked Dan Roche taking on the negativity in Boston sports yesterday, and imploring fans to sit back and enjoy sports a little more.

It’s been a little amusing at WEEI, as they’ve filled the schedule mostly with people they’ve let go or demoted in the last couple of years, with Dale Arnold, Sheppard, Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie all getting prominent time.

I’m not sure I understand the reasoning behind bringing Dan Sileo up for the week, unless they actually are thinking of shaking things up and this was a tryout.

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 36 vs. the Clippers

Celtics (27-8) vs. Clippers (19-20)
December 27, 1979
San Diego Sports Arena

In the midst of a six game road trip, the Celtics played three straight games in consecutive days against the NBA’s three teams from California.  They opened with the same team — the Clippers — that the current Celtics are playing on the road tonight.  The 1979-80 Clippers team had prepared to be a contender by making a major splash and signing Bill Walton away from Portland, altering the landscape in the Association.  Unfortunately for the Clippers, Walton would only play in 14 games, and this contest with the Celtics was not among them.  The first meeting between Bill Walton and Larry Bird would have to wait, but Bird still led the Celtics with 27 points in a 118-97 win in front of a sellout crowd at the San Diego Sports Arena.

Bill Walton SI Cover

The C’s came out swinging with 30 points in the opening quarter.  In a trend the Celtics hoped would continue, Dave Cowens broke out of his extended shooting slump by hitting 13-of-20 from the field and scored 18 first-half points.  In typical Cowens fashion, he added 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals.  The Celtics, behind Bird, were quickly becoming the best passing unit in the Association.  In his Globe recap, Bob Ryan detailed the win:

The majority of the crowd was already headed home when this game ended, however, because the fast-breaking Celtics had demonstrated their best ball movement while expanding a 62-59 lead into margins of 26 at 101-75, 103-77 and 105-79.  Cowens (27 points) connected on 13 of his first 20 shots, many on his patented fast-break trailers, and he had sufficient scoring help from the likes of Larry Bird and Cedric Maxwell.

World B. Free (like M.L. Carr, another product of the Guilford College Quaker basketball program) poured in 28 as San Diego’s high scorer.  The Clippers also received 12 points off 4-of-12 shooting from Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant, who never found the time to instill the idea of shot selection into the head of his son.  The Clippers, as Ryan wrote, were unable to find any consistency on offense.

The Clippers began the game by launching shots from Chula Vista and beyond, and they weren’t hitting… With the Clippers not hitting, the Celtics were able to get their own running game started, and if they had taken better care of the basketball in the second quarter, they might have led by upwards of 16 or so at the half.  The fast breaks were there, but the Celtics all too often failed to take advantage of the opportunities.  Still, they scored 11 on the break in the first quarter (starting off when Chris Ford connected from the left corner on his first three-point attempt) and they added 10 more in the second quarter, with a few of the baskets coming on the secondary break.

Joe Bryant

Speaking of Chris Ford, who hit two more 3-pointers, he had unofficially become the NBA’s 3-point king.  He had hit a three in 17 of his past 18 games, prompting these words of praise from the Globe’s Leigh Montville:

He is one of the few settlers in the far-away, recently discovered exotic area of his game.  He lives – get this – beyond the normal boundaries.  The photographers from the ‘National Geographic’ track him down.  The chroniclers from Guinness take a whack at tabulating his increasing book-of-records statistics.  The questioners approach him with wonder in their voices.

What is it like, living way out there?  Is it lonely?  Is it scary?  Is it a hard life?  How have you adjusted so quickly?  Can you live, OUT THERE, forever?

“I like it,” Chris Ford calmly replies.  “I feel comfortable out there.  I think most guys in this game can live out there.  If you can play the game for a living, I think you can live out there.  I really do.”

Chris Ford

As only Bob Ryan could write it, The amazing, astounding, stupendous, improbable Chris Ford three-point saga rolls on.  The NBA, and Boston in particular, were excited about the possibilities of this new 3-point shot.  Little did the basketball world know that one shot could completely alter the way the game was played.

Is there no end to all of this?, penned Montville.  He wonders.  There was a stretch, early in this season when he had trouble just making layups, but now he seemingly can make anything.  The farther away, the better.  He flops into his favorite spot in the far corner, floppy mustache, floppy man, and the stalwart guarding him has to follow (opening all sorts of possibilities for the Celtics’ inside game), and it doesn’t matter what the situation is, he seems to fire and hit and talk about it later, his press conference spilling over into the lockers of others, more widely-known stars.

“You’ve got to hit that three-pointer to get the pub,” forward M.L. Carr says as the writers overrun his pace.  “Me, I’m just getting to the airport early, because I know when Chris gets there he’s going to buy all the newspapers.”

“It’s just become a high-percentage shot for me,” Chris Ford says with a shrug.

It all so simple, isn’t it?

The wheat crop grows.  The cattle become fat.  The house even has running water.  Once again civilization triumphs and a wilderness, an unchartered territory, suddenly feels like home.

The win marked the eighth in the Celtics’ past nine games.  The next night marked a game against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Great Western Forum.  Unlike Walton’s DNP-injury, Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson were set to play their first professional game against one another.  The previous time the two tangled was when Johnson’s Michigan State defeated Bird’s Indiana State in the 1979 NCAA national championship game on March 26.  Bob Ryan added in his Sunday Notes column that tickets — even the poorly located ones — were going for top dollar, some even as high as $54.

 

12_27_79

WBZ-FM Special – “Gil and Gino Behind The Mic”

Sometime in the next few weeks, Gil Santos will call his last New England Patriots game. In recognition of his career, WBZ-FM had Gary Tanguay sit down with Santos and his long-time announcing partner Gino Cappelletti for a remembrance of their most memorable moments together in the booth.

Gil And Gino Behind The Mic

It debuted on Christmas Eve and was replayed on Christmas day. It will also be played on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. You can also listen to it via the link above.

The duo will also be featured on the Patriots pregame show on Sunday, as they will be on the show live and will take calls from listeners, and they will be honored by the Patriots at the game.

In addition, Cappelletti will also join Santos in the booth and the pair will call the opening drive together.

In Patriots Football Weekly this week, my column is a look at Santos’ career – he did a whole lot more than just the Patriots and the WBZ morning news – including his stint as radio voice of Penn State Football in the 1980’s.

A Team Grows In Brooklyn

The Celtics put on one of their best performances of the season yesterday, waxing the Brooklyn Nets 93-76 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn yesterday afternoon.

The win could be a sign that the Celtics are growing as a team. They now head West for a three game trip against the Clippers, Warriors and Kings before returning home and hopefully welcoming back Avery Bradley a week from today.

The Celtics got a big boost from their bench yesterday, with rookie Jared Sullinger scoring 16 and Jeff Green 15.

Celtics finally show their stuff – Peter May says that Boston displayed the defense that they’re going to need if they’re going to be the team they want to be.

Shorts story misread by the officials – Mark Murphy runs down some of the rest of the items from yesterday’s game, including a curious incident between Kevin Garnett and Gerald Wallace.

Get the rest of the Celtics stories at CelticsLinks.com.

Patriots tailback Stevan Ridley has a firm grip on his role – Michael Whitmer has the team and Ridley both aware that much of their playoff success will hinge on the running back and his ability to hang onto the ball.

Ranking Patriots’ possible playoff foes – Karen Guregian ranks the AFC playoff teams, and while the top team won’t be a surprise, the order of the rest of them might be.

Get the rest of the Patriots articles at PatriotsLinks.com.

The week between Christmas and New Years means plenty of fill-in hosts on the sports radio stations. Some pairings are great (Greg Bedard and Bob Neumeier on the WEEI midday show today) and others, not so great.

If you tuned into the WEEI morning show today and wondered who the Andy Gresh-sound-alike on with Dale Arnold was, it was Dan Sileo, a former Miami Hurricanes defensive lineman, who has become a controversial radio host. You may have heard of him first locally here after Brandon Meriweather was at the scene of a shooting in March of 2011.

Earlier this year, Sileo was fired from his gig at WDAE in Tampa Bay after making a racially-charged comment on morning radio in which he referred to three African American NFL free agents as “monkeys.”

In other words, he’s a perfect fill-in for Dennis and Callahan.

They had to find someone, I guess. Bob Gamere wasn’t available. (Yes, they had him as a fill-in once, too.)

Patriots Survive Jags, Limp Into Season Finale

Not one to put into the style points section.

The Patriots started sluggish, and were sloppy for much of yesterday, but managed to get enough defensive stops to hold off the Jacksonville Jaguars 23-16 and improve to 11-4 on the season.

The offensive line had problems protecting Tom Brady, who threw two interceptions, the secondary was depleted (when Pat Chung is back out there taking regular turns on the defense, you know things are bad) and the compete level at times across the board was lacking.

Still, they survived, and will have the opportunity, however slight it may be, to play for a first round bye next Sunday. If the Colts, who have nothing to play for in terms of playoff seeding, but who will get a boost from the return of coach Chuck Pagano this week, can beat the Texans at home Sunday, the Patriots can get the bye with a win over the Dolphins. They can also get a bye with a win and a loss by the Broncos at home to the Chiefs, but that scenario seems even more unlikely.

The Colts and Texans play an early game on Sunday while the Patriots have been flexed to 4:25pm, so New England will have an idea of what their chances are before they take the field.

A few of the more insightful links from today:

Pats are human … and a playoff bye is still possible – Jonathan Comey says that we learned that “the Patriots are subject to the same emotions and human frailties as anyone, and that even Bill Belichick’s coaching wasn’t enough to get his team up on a road trip against a nobody team.”

What we learned: In the end, it’ll always come down to Tom Brady – Christopher Price says that it’s impossible to make a broad statement about the state of the defense based on this game.

When it matters most, Patriots’ defense just good enough – Michael Whitmer says that when they needed to, the defense made the plays to win the game.

Patriots offense hits the skids, but can rebound – Greg A Bedard looks at some areas of concern for the offense, but adds that all is not lost.

More questions as game-to-game play varies – Tom E Curran notes that the Jaguars threw the kitchen sink at the Patriots, but that they still need to show more consistency game-to-game.

Patriots don’t feel like celebrating – Mike Reiss has the Patriots players treating the game like a loss, but also notes that the team wasn’t alone in underachieving yesterday.

Get the rest of the Patriots stories at PatriotsLinks.com.

Going for it? Why Red Sox trade for Joel Hanrahan is noteworthy – Alex Speier says that Boston’s pursuit of the All Star closer indicates that they believe they can contend in 2013.

Celtics still looking for swagger – The Celtics play the Brooklyn Nets tomorrow at noon. Chris Forsberg says that this is a chance for Boston to “push back” at the Nets.

Avery Bradley could play on road trip – Mark Murphy’s notebook says that the guard could make his debut within the next week.

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 35 vs. the 76ers

Celtics (27-7) vs. 76ers (24-10)
December 22, 1979
The Spectrum

The 76ers sought revenge three days before Christmas.  After the humiliation of a 25-point loss at the Boston Garden just three days prior, the city of Philadelphia couldn’t wait to spread its love to the visiting Celtics at the Spectrum for this 8pm prime time match-up.  Going into the game, the Sixers vowed they would be better prepared.  In the December 22, 1979 publication of the Boston Globe, Bob Ryan spoke with Julius Erving. [Read more...]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 34 vs. the Spurs

Celtics (26-7) vs. Spurs (17-16)
December 21, 1979
Boston Garden

The Celtics continued their hot streak as they hosted the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night at the Garden.  The C’s hit the glass, ran the break, and moved the ball exceptionally well in a lopsided 133-114 victory.  The win marked the 27th victory for the Celtics, and improved their winning streak to seven games. [Read more...]

Sully Still Hates Belichick, And More Friday Media Items

With the news that columnist Brian McGrory will become the new editor of the Boston Globe, some might wonder whether any changes would be forthcoming in the sports department. I doubt it. Based on some of the truly atrocious columns McGrory penned about the Red Sox, I think we can be confident that the sports department will remain as it is.

What it is is a place where the head of the department is eager to air his grievances about Bill Belichick and the Patriots to anyone who might come calling.

In a feature on Oregon Head Coach, (and NH’s own) Chip Kelly, in a publication from Portland Oregon, there is this passage:

Belichick has prowled the sidelines in a beat-up gray hoodie for the past 13 years with the Patriots, a permanent scowl fixed on his face. He doesn’t release injury reports beyond what is required. He is not popular with the Boston-area media.

“He’s uncooperative and downright rude unless he’s talking about the history of the NFL and football,” Joe Sullivan, assistant managing sports editor for The Boston Globe, wrote WW in an email.

Typical. Sullivan’s antics, from filing a complaint with the NFL over media access to his churlish, unprofessional and childish comments about them to shaping his staff coverage in a slanted way, have been well documented here.

The professionals on the beat have little or no issue with how Belichick handles things with them. For the most part, they understand it’s how things are going to be, and have accepted it, and work with it.

Only the entitled self-styled elites continue to complain about it. Joe Sullivan, easily one of BSMW’s least-favorite figures in the Boston sports media world, leads the charge.

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Speaking of brave journalism at the Globe, congratulations to Sully’s star pupil Dan Shaughnessy for making The Atlantic’s list of The 50 Worst Columns of 2012. Not just sports columns. Any column.

You remember the one, about the bloodthirsty bloggers being responsible for all that is evil in the world? Yeah, that’s the one, though, I’d only put that one in the top five of Dan’s worst columns of 2012. Maybe I should make a proper list. Hmmm.

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It’s been interesting hearing the contract between WEEI and WBZ-FM over the last week. For the most part, The Sports Hub has stayed on mission – whatever mission each show generally takes, the morning show is still goofy, and makes awkward attempts to talk sports, middays remain bombastic and mostly Patriots-centric and Felger and Mazz are who they are. There have been a few references to the murders of the innocent children in Newtown, but for the most part, they’ve stayed their course.

It’s has been a sharp contrast at WEEI, where the staff have always fancied themselves social commentators. At times, entire shows have gone by without a mention of sports, and Dale Arnold has led this charge. I have no doubt whatsoever that Dale is 100% sincere in what he’s doing. I don’t know however, what the right balance here is.

I’ve made the case before that for me, if I want news and social commentary, I turn to outlets that specialize in those discussions. Sports radio is an escape from that, an escape from the “real world” issues. Or at least that’s how I view it.

Last Friday, like most people, I spent most of the day and afternoon looking and listening for updates on what had happened in Newtown. I went to the news outlets. I wasn’t interested in what the sports people had to say, much like I have no interest when Brian McGrory writes about the Red Sox.

When I got into my car in the late afternoon, it was almost a relief, a comfort to hear Tony Massarotti screeching angrily at “delusional” Patriots fans. It was a break from what was happening.

Felger and Mazz,  I thought, handled it well. Each hour they made sure to acknowledge the situation and provide a quick update or thought, but then went back to what they do best.

It is good to have options here in sports radio listening. Some, I’m sure want to hear Dale and his viewpoint. Others want an escape. We got both.

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ESPN suspended First Take commentator Rob Parker for 30 days yesterday for his comments about Robert Griffin III.

I’m not sure that ESPN even realizes that they breed their own problems. By having ridiculous shows like First Take, which encourage participants to take outlandish stands and attempt to one-up each other in these contrived discussions, eventually people are going to say things which are not only stupid, but offensive. It’s hard to out-stupid Skip Bayless, but apparently that doesn’t stop people from trying.

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The news that Adam Jones has been hired to replace Damon Amedolara on the 98.5 evening show was met here with tepidness. Jones is a capable host, but he is also straight from the school of Mike Felger radio, having literally learned the trade at the knee of Felger. If you like Felger’s style, and many many do, then you’re going to enjoy Jones. The show can will pretty much be an extension of the afternoon show.

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It’s the Winter season on ‘Dennis & Callahan Morning Show’ – Bill Doyle has a look at Kevin Winter’s early contributions to the WEEI morning program. The ending paragraph where Callahan talks about Jon Meterparel doesn’t sound insincere at all…

Callahan said he hasn’t heard from Meterparel since he left.

“I knew I wouldn’t,” Callahan said. “He’s not the type. He just disappears. That’s the way he is. I hope he’s making some progress finding his dream job of doing play-by-play for the Toledo Mud Hens or whatever.”

Sean McDonough recovering from scary surgery – Chad Finn provides an update on the ESPN broadcaster and former Red Sox voice.