Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 12 vs. the Kings

Celtics vs. Kings
November 9, 1979
Boston Garden

The Celtics and Kansas City Kings were two franchises –at the time — moving in opposite directions.  With the Celtics riding a five game winning streak, chasing Julius Erving and his first place 76ers, the Kings were languishing in the Midwest division.  Losers of four consecutive games, Kansas City entered the Garden winless on their current four game road trip.


Coached by NBA lifer Cotton Fitzsimmons, the Kings cupboard was far from bare.  Fresh off a 48-win season, they went onto win 47 games in ’79-’80, and peaked when reaching the Western Conference Finals in 1981.  KC offered a formidable lineup with the likes of Otis Birdsong, current Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld, and future Celtics sharpshooter/noted vegetarian Scott Wedman.

Drafted sixth overall by the Kings in 1974, Wedman, 27 in ’79, appeared on the fast track to the prime of his career.  He raised his scoring average in each of his first four seasons, and averaged 18.3 PPG in ’78-’79.  Wedman reflected on his 13-season NBA career to the Kansas City Metro Sports:

“Seeing a team develop like that and being part of a team that kept getting better and better each year,” Wedman says, “was a great learning experience for me. We really had a good team (in 1980-81) with guys like Phil Ford, Sam Lacey, Otis Birdsong and I. It was quite a ride.

Later in his career with the Celtics, Wedman was able to recognize the greatest of Larry Bird:

“Sometimes my players today have a tendency to celebrate a three-point basket,” said Wedman. “I laugh because (Larry) Bird never celebrated. He wasn’t happy until we won a championship. That rubbed off on the rest of the team. After I finished playing, I realized that I had the same mentality. I was so focused as a player and I was constantly trying to play better and improve my game. I really appreciated my career.”

The Kings faced additional issues off the court.  In a page right out of the NBA-in-the-1970s, the roof of the Kemper Arena, the venue for their home court, collapsed (thankfully, the building was empty).  The Kings were forced to relocate to the Municipal Auditorum, a relic built before World War II.  Also, in of the more bizarre developments in league history, the Kings fired GM John Begzos.  An AP report detailed the cause of the dismissal as a “‘discount’ purchase of postage stamps for which he paid $120.”

As for the game that night, Cedric Maxwell dominated with 27 points on 71 percent shooting, as well as collecting 10 boards and 4 assists in one of Cornbread’s finest games of the season.  Larry Bird contributed 17 and 9, and though he was noted for his constant abuse of Wedman during their time together as Celtics (Peter May’s book, The Last Banner, delves into further detail: “‘[After his trade to Boston in 1983] It was the first time I had not played,’ he said.  ‘I thought the team was tight,and, with Larry, it was almost like a hazing.  Everything he did was good-natured, but it was at my expense.  He was having a good time.  I wasn’t… The next year, I started to figure out how it all went.  And I started to talk trash back.  We would go at each other in practice and he’d throw out a compliment every six months or so.  From him, that was pretty good.'”), there are no historical notes of any issues between the two men that evening.  Dave Cowens impressed again, contributing 21 points, and M.L. Carr dazzled again off the bench with 16 points and 6 rebounds (though he did add 6 turnovers).  Former King Tiny Archibald continued his renaissance by adding 21 points and 7 assists, while only allowing 2 turnovers.

The Kings kept the affair tight through three quarters, but the Celtics put Kansas City away with a 35-24 fourth quarter to capture their sixth straight victory.  The C’s, however, couldn’t enjoy the win for too long.  There was a Saturday night date less than 24 hours away at the Spectrum in Philly with the first-place 76ers.

 

About Justin Barrasso

Justin Barrasso has worked in the Boston sports scene in various different capacities since 2001, including writing for the Boston Herald and WEEI.com.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jaredandsuzanne Jared Suzanne

    the detail is amazing. great stuff!

  • JustinBarrasso

    Thanks for the kind comment. I hope you’re enjoying the pieces.