Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 49 vs. the Bullets

Celtics (36-12) vs. Washington (20-27)
January 25, 1980
Boston Garden

The Celtics are always connected with history.

In addition to drafting the first African American player (Chuck Cooper), employing the first African American starting five, and hiring the first African American head coach, the Celtics are in many ways to the sport of professional basketball the complete opposite to what the Red Sox were to diversity in baseball.  This particular night held a little history, as the Bullets ended a six-game losing streak — their longest since 1966 — with a road victory, 118-107, over the Celtics in the Garden. [Read more...]

Sports Media Musings: The Mailbag, Chapter I

Welcome to the Sports Media Mailbag! Here are comments and emails from you, the readers, and (mostly) made up emails from your favorite sports media personalities. To contribute to the mailbag, either shoot me an email at [email protected], hit me up on Twitter, or leave a response in the comments section of any one of my columns.

“TROLLING … ON A JET PLANE … I DON’T KNOW WHEN I’LL BE BACK AGAIN!!!”

[email protected]

Unlike last year, Eric Wilbur, who essentially admitted to Kirk Minihane that he writes for page views and reaction and doesn’t think facts are imperative in Internet columns, actually wasn’t the biggest troll following the Patriots loss to the Ravens. That honor goes to Chuck Culpepper on SportsOnEarth (which, aside from this abortion, is a great site you should all check out. Mike Tanier is the best national columnist covering the NFL, and it’s not even close.). Culpeepper’s piece though? Just awful.

“I’m sitting outside Guest Street, biding my time (a la Rajon Rondo), debating if I want to go in there. It’s cold, 5:40 am, and I just want to know … WHY WON’T THEY ACKNOWLEDGE ME? I EXIST.”

[email protected]

Hmm. I don’t know, Kev. I will say this: The web side of things is giving you a nice push and exposure with the Winter’s World podcast. Though, I’m not sure what the point of it is – just seems like more of the same dialect we hear everyday. I think The Brass over on Guest Street brought you in for your ESPN relationship, and if we’ve learned anything from the Sports Radio Wars, it’s that you’ll have plenty of time to make your mark. (Full Disclosure: I applied for the job, though was never a serious candidate. Just felt worth mentioning.)

As far as John and Gerry not, you know, engaging you on-air – I wouldn’t worry about it. John Dennis associates himself with the likes of Dan Sileo, who is making news for being an idiot (again) – this time as a misogynist, guys! (Here’s where your mother says, “You are the company you keep.”)

Another thing to note: we’re about to hit a dry spell in sports – the Celtics and Bruins are entering midseason (well not so much the B’s, but you get the point) –this is where I exclusively listen to shows, like “Toucher and Rich,” and read sites like Barstool Sports more than I usually do (I ripped on David Portnoy for Brady-baby-gate, which I stand by … But he’s also hilarious). More than any other time in the calendar year, I don’t need analysis as much as I just want to consume content from people that make me laugh and that I want to hang out with.

To me, that’s what WEEI lacks the most and is perhaps one of its bigger problems (and no, guys like Sileo aren’t the solution). Did they forget that sports are supposed to be fun? This market will always be big enough for two radio stations, but no one I know under the age of 40 listens to WEEI, and that 18-49 demographic that The Sports Hub instantly commandeered in 2009, is slowly becoming the coveted 25-54 demographic.

“Joe Buck is fucking terrible – a smug, smarmy twat.”

-Tyler

Ahh, yes. That’s a comment from my Championship Sunday media roundup, where I said Buck has done well to change his monotone voice to a higher pitch of excitement in big moments recently. Hell, I even went as far as to say I like Buck. Will Leitch does a better job defending Buck than I could in this space, but I’ll say this: As fans, so many times we complain about announcers; sometimes it’s warranted, other times it feels like we do it just because we can. The Internet culture doesn’t help. And I’m not sure if we’re looking to distract ourselves or to kill time, but Buck is America’s punching bag, partly because he’s omnipresent. Regardless, I’m certain Fox could do worse (Thom Brennaman, anyone?)

Speaking of announcers …

“STOP PUMPING THE CROWD NOISE, JUST STOP.”

[email protected]

What was that last night? In case you skipped out on the Celtics-Knicks match-up, Marv Albert went on a rant of sorts during the second quarter, claiming the folks at TD Garden incessantly pump crowd noise into the arena. Albert tried goading Steve Kerr, who seemed awfully reluctant to take part in the conversation, to agree. Kerr passed.

Look, I attended every Celtics game last season while covering the team, and could never tell if there was any artificial crowd noise pumped through the speakers. Keep in mind, I wasn’t exactly listening for it, either. I’m not sure it matters. This is the same crowd that started chanting “Ugly Sister” to Lamar Odom (in reference to Odom’s wife, Khloé Kardashian) during a Mavericks game last season. It’s a great fan base; and, frankly speaking, with the amount of times the Celtics have no showed this year, why should the team expect the crowd to bring the intensity? I don’t blame them.

“I’m free!”

[email protected]

Despite Albert’s ornery outburst, Thursday was a win for Turner Sports. News broke that Rachael Nichols is leaving ESPN for CNN/Turner. The decision is logical for both Turner and Nichols, and a direct hit to the WorldWide leader. She is a pro’s pro, who has had successful runs at The Washington Post and the four letter network. Look for her profile to substantially increase (there are already discussions of developing a “Real Sports”-esq show based around Nichols). Interesting times for CNN/Turner, who just abandoned their relationship with Sports Illustrated (a curious move) to join forces with the king of keywords, search engine optimization, and pageviews … the Bleacher Report.

As far as ESPN goes …

“Great to have you back Ryan. And, Rob Parker thinks this column is too ‘cornball’.”

-bsmfan

Oh, “First Take.” I … just … oh, fuck it.

Moving on.

“This mailbag is terrible, because you’re terrible! GOD, Boston is awful.”

[email protected]

Drew Magary is a top-5 read for me right now. He’s great, and he knows it. He writes like Bill Simmons used to write, which is ironic, since he constantly rips on the Sports Guy. You are what you hate, I suppose.

As far as The Sports Guy goes, it’s safe to say Simmons has lost a bit of his fastball over the years. His initial appeal was that he was an average guy, talking about sports the way we talk about sports; meanwhile, in the last month, he’s led two columns with anecdotal stories that were relevant to him and only him. One was how his version of the mailbag originated (I personally enjoyed this), and the other was how he had to type a column without an ‘S’ key or something.

(OK, it may not have been the ‘S’ key. I forget. But he was complaining about a shoddy computer warranty, like he couldn’t just expense a new laptop anyway … Are times really that tough over at Bristol?)

Don’t get me wrong, I still read his columns and listen to every one of his podcasts. He’ll always be one of my favorite writers – and was my inspiration to start writing. To top it off, his story will be taught in journalism classes forever. But he lives in a different world now, and the component he relied most on in his writing — being relatable — is dissipating.

“Well written article Ryan and I understand you point. However, I do feel there are exceptions. Granted I was very young when this happened, but from what I’ve heard, I don’t remember hearing people defend Wilfredo Cordero for spousal abuse. Again, I was young, but from everything I remember, he was outcast and people wanted his head. Maybe “we” as fans, only feel protective of that “star player” who must rise to X status level before getting the protective cloak around their shoulders. Obviously Cordero never has that cache.”

-Winning_Again

The Obstructed View columns will, eventually, get me into trouble. The BSMW community frequently comes up with smart, insightful takes, so when I talked to Bruce about coming back, I told him that I wanted to do something to challenge the readership. It is a work in progress, but a feature I really wanted to pursue. In a vacuum, each column is meant to coerce discussion in a genuine and creative way. By no means am I trying to play devil’s advocate; in fact, I hope to do the opposite by removing bias and filters, and (ultimately) explore How We Think About Sports. I’m happy it appears to have worked here.

Anyway, from my vantage point, both Kobe Bryant‘s and Ray Lewis‘ personal situations are sticky, and I would classify neither as a “good” person. Still, despite the snark and suspicion, Lewis falls within the gray area discussed in the column. I absolutely think Lewis is revered in Boston if he plays for the Patriots, instead of a rival. Same goes for Kobe — whose rape victim had more than a few holes in her story, which was sort of the point of the column.

*Side note: Whenever Kobe’s rape case gets brought up, I always laugh about the following line of questioning.

Via The Smoking Gun:

Detective Loya: So you like to cum in your partner’s face?

Kobe Bryant: That’s my thing, not always, so I stopped. Jesus Christ man.

That’s his thing, guys. Priceless.

Anyway, to reiterate, teams have to be successful for the “Our Guys” theory to work, but I’m with you — I was young, too, and I remember Will Cordero‘s case being cut and dry, eliminating him from this discussion. Good call.

I am going to have the biggest smile on my face when I see Ray doing his dance next Sunday, and what makes it great is knowing that you Boston bitches hate it!!!! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA SUCK IT BITCH YOU LOST!!!JOE FLACCO HAS OUTPLAYED BRADY IN THE 3 STRAIGHT GAMES!!!!!!   AND LEARN HOW TO TALK PROPER WITH YOUR STUPID ACCENTS LOL       YOU MAD BRO?!?!  AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA   RAY LEWIS IS GOING BACK TO THE SUPERBOWL….LIVE WITH IT!!!  AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

-Chris

So that same great community I just waxed poetic about? Chris, clearly, is not part of it. Learn how to “talk proper,” guys. Wait, or is it “proper talk?” I just consulted Google, and the results show, “Properly Talk.” Who would’ve thought!

“Bruce, I don’t think you allowing these guests posts is doing your site any favors. I’m not sure why I should care about this writer’s opinion”

-Anonymous Commentator

Pulled that from my first column here. Do people long for the days of George Cain? I know I do. I really do.

“I met a girl on Tinder, asked how many push ups she could do, and now I’m in love. We haven’t actually met. She is wearing a Canton High School hoodie in her profile picture, but she says she is 21. Should I be concerned?”

-No one ever.

Covered the media aspect of this story last week, but the Manti Te’o story is so strange. I don’t know what to think, why I should think it, and if I should really care. I get the feeling the story has run its course no matter what the outcome. And that’s probably a good thing, but wow … 2013, everyone! Welcome.

Closing the book on Patriots season

Even three days after the Patriots fell to the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game much of the talk in the Boston sports media remains the Patriots and their loss on Sunday. Every play and situation has been discussed, as well as finding common links in the Patriots recent playoff losses. Clearly, both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady deserve some of the blame for the loss, but some members of the media have a hard time in calling out the two for their poor performances on Sunday.

In getting to the AFC Championship game it’s hard to call a season a disappointment, but the way it ended was definitely disappointing. The Patriots did not play their best game and certainly were not 100 percent in health. The team did make some strides over the course of the season, especially on defense, and one would expect the Patriots to be right back in the AFC Championship Game next year with the hope of winning another Super Bowl before Brady’s historic career comes to an end.

Here are a look at some of the better reads from the past few days:

In their biggest game,  the Patriots failed to measure up- Greg A. Bedard is his final game review of the year, a must-read all year, has the team playing their worst game at the absolute worst time.

A five-point improvement plan for the Patriots- Tony Massarotti looks at what the team needs to do this off-season to get to the big game next year.

Patriots lost, but they didn’t fail- Ron Borges puts things in perspective saying things could be a lot worse like being Mark Sanchez in New York, or Scott Pioli in Kansas City.

Patriots roster breakdown- Jeff Howe breaks down the roster and what holes they may have going into next season.

Piecing together Patriots losses- Mike Reiss finds the common threads in each of the recent Patriots playoff losses.

Tom Brady in unfamilar place- Jackie MacMullan looks at Brady’s performance Sunday which was extremely disappointing.

Why Spygate doesn’t matter- Kirk Minihane puts an end to some people claiming Belichick and the Patriots haven’t accomplished anything since Spygate.

Hard to see a scenario where Aqib Talib sticks around- Christopher Price doesn’t think the Patriots cornerback will return next season.

Patriots led their opportunity slip away- Tom E. Curran says the Patriots failed to capitalize on their opportunities, especially early in the game, which ultimately was the reason for their season ending loss.

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 48 vs. the Pistons

Celtics (35-12) vs. Pistons (13-36)
January 23, 1980
Pontiac Silverdome

The Celtics hammered the Pistons with 77 second half points and walked all over Detroit for a 131-104 victory.

For the first time all season, Bill Fitch changed his starting five.  Dave Cowens, forced to miss the game after injuring his left foot in the game against the Rockets the prior evening, was replaced in the starting lineup by Rick Robey.  Robey delivered for the C’s, contributing 24 points and 19 rebounds.

Rick Robey

“Robey is the guy,” Fitch told Bob Ryan in the Globe, “that regardless of any circumstance would have had fingers pointed at him, with people saying he couldn’t stand the heat, if we had lost.”

There was no way to overrate Robey’s role in this victory. It was the third time in the last seven games he has had to step in for Dave Cowens, and each time he has come through. He opened up with a 14-point, five-rebound first period while being guarded by Bob McAdoo, who had to start at center in place of the injured Leon Douglas. McAdoo could not contain Robey on the boards, and the Celtics had the good sense to dump the ball in low. By the end of the third period, Robey had compiled 22 points and 15 rebounds.

“When the pressure’s been on him,” said Bird, “he’s come through.” Rookie Greg Kelser gave the Pistons their only source of life by scoring 29 points via a mixture of drives and medium-range jumpers, but none of the others appeared to view the game as a team sport. “They’re amazing,” sniffed one Celtic. “They wouldn’t pass the ball to their mother on the fast break.”

The free-falling Pistons had no answer for the Celtics starters nor, for that matter, their reserves.  Larry Bird added 21 points and 10 rebounds The Celtic bench, led by M.L. Carr (21 points) and Gerald Henderson (16 points, and 5 assists, playing well for a second straight game), scored 47 points.  Robey and Henderson understood the significance of their extra opportunity, wrote Ryan:

Robey recognizes the opportunity he now has to demonstrate his viability as a playoff performer.

“I’m just trying to play hard,” he explains, “and I’ve been learning from one of the best in Dave. When someone asks me about this center or that center, I say that he’s no better than the center I face every day in practice. Dave has prepared me for this job, and the coaches have, too.”

As for Henderson, whom Chris Ford has nicknamed “Quick,” he has been taking two steps forward for every one backward over the past month or so. The rookie with one of the league’s most envied pair of legs has been playing with increasing confidence, and in his 16- point, 5-assist performance on Wednesday, he was able to do pretty much what he wanted to do against the Detroit guards.

“Gerald’s end product should be a total guard,” assesses Fitch. “We have four guards with specific skills now. We’ve got Tiny (Archibald), Chris (Ford), Duck (Don Chaney) and now Pete (Maravich). Gerry can learn something from each of them.”

Former Celtic and current Piston Bob McAdoo shared with Bob Ryan the reason behind about his unsuccessful tenure in Boston:

“I think a lot of the blame of what happened last year has to go to John Y. Brown. The man was just no good for basketball.”

The Pistons would only win three games, losing 27, the remainder of the season.

The Boston media was still abuzz with the Celtics’ signing of Pete Maravich.

After Bob Ryan covered the pros and cons in the Globe, Will McDonough added some additional info on the legend from LSU:

 

Pete Maravich

 

The big question about Pete Maravich’s joining the Celtics will not be how he fits in with his new teammates or his playing style but how good his injured knee is. Maravich has been slowed by an injured knee in recent years, and that is why Philadelphia gave him a complete physical when the 76ers tried to sign him the other day. What the doctors discovered could be pleasing to Celtic fans.

“The knee that was injured is now 19 percent stronger than his good knee,” said Celtic general manager Red Auerbach, not bothering to explain how you come up with a figure like 19 percent for a knee.

Besides the knee, others who have followed Pistol Pete wonder why Utah coach Tom Nissalke wouldn’t let Maravich play or even practice with the team in recent weeks. The rumor is that Nissalke’s beef with Maravich goes back a decade to college.

Nissalke was an assistant coach at LSU when Maravich’s dad, Press, was head coach. The next year, Nissalke took the head- coaching job at Tulane. When Pistol Pete and LSU arrived to play at Tulane, Maravich threw in 58 points, completely devastating the opposition. Some say Nissalke never forgot – or forgave.

Boston would have to open a roster spot to make room for Maravich.  In the meantime, the Celtics returned home for a Friday night matchup at the Garden against the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions, the Washington Bullets.

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The Obstructed View: Why People Root For Ray Lewis

In addition to my media notes, I’ll be swinging by Wednesday afternoons to write a weekly column dealing with How We Think About Sports (or something), entitled “The Obstructed View.” Think of it as an unfortunate tariff to my other work here. Feel free to yell at me on Twitter about it (@Hadfield__) or email me at [email protected]

Like most of America, I will watch Super Bowl XLVII. And, like most of America, a smirk will take shape on my face as I watch Ray Lewis do his pregame ritual dance. I picture most of America having this reaction, smirking in unison as Lewis performs his cathartic rain dance like a lunatic.

Meanwhile, residents of Maryland experience The Big Game Jitters. You know what I’m talking about – numbness transforms into tingly excitement which, eventually, transforms into a pit in your stomach. “It’s the Super Bowl! And we’re here, we’re really here!!!” (Even though, in reality, they are watching from their couch. You get the point.) Oh, and they’ll smirk too, of course, but out of nervousness, like meeting your girlfriend’s dad for the first time.

Shortly after, the national anthem will happen. Ray Lewis will cry or, at the very least, ooze emotion. This will undoubtedly upset the virtual world – Twitter and Facebook – and prompt reaction at whatever Super Bowl party you’re attending. This dude can’t be serious. America will collectively utter to itself.

And, together, as one nation, we stand, laughing at Lewis; while Maryland, alone, proudly stands, their faces resplendent and nervously grinning, as they struggle to put the corsage on their girlfriend’s dress in front of pops before prom.

***

There is a common theme here that is completely exclusive, but mutually shared among fans of every successful team, in every sport. Our Guys. We relent, in circumstances, that Our Guys are bad people, or Our Guys are definitely just misunderstood. Either way, we make excuses for them because, well, they’re Our Guys.

Sometimes transgressions are so innocuous that we don’t really have to make excuses at all. For instance, Our Guys sponsor Male Uggs and dress feminine; flex while a player they concussed is being helped off the field; flip off a crowd; are sore losers; have children with 13 different women; swear on the basketball court (Relax, Dale. Every kid makes it to the back of the bus to hear the “bad words” at some point or another.); and have pregame routines eerily similar to Lewis’ (except we don’t notice, because they’re Our Guys.)

Other times, the actions taken – or not taken – reflect such poor character that we can’t make excuses. It’s quite possible, for example, Our Guys may or may not have taken PEDs (but hey, so did Your Guys … we rationalize.); harbor (and fail to disclose) knowledge of sexual assault on multiple children; and can inspire hundreds of thousands of people and raise millions of dollars for cancer research – all while lying about the means they took to acquire that inspiration and platform to do so.

Strangely, in the rarest of occasions, we just don’t know what to think about Our Guys. That’s because, these days, they can be tricked into having an out-of-this-world tragedy attached to an imaginary girlfriend; which, who knows, may have not been a trick after all.

The sailient point is that these guys – Our Guys – are a means to an end to memories of championship euphoria. Years later, when it’s over, we recant our opinion to the rest of America about their shortcomings as a human. We never invited them over for dinner, to our daughter’s wedding, or to watch a movie.

But in the here and now, provincial bias and glory trumps moral high ground, leaving good people to root for bad things, I guess. That’s why, when listening to fans and media folks alike discredit Ravens fans for rooting for a murder suspect, I shake my head. And maybe – just maybe — as Ravens fans hum along to “Seven Nation Army,” in awe of their fearless leader, I’ll take a moment to smirk with them instead of at them, not because I agree, but because I understand their burden, their relationship, to Their Guy.

[UPDATE: I didn't adequately highlight this initially, but if a team's success wanes, then, naturally, a player's personal issues -- like, say, Mike Vick or Will Cordero (kudos to commentator, Winning), come to the forefront. You think The Hoodie gets treated unjustly now? See what happens if the Patriots on-field dominance ever falters.]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 47 vs. the Rockets

Celtics (34-12) vs. Rockets (23-24)
January 22, 1980
Boston Garden

In an up-and-down night for Boston, the Celtics received a breakout defensive performance from M.L. Carr in a 112-106 victory over the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets, winners of six of their previous eight games, trailed 77-55 until Rick Barry went on a scoring binge.  Barry scored 17 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, and the game was about to shift in Houston’s favor until Carr ensured the Celtics would hold on for the victory.  Larry Whiteside from the Globe detailed the game’s turning point:

“I remember when I came into the game,” said Carr. “The first thing I said to him was, the party’s over. You don’t get no more 3- pointers.’ “

And it was his simple philosophy that turned what had been a stirring comeback by the Rockets…  Carr shadowed Barry all over the court, to the sidelines when he chatted with coach Del Harris, and would have gone into the Rockets huddle if the rules would have allowed it.

“You talk aboout a key to a game,” coach Bill Fitch would say later. “It had to be putting Carr on Barry. He became Lamont Cranston Jr. The Stopper. He took Rick right out of the things he wanted to do at a time when Barry was hot and wanted the ball.”

The Celtics didn’t really plan to use Carr to guard Rick Barry last night.

Larry Bird was doing a decent enough job for three quarters and Barry had only six points. But the former ABA star, who made the 3- point goal a living spectacle early in his career, cut loose in the final period, scoring 17 of his 23 points. Nine of them came on three straight 3-pointers. In fact, he scored 11 straight points at one juncture and it was two free throws by Barry tht tied the game at 97.

“Larry just wasn’t able to handle Barry,” said Fitch. “But I knew that when I sent him in. I just told him to stay in there long enough for M.L to get a blow. When M.L. told me he was ready, I sent him in.”

“We were in trouble. Our plan was to take advantage of their lack of speed and of Moses Malone. When Moses was covering Dave (Cowens), we shot from outside. When Moses was covering Maxwell, we ran. But it became a different game when Dave got hurt and Moses took over inside. Then Barry got hot, and we had to do something.”

Something meant M.L. Carr.

A Garden crowd of 13,549 also witnessed an injury to Dave Cowens.  Bob Ryan and Whiteside shared a joint byline to expand on the first major injury for the Celtics in the 1979-80 season:

Cowens injured his left foot in the third quarter of Tuesday’s 112-106 triumph over the Houston Rockets, and although X-rays were negative, that doesn’t mean he has escaped meaningful injury. The foot was swollen and purplish yesterday, Cowens says he can’t walk on it, and the big thing is that Cowens still really doesn’t know what’s wrong with it.

“I don’t think it’s something I’m going to be able to play with right off,” he said. “The first thing is to get the swelling down. Then we might be able to determine what I have. Right now I can’t walk on it.”

Cowens thinks he might have injured himself by coming down on Moses Malone’s foot, but he’s not really sure about that. “It’s like when you catch your finger in somebody’s jersey and pull it back, stretching the ligaments, or something, by hyperextending it,” he explained. “The pain is at the base of the big toe, where it joins the instep. For all I know, I may have hyperextended the big toe, and until the swelling goes down, X-rays won’t mean a whole lot.”

Rick Robey was slated to replace Cowens in the starting lineup, but there was another addition to the Celtics lineup.  After nearly agreeing to terms with Philadelphia, a last minute snag allowed Pete Maravich to become a Celtic.  Ryan’s discussed the move in the following day’s Globe:

Saying that “I’ve been trying to get here for 10 years,” Pete Maravich signed a contract last night to finish out the season with the Boston Celtics.

The signing took place following the Celtics’ 112-106 triumph over the Houston Rockets and capped an event-filled 28 hours since Maravich arrived in Philadelphia Monday night, ostensibly to sign a contract with the 76ers.  Instead, Maravich told the Sixers he was considering three other teams – Boston, Houston and Atlanta – and that he would be going to Boston the next day.

This came as news to the Celtics, who privately had conceded Maravich to their Atlantic Division rivals throughout Maravich’s seven weeks of forced idlement with the Utah Jazz. That bizarre situation culminated with Maravich being placed on waivers late last week. Mindful of his large contract, no teams claimed him, and when the waiver period expired, Maravich flew to the East Coast to dicker with the two Eastern titans.

Ryab debated the pros and cons of Maravich in Green:

Would Pete Maravich be good for the Boston Celtics?

As with any major issue, there are no easy answers. Signing a Pete Maravich would have ramifications, not only for this year but for several seasons to come.

Here are some positives:

- Maravich can score, and the Celtics at present are lacking in firepower off the bench, which is, presumably, where Maravich would be coming from.

- Maravich is experienced, and when Tiny Archibald is out of the game, the Celtics have nobody to run the team.

- Maravich should be motivated by playing on a winning team in front of enthusiastic fans and for a coach (Bill Fitch) he has known and liked for a long time.

- Maravich will come cheap. Maravich’s contract settlement with Utah has removed the financial burden, and the Celtics would be making no seriousfinancial commitment by signing him.

- By signing Maravich, the Celtics would keep him away from Philadelphia. Don’t think this isn’t a factor.

And here are some negatives:

- Maravich has sustained a major injury to his right knee, and there is no assurance he will hold up.

- By signing Maravich, the Celtics will raise fan expectations to new heights. The team needs more than just a Pete Maravich in order to be a champion. It still would need a frontcourt physical player along the lines of a Kermit Washington, Steve Mix or Paul Silas coming off the bench. But it will be difficult to convince fans that the signing of Maravich isn’t a title guarantee.

- If Maravich comes, somebody must go, and this has been a closely knit team. That somebody would be either Eric Fernsten or Jeff Judkins, and it would most likely be the former. Much has been made of the chemistry on this team, and there is no question that the remaining players would feel bad about the plight of their fallen comrade.

- Maravich hasn’t played in two months, and it would be anybody’s guess when he would be able to help the team.

In other Celtics news, Tiny Archibald, Cowens, and Bird were all added as reserved to NBA All Star team.  Bird was the only rookie to make the team.

The Celtics traveled to Detroit to take on the Pistons the next night.

 

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Belichick not in the wrong following Sunday’s loss

It almost seems like more has been made of what took place off the field following the AFC Championship game Sunday rather than what happened on the field during the game. Much has been made of Bill Belichick denying an interview to CBS following the game, and instead the Patriots having Devin McCourty speak to them. Many have called Belichick a “sore loser” and heavily criticized the coach for failing to give an exclusive interview to CBS, led by CBS analyst Shannon Sharpe.

Some have even said to look for a possible fine to be assessed to Belichick — don’t hold your breath. BSMW confirmed with an NFL media relations representative that Belichick did not violate the NFL’s media relations policy by not speaking with CBS following the game.

This raises the question of why was this made into such a big deal? Belichick sought out Ravens coach John Harbaugh following the game and told the Ravens coach the respect he had for them, something which Harbaugh really took to heart. Following addressing his team briefly in the locker room, Belichick took to the podium to answer questions from reporters for nearly 10 minutes. While he did not elaborate on his answers, that is standard Belichick. What else did people expect, especially following a season-ending loss in the AFC Championship game?

Belichick certainly isn’t the only losing coach in a championship game not to give an exclusive interview to the network which broadcasted the game. It is a very rare occurrence, in any sport, and when it does happen those coaches are often given great praise for doing so. Now, Belichick doesn’t do it and he gets killed for it. Furthermore, in case you missed it, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t give FOX an exclusive interview following their win over Atlanta, so why aren’t the same people who are criticizing Belichick doing the same to Harbaugh?

For whatever reason some people playing in the league, the media and fans in general have a dislike for Belichick. He gets held to a completely different standard than any other coach in the league, and maybe even in sports as a whole. Sure, he isn’t the best coach in the world with the media, but who said that’s required of being a head coach? His main job is to coach football and he is one of the best in the history of the game.

Everyone’s opinion differs on how Belichick handles the media, but whether you agree or disagree, you have to take a step back and say he didn’t do anything wrong by not speaking with CBS following Sunday’s loss. Even some of the best coaches with the media in sports have not spoken exclusively with networks following losses in Championship games and there was nothing being said about them. It should be no different with Belichick.

And let’s be real here, following the Super Bowl in two weeks, does anyone really think the losing Harbaugh brother will do an exclusive interview with CBS? Not particularly, but if they do hats off to them, and if they don’t, no big deal we’ll carry on.

Give me a follow on Twitter at @hannable84.

Sports Media Musings: Playing the Patriots Blame Game & Media Notes From Championship Sunday

None of the subsequent text you’re about to read matters; just as none of the endless hours of conversation breaking down the Patriots 28-13 defeat at the hands of the Ravens matters. You want storylines? There are plenty. You want culprits? There are plenty. But remember – and I can’t stress this enough – none of these narrative arcs really matter.

In the aftermath of the Patriots regular season loss to Baltimore back in September, here is what I wrote for WEEI.com.

We hear these platitudes all the time yet take them for granted. It’s a game of inches, a league of parity, and anything can happen on any given Sunday. More or less, it seems every year, the Super Bowl  is decided by a handful of 50/50 plays. Realistically, about five to seven teams can potentially win it all depending on the outcome of these moments. Maybe four of these teams reside in the AFC. The Patriots, once again, proved they are one of the select teams in The Conversation. (Seriously, did you watch the Jets and Dolphins throw up on one another for over four hours yesterday?)

This theory still holds up. The score didn’t indicate this, but the AFC Championship game was rife with 50/50 moments. And the Ravens, by a long shot, came out the victor in each of those situations.  Each team had four red zone trips. One came away with four touchdowns; the other, only one. Michael Felger, who will be doing a victory lap this week (and forever), picked the Ravens based on his “gut.” The guy who got it right went off intuition? If that doesn’t show you the fickle and arbitrary nature of the NFL, then I don’t know what does.

So, sure, take solace in the loss and lick the wounds. If you’re the media, blame Tom Brady for not producing points in the second half, heck, even throw words like “legacy” around (which is insanely shortsighted since legacies, by nature, take time to unfold and require perspective, but if you’re feeling frisky, need page views or ratings, then by all means, go for it!); ramble about the mismanagement at the end of the first half which took away the opportunity “cost” New England four points (I get the anger,  but rather presumptuous to assume the Pats would have punched the ball into the end zone there, given how much they struggled in that area all night); forget Aqib Talib was playing lights out and his exit due to injury signified the return of Kyle Arrington and insertion of Marquice Cole into the fold; or make baseless claims about what The Drop Part Deux means to Wes Welker’s contract uncertainty. You will hear all of it. Just don’t forget about The Conversation – it’s everything in the NFL.

Touchbacks: Media Notes From Sunday’s Action

I subjected myself to ESPN’s NFL Countdown show. Maybe it was because of Ray Lewis and all the religion talk this week that made me feel the need for repentance, or something. I don’t know. Either way, I’m 95% convinced Cris Cater was either drunk or acting out a C+ Stephen A. Smith impression during a segment called, “Where You At?”

***

There was a segment where T.I., a rapper from Atlanta, interviewed Roddy White of the Falcons. This was a real thing; very reminiscent of  Lil’ Wayne‘s blog on ESPN.com. Normally, I would be all over ESPN for doing this, but T.I.’s piece was much better than Chris Berman’s segment with Justin Smith and Aldon Smith, where Boomer joked, “I swear, you guys must be brothers?” Ohhh Boomerrrrr, so youuuu. The highlight came at one point when Justin Smith awkwardly said, “You’re trying to butter me up.” I would have loved to get into Berman’s conscious at that exact moment, “Psh. I don’t need to butter YOU up. I AM AN INSTITUTION. I AM FOOTBALL.”

***

Speaking of Berman, you wouldn’t believe it, but they showed his sideline report following The Catch in the 1984 NFC Championship game. I see this clip far too often; another example of ESPN making itself part of the story, “Look at us, in our infancy, not knowing what we know today – THAT WE ARE THE WORLDWIDE LEADEERRRRRRR IN SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT!!!!!”

***

Speaking of worthless sideline reports (I’m on fire with my seagueways right now, just go with it), evidently Fox skipped their sound check with sideline reporter Pam Oliver. Twitter was up in arms about her inaudible report (due to the deafening Georgia Dome crowd) right before kickoff. Here’s the thing: If we (rightfully) mock sideline reports for being useless and adding little insight – then, why, are we raising our fists at the information being missed. I thought we decided it’s all so pointless?

***

Joe Buck has been justifiably criticized for tempering his tone and excitement in big moments. The most egregious example of this mundane style of broadcasting is the Helmet Catch. However, he had a great call on Julio Jones’ opening drive touchdown in Atlanta. Perfect cadence and pitch as the play unfolded. I get he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like Buck.

***

Much is being made of Shannon Sharpe’s diatribe directed towards Bill Belichick for skipping out on his one-on-one interview with CBS’ Steve Tasker. I’m actually with Sharpe here, but I don’t get why he is so shocked. On the peripheral, Belichick is a sore loser. It’s weird. But it’s also not new. The Hoodie has no use for the noise; he never asks for the adulation he gets, and certainly doesn’t soak in the hate, either. Remember, though, that’s on the peripheral. Internally, all you need to know about Belichick is this tidbit from Peter King this morning.

The postgame conversation on the field with Bill Belichick … Harbaugh: “I’ll treasure that conversation forever. Before the game, we talked, and he said maybe we should just skip the postgame handshake because it’s such a circus. I said I didn’t know; I thought we should do it, it’s just the right thing to do. And we did. He was so classy, so gracious. Complimentary about how we played, about our game plan, about how tough it is to play us. I told him how much we pattern our organization around theirs, how much we study them.”

***

At various times, I covered the Patriots this past year. I interviewed guys who didn’t make it to opening day like Robert Gallery and Joseph Addai; attended OTAs, minicamp, parts of training camp, the preseason games, and even the home opener as a member of the media.

Sunday night, I found myself in a bar near my Boston apartment, with a buddy, Johnny (a Patriots fan, though, I don’t think he knew who Marquice Cole was until Anquan Boldin abused him last night). It has been an interesting transition back to watching the game away from the press box. While there is no buffet line, egos are checked at the door;  a girl who gradually grew uninterested in the game played that shooter arcade game and entered her name as “STD-UTI” (which was hilarious); Johnny and I debated whether our waitress had breast implants (ultimately determining the affirmative, yet we never confirmed); listened to hammered guys claim, “I can’t put this game on Brady, I just can’t,” and after it was all over, had a random guy seriously proposition us with the following choice, “Are we going after girls tonight or looking to find a fight?”

Quirky, fun, memorable, and refreshing — sports is sports again. Even when it sucks.

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 46 vs. the SuperSonics

Celtics (34-11) vs. SuperSonics (35-13)
January 20, 1980
Boston Garden

The Celtics again showed they were not quite ready for showtime, dropping another game to a top-tier NBA team.  In a double overtime battle, Seattle — the defending champion as well as favorite to win the championship — used their experience to defeat the Celtics, 108-106.

 

Despite some of the low shooting percentages on the box score, The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan gushed over the contest:

It was the kind of game that made fans feel a sense of smugness for having shelled out the money to see it; that made winning players proud to have hung in there and losers proud to have participated; and that made CBS wonder how it came to be that in showing it prior to the Super Bowl the network had managed to serve the chateaubriand before the goose livers, as it were.  It was a basketball game played at the highest level, and if you don’t understand how a game in which the two participants combined to shoot a collective 42 percent from the floor could be labeled “great,” then it’s obvious you’re heading for a failing grade in Hoopology 101.  For the 108-106 double-overtime Seattle conquest of the Celtics before an enraptured capacity Garden gathering of 15,320 yesterday afternoon was nothing less than an affirmation of two things – the first being that the NBA at its best is basketball at its best, the second being that nobody should accuse the SuperSonics of overstating the case if they choose to warm up to “We Are The Champions.”

Seattle was the league's defending champion

Seattle was the league’s defending champion

The win marked the seventh consecutive win for the Sonics, with four of those wins coming on the road.  Seattle was led by their point guard, Dennis Johnson.  DJ, the eighth of sixteen children, starred at Pepperdine before the Sonics drafted him in the second round of the 1976 NBA draft.  After a dreadful game 7 in the 1978 NBA Finals where Johnson shot 0-14, he reemerged the following season to lead the Sonics to their first ever championship and captured the Most Valuable Player award.  In this particular game, as Ryan explained, DJ was again a difference-maker:

One golden moment in this game will never be forgotten. It came with one second left in regulation time when Dennis Johnson, the third option on a desperation play, drilled in game-tying three- point field goal from in front of the press table (into which he tumbled after releasing the shot). That miracle shot negated a Boston comeback that had begun with a stumbling Celtic team trailing, 76-70 (7:52 left), a resurgence that had been fueled by a pair of Chris Ford three-pointers (he had five in the game), and that had been culminated with a free throw by Larry Bird, the victim of a loose-ball foul with three seconds to play and the Celtics leading by an 86-84 score.

 

Dennis Johnson

 

ESPN’s Bill Simmons wrote a terrific piece after Johnson’s death in 2007, marveling the affect he had on his teams:

DJ will be remembered by everyone who was there as one of the best big-game guards who ever played. Basically, it’s Clyde Frazier, Jerry West, Sam Jones, Reggie Miller, Michael Jordan and DJ on the list. From 1978 to 1988 with three different teams, DJ played in six NBA Finals and two other conference finals, going down as the best all-around guard for 11 straight seasons on teams that won 47, 52, 56, 57, 46, 53, 62, 63, 67, 59 and 57 games. He averaged 17.3 points, 5.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds for his playoff career — including an astonishing 23-game run for a banged-up ’87 Celtics team on which he averaged 19 points, 9 assists and a whopping 42 minutes a game guarding the likes of John Lucas, Sidney Moncrief, Isiah Thomas, Vinnie Johnson and Magic.

(Note: Seattle traded him for Paul Westphal in 1980 and finished 22 games worse the following season; Phoenix traded him for Rick Robey in 1983 and finished 12 games worse. Nobody ever seemed to appreciate DJ until he was gone.)

Johnson and backcourt mate Gus Williams torched the Celtics, but Boston refused to give in to Seattle’s pressure.  Bird (15 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists) had another solid game, but Chris Ford and his five 3-pointers led the C’s with 26 points.  Dave Cowens (8-24) had another poor shooting night, but the Celtics did not have any depth at the center position, forcing Cowens to play 49 minutes.  Bird and Tiny Archibald, who finished with 19 points and 9 assists, both played 53 minutes each.  Both teams relied heavily on their starting five, with the Seattle reserves outscoring Boston’s inexperienced bench, 20-17 (Former Celtic Paul Silas finished the night with 13 rebounds off the bench in only 26 minutes).

 

SuperSonics

 

Rebounds were critical in deciding the outcome of the game.  Seattle won the battle of the boards (63-49) and was able to get 20 offensive rebounds to the Celtics’ 10.  Ryan commented in the following day’s paper that the loss was demoralizing for the Celtics:

None of this demeans Boston, which now trails the 76ers by one game in the Atlantic Division and stands 1-5 in matches against Philly, LA and Seattle. The Celtics played hard and they made honest mistakes against a great team. But two Sunday toughies in a row is rough on the coach. “It’s like analyzing a funeral,” Fitch lamented. “It’s like saying to someone in the family, Are you crying big tears or little tears today?’ “

“A game of ifs,” said Ford. “Yes,” agreed Silas, “if DJ doesn’t make that shot, it’s history.”

The Celtics returned to the Garden to conclude their seven game home stand for a rare Tuesday night affair with the Houston Rockets.

 

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Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 45 vs. the TrailBlazers

Celtics (33-11) vs. TrailBlazers (24-25)
January 18, 1980
Boston Garden

The Portland TrailBlazers made their lone visit to Boston on January 18.  The proud franchise, still struggling to find an identity after their lone championship in 1977, was moving on from the Bill Walton Era after he departed to the San Diego Clippers as a free agent following the 1979 season.

Walton and Portland teammate Maurice Lucas helped build “Blazermania” in Oregon, an intensely loyal fan base that only waned during the JailBlazer years in the early 2000s.  The 1977 champions are still the youngest team to ever win an NBA title, and the bond between the two men became so tight that Walton named his son after the man fondly known as “Luke.”

Although it only resulted in one championship, Portland’s sensational run in the 70’s was built off a similar blue print to the Bill Russell-Celtics through rebounding and running:

[Portland coach Jack] Ramsay molded this crew into a rebounding and running package that thrilled the Portland crowds. He was, after all, Dr. Jack Ramsay, the thinking man’s coach. He had been the most respected of college coaches, guiding wonderful teams at St. Joe’s and compiling a 234-72 record over 11 seasons. In more than 20 seasons as an NBA coach, he would pile up 864 regular-season wins.

Whatever identity or cause Portland was seeking this season was not found this particular night on Causeway Street.  In front of the Garden’s 15th sellout in 22 home games, the Celtics improved to 20-2 at home with a 111-93 beatdown of the Blazers.

The C’s started slowly, trailing by 11 after allowing 33 first quarter points, but turned up the intensity in the middle frames.  Dave Cowens paced the Celtics with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Larry Bird added 18 and 15 with Cedric Maxwell delivering 19 points off a perfect 5-5 night from the field.  Tiny Archibald accumulated 10 of the team’s 27 assists, and Ryan noted the importance of the team’s passing:

The Celtics really do live and die by ball movement. In the first half they had assists on a mere 8 of their 18 baskets, and they looked like five guys who had just met. In the second half, they had assists on 19 of their 26 baskets, and they often looked as if they were sharing one brain.  One of the delightful discoveries last evening was the Boston inside-out offense, which had been the league’s best until a month ago.  The Celtics wereagain dumping the ball in to the likes of Dave Cowens and Cedric Maxwell, who were in turn kicking it back out again to the likes of Larry Bird, Tiny Archibald or Cowens. “Movement,” said Cowens, “was the key. We talked about it at halftime. They were taking us away from our strength and pinning us to one side of the floor in the first half.”

The knockout blow was delivered in the third quarter as the Celtics outscored the Blazers, 37-15.  Cowens, per the Globe, led the way in delivering the knockout punch:

Portland, which led at the period (33-22) and half (51-49) was leading, 57-55, when Cowens picked up the team and the crowd with eight points in the next two minutes. He engaged in a brief one-on- one duel with Maurice Lucas which resulted in the latter’s return to the Portland bench, and it was he who kicked off a burst of 14 straight points with a power hook and a jumper. That run boosted the Celtics into a 73-60 lead, and the game was never close after that. With Cowens and Larry Bird (17 points, 15 rebounds) sweeping the boards and with the ball again moving in October fashion, Boston shot a dazzling 15 for 20 in that third quarter.

Maurice Lucas had a superb showing on the glass, collecting five offensive rebounds and 15 overall.  Don Chaney hit his first NBA three-pointer, which turned out to be a turning point in the game, as Bob Ryan detailed in the following day’s Globe:
There was complete poetic justice on the final play of the first half of last night’s Celtics-Trail Blazers game when a Portland club packed deep in an outrageously obvious zone was beaten by a three-point field goal tossed in by that old zone-buster himself, Don Chaney. That basket made it 51- 49, Portland.  And The Duck had stuck in another valuable basket earlier in the period, spinning down the lane for a three-point play on a backhand flip which reduced an eight-point (47-39) deficit to five . . .

Ryan stressed the importance of the win:

The importance of all this for the Celtics was that it restored some confidence prior to the arrival of Seattle tomorrow. The Celtics of the first half could not have beaten UMass. The second- half gang will be happy to welcome the fly into its cozy Garden web.

In other NBA news, courtesy of the Globe’s Sports Log, the 48-hour waiver period on Pete Maravich ends today, after which any team can try to sign the flashy 31-year-old guard with the troublesome knees who has yet to play on an NBA championship team. One club which appears to have more than just a passing interest is the Philadelphia 76ers, whose coach, Billy Cunningham, said last night that he views the 6-foot-5 guard as a potential “insurance policy.” There has been no word from the Celtics, but general manager Red Auerbach has expressed prior interest in acquiring Maravich.

Time would tell just how interested the Celtics were in Maravich.  In the meantime, the Celtics continued their home stand on Sunday against back-to-back defending Western Conference champions, the Seattle SuperSonics.

 

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