“I probably had too much to drink the night before,” Luke Walton recalled. “So I came in, I was a rookie, I thought I felt good, but he could smell some alcohol on me, and Kobe informed the rest of the team that nobody was allowed to help me on defense, and that I had to guard him the entire practice.
“And I was laughing at first, like ‘oh, this is funny,’ Walton continued. “But in Kobe’s mind, in his eyes, he was like ‘no, i see and smell weakness, I’m going to destroy you today.’ He taught me a lesson (laughing), he taught me a lesson. He probably scored 70-something in practice that day, and I’m begging for help, but none of my teammates would help. His killer instinct, and his work ethic will stick with me forever.”
WALTHAM Justin Reed admitted yesterday he once barked like a pit bull at an opponent while playing for the University of Mississippi. Reed's intimidating intention was to illustrate just how ferociously he played defense.
The hard-driving Bill Russell of yore shows up, ever so briefly, in "Iconoclasts," the Sundance Channel documentary that premieres tonight. He reminisces, at one point, about his championship days: To succeed, he says, "I had to be in a state of positive rage."
But it's hard to watch Russell at 71 and see the angry man who towered over Boston during 13 Celticsseasons. This portrait, told through the eyes of actor Samuel L. Jackson, is all about the grumpy old Russell of today, goofy and sometimes disarmingly gentle.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Once again, the Celtics proved they could play with the Pistons. But not for an entire game.
After leading by as many as 13 points in the third quarter, the Celtics were doomed by foul trouble, turnovers, a stagnant offense, and the hot hand of Detroit point guard Chancey Billups. When it was all said and done, the Pistons defeated the Celtics, 115-100, last night to remain the only undefeated team in the NBA.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Ryan Gomes probably wants to forget the night of Nov. 4 at the TD Banknorth Garden. That night, he recorded the first DNP-CD of his NBA career. Celtics coach Doc Rivers hadn't figured out a way to fit the rookie into the rotation. But Rivers must have experienced a eureka moment about a week ago. Not only does Gomes have a spot in the rotation, but it appears to be a significant one.
You had to feel sorry for the fans in the corner sections of the TD Banknorth Garden who had come expressly to cheer their man. There was a group with a Chinese flag. There was another group with a simple sign "Yao." Another contingent had a long message written in Chinese attached to one of the walls just below the luxury box.
As the Garden fans stood and applauded Raef LaFrentz , and as his teammates offered high-fives, there was an NBA scout at Sunday night's Celtics-Rockets game who offered the following on the big man's 27-point explosion in the first half, including 7-of-7 shooting from international waters:
"How on earth can you let a guy who can't dribble score 27 points in one half? It's embarrassing."
Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming dominated every pregame conversation. Raef LaFrentz dominated the game from 3-point range. And the hottest hand became the hottest postgame topic last night.
November 14, 2005
In recent years, the Celtics have had a love-hate relationship with the 3-point arc. Under former coach Jim O'Brien , Boston was known for attempting a staggering number of 3-pointers. ( Antoine Walker heaved up 645 in the 2001-02 season.) Those 3-pointers keyed a number of big Boston wins. They also cost the team a number of crucial games. Former Celtic Chris Carr once called the perimeter shot "fool's gold" and he was probably right.
WALTHAM Coach Doc Rivers may tire of repeating himself when it comes to lectures about not letting offense dictate defense. It was a problem last season. It was the topic of choice after the Celtics lost to the Spurs Friday night. It was a point of emphasis in practice yesterday.
But Rivers doesn't think the Celtics are slipping into bad habits; he thought poor offense turning into poor defense against San Antonio represented an aberration.
Once upon a time (I spent a while thinking up that lead), to be a second-round pick in the NBA was a sign of many things -- few of them good. As Doc Rivers, picked 31st overall in 1983, remembered, "It sucked. I thought I was better than all of them [drafted ahead of me]. But I think it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It put my ego back in check -- for my career. I'll never forget that."
The Rockets make their only Boston appearance of the season tonight, and old friend David Wesley arrives with a new achievement: He has scored the second-most points in NBA history by a player who was never drafted. According to the statistical geeks at TNT, Wesley passed John Starks Thursday night in Miami and left Florida with 11,080 points. (The Rockets were in New Jersey last night.) Don't wait him for him to catch the No. 1 guy, Hall of Famer Moses Malone , who had 27,409 points. Wesley is your classic survivor. This is his 13th NBA season, three of which were in Boston (1994-97).
Long shots found a home
The last time the Celtics beat the Spurs, Bill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe were in the middle of a Patriot Super Bowl run and we thought the two of them were going to be here forever.
The last time the Celtics beat the Spurs, Roger Clemens had just left the Red Sox for the Blue Jays after being told he was in the twilight of his career.
The last time the Celtics beat the Spurs, M.L. Carr was coaching the Green to a 15-67 season, which seemed certain to bring Tim Duncan and several more championship banners to Boston.
Preparing for a matchup against Bruce Bowen , Paul Pierce had defense on his mind before last night's game against the Spurs at the TD Banknorth Garden. Bowen, a member of the NBA's All-Defensive first team last season, received restrained praise from the Celtics' captain.
"He plays tough defense," said Pierce, before the Spurs defeated the Celtics, 103-82. "He gets the toughest assignments night in and night out."
WALTHAM - With Paul Pierce conducting, the rookies sang a discordant "Happy Birthday" to Kendrick Perkins, who turned 21 yesterday. The stoic big man cracked the slightest smile, acknowledging later he stopped celebrating birthdays a long time ago. He had no plans to celebrate, just rest for tonight's game against San Antonio. Besides, Perkins figured he had already received a pretty good present: increased playing time, at least for now.
The San Antonio Spurs are in town tonight, and that calls to mind the occasion back in the Glory Days when the Celtics had beaten Utah about 87 kazillion times in a row, and at the conclusion of yet another Garden destruction of the hapless team from Salt Lake City, a reporter began his inquiry of Jazz coach Frank Layden with a technical question or two.
Layden looked at the assembled media. "What?" he said. "Were we supposed to win?"
A succession of Celtics coaches can relate.
The Celtics last defeated the Spurs Jan. 8, 1997. The Celtics, en route to that delightful 15-67 season that was supposed to bring them Tim Duncan in the lottery, caught a break that night (or not, depending on your point of view) when San Antonio regulars David Robinson, Sean Elliott, Dominique Wilkins, and Vinny Del Negro all missed the game. The Celtics were missing many of their players, too, but it was the Who, not the What, that mattered, and the Celtics emerged with a 107-83 victory. We all know how Lottery Day turned out. The Celtics had the most ping-pong balls, but the Spurs won the lottery and Rick Pitino would later confess that if he had known he was not going to get Tim Duncan, he would have stayed in Lexington, Ky.
Eight seasons, one strike/lockout/whatever, three San Antonio championships, and 15 meetings later, theCeltics are still looking for the next victory over the Spurs, or, to put it another way, Duncan has never lost to the Celtics and Paul Pierce has never beaten the Spurs.
Nor, it should be pointed out, have Pierce and his mates come close very often. Ten of those 15 San Antonio victory margins have been in double figures, and only two have been fewer than 5. This whole business is a clear case of shamrock abuse.
At no point in the last eight seasons have the Celtics been supposed to defeat the Spurs, and that will again be the case tonight.
"I didn't know until the second game last year how long it had been since the Spurs have lost to Boston," says Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "But, really, they've just been better."
Rivers won't be dwelling on the prolonged 0-fer in any motivational sense. He knows they know, and he'll concentrate on the X's and O's, not the history.
"I heard two guys mentioning that Wednesday after the game," Rivers relates. "So they know it. And so does Tim Duncan. But that streak has nothing to do with [tonight]."
The fact is it does mean something to Pierce, who joined the Celtics in 1998. "I know it's the only team I haven't beaten," he says.
With three championships in the last six years, the Spurs have placed themselves in that rare category whereby in addition to winning ballgames and championships, which is nice, they truly stand for something, which is even better. They are a pejorative, at least in the NBA community.
"I would say they are the best defensive team over a five-year period I've ever seen," maintains Rivers, who broke into the NBA in 1983. "The numbers bear that out. They remind me of the '85 Bears." (That's spoken with eyes twinkling, as only a Chicago native's would.)
Of course, when you're talking about the Spurs, it all begins with one name. Peruse the rosters of the three championship teams and there is just one constant. All sorts of basketball personalities have come and gone, but it doesn't seem to matter as long as No. 21 walks on the floor. Tim Duncan is Mr. Spur.
"Tim Duncan is a great player, a superstar," Rivers says. "He is also coachable, extremely coachable. He takes it from Pop [coach Gregg Popovich]. And because he does, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have to take it from Pop, too."
Ah, yes, "Pop." Let's not forget Pop. No NBA team, even one whose marquee player answers to the name "The Big Fundamental," operates on auto pilot. There are countless decisions to be made, and in San Antonio they are made by Popovich, a three-time championship coach who has managed to fly, not merely under the radar, but just about under the earth. The worst you can say about Pop is that he doesn't get in the way. The best you can say is that he is smart, disciplined, creative, and in possession of the necessary temperament that enables a man to stay the course in what is often a very frenzied league. This is a guy who was supposedly "mentored" by the likes of Larry Brown and Don Nelson. He must smile when he contemplates the fact that he has two more championship rings than those two high-profile guys combined.
The Spurs will not be at full strength. Newly acquired Michael Finley has a groin problem, and sharpshooter Brent Barry has been suffering from back spasms. Ginobili is hobbling. To which the Celticswill undoubtedly say, "Boo" and "Hoo."
Duncan will be there, won't he? The Quiet Man has a new look this year. He's actually sprouting hair all over the place, including his chin. But it's the same old Duncan, doing Whatever It Takes to produce a W. On Wednesday night, the Spurs were sluggish in the first half at Charlotte. Pop exercised his vocal cords a bit at halftime, but the big thing was that in the third quarter the Spurs went back to basics. In other words, they threw the ball to Duncan, who had 15 of his 29 points as the Spurs moved to a 94-86 triumph.
Scoring and rebounding are just the beginning for a guy who is an annual lock to be a first-teamer on both the All-League and All-Defensive squads. "Tim will contest every shot," points out Brian Scalabrine, one Celtic who has actually played in a winning game or two against the Spurs (as a Net). "But the thing is when you get to the fourth quarter, he still has only two fouls. If you're a Spur and are out on the wing, you can get up to pressure your man because you know he'll be back there."
"He gets taken for granted," Popovich said following the Charlotte game. "We expect it out of him every night. There is not a lot of flash, but he is going to rebound and block shots and play D every single night. He's a special guy."
The fact that he was supposed to be doing all this in a Celtics uniform concerns him not at all. He has no idea that many in Boston have never gotten over the fact that he wound up in San Antonio after theCeltics went to the trouble to go 15-67. He was supposed to be the heir to Russell, Cowens, and Bird. Instead, he's an aloof tyrant who never, ever loses to the Celtics.
That's not hyperbole. That's the truth.
He has always been an imposing figure on the bench, towering and vocal and demanding. That is by design. Leo Papile's day job might be assistant executive director of basketball operations for the BostonCeltics, but his passion has long been to mold native city kids into collegiate scholarship athletes. The challenges that accompany that, as you can well imagine, tend to be daunting. He's got to be gruff, unbending, and, at times, a little intimidating.
Robert Parish walked through the doors of the TD Banknorth Garden a little older and a little grayer, but still convinced he could help the Celtics win, either on the court or in the community.
Officially, he will serve as a consultant for the organization, dealing with the marketing, community relations, and sponsorship departments. Parish will be part of several new initiatives intended to increase interaction between current and former Celtics players and fans, including meet-and-greets and autograph sessions.
Owners can be gushers. Take, for instance, the principal check writer for the Celtics, Wyc Grousbeck. Yesterday, he went on the radio, as he is inclined to do these days because no one seems to notice there's an NBA team in town. In the course of his conversation on ESPN Radio, Grousbeck offered that Paul Pierce was one of the top five players in the game.
Hmm. Maybe that's why the Celtics can't get no pub.
November 10, 2005
Finally, the Celtics have a buzzer-beater they can call their own.
Ricky Davis drained a 15-footer as the final horn sounded last night, giving Boston a 99-98 victory over Memphis at the TD Banknorth Garden. The Celtics said they needed to learn from mistakes that resulted in a pair of losses in closely contested games, that they needed to figure out a way to stay composed and execute down the stretch. Well, last night it looked like the Celtics were a very quick study.
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