9.26.2016

The Reggie Lewis Drug Probe (part 1)

March 21, 1995

On a warm summer evening in 1985, Reggie Lewis and his childhood friend, Derrick Lewis, walked down a quiet Marshfield street, side by side with their idol, University of Maryland star Len Bias. Reggie Lewis, a sophomore at Northeastern, was awestruck. He had repeatedly said the best part about being a counselor at Red Auerbach's summer camp was he got to play ball with Bias.

9.23.2016

Kevin McHale Speaks from the Gut



“There’s something special about being a Celtic,” he said. “At the end of the day, when I see people, that’s who I am. I’m Kevin McHale who played for the Boston Celtics. And that supersedes Kevin McHale from Hibbing High School, Kevin McHale from the University of Minnesota, Kevin McHale the father, Kevin McHale the husband, Kevin McHale the whatever.

Wow.

I'm sure there are some fans out there who think to themselves, "well, duh."

I'm not one of them.

Sure, Kevin McHale isn't alone.

He stands near the end of a long line of athletes who are largely remembered for having played a sport for a particular professional team.

Then again, what he said is quite profound.


That Old Loving Feeling

June 10, 1986

    In Sunday's afterbath of a sweet 16th pro basketball championship, with wives hugging trainers and assistant coaches toasting superstars, it was not difficult to ascertain who among the Boston Celtics' family had contracted the most pronounced case of ecstasy. Choices were two.

  "This is unbelievable," Bill Walton, the 33-year-old redhead, was saying over and over again, his left arm extended toward the inner wall of his locker. Beneath him, oblivious to the droplets of perspiration from above, was Nathan Walton, age 7. He never spoke, and only occasionally perked his nose in search of a breath. Mostly, Nathan repeatedly tapped his fist on his father's fanny, an affirmation that daddy hadn't been quite this happy in too long.     "This is everything I ever hoped for, and more," Bill Walton said. "It's more fulfilling, more rewarding, more fun. To have a dream and then to go out and live it. It's just unbelievable."

    On the best team in sports, where whites and blacks and rookies and retreads play for one common banner, Bill Walton's saga was special for its means, if not its end. If one is lucky enough to become a Celtic, then the real flush comes when one feels like a Celtic, fits like a Celtic, stays a
Celtic. Sunday, Bill Walton comprehended that for a basketball lifer, you haven't reached the other side of the fence until you finally wear green.    "Hey, I gotta get on your team," he said, shaking his head, savoring every sweaty minute as Nathan took the shower below without blinking. Bill Walton was recalling a conversation he'd had last summer with Red Auerbach, the baron of Boston basketball. Walton had failed a physical with the Los Angeles Lakers, but Auerbach figured it might work anyway. When Auerbach thinks that, he's seldom wrong.

    So Walton, a preeminant performer with the world champion Portland Trail Blazers in 1977, came aboard. A stress fracture restricted him to 14 games in four years, but Walton had a notion that he hadn't passed the prime of his career, only delayed it. The Portland franchise, which he sued, had retired four numbers from the title team, but not his. San Diego was the next stop, and then he moved with the Clippers to Los Angeles. But the foot wouldn't seem quite right, quite without pain, until it could land a home on the parquet floor.

    Was Robert Parish, the regular center, offended?

    "I visited his home to make sure he'd accept me," said Walton, who took a pay cut in exchange for a spot on the most honored bench this side of the Supreme Court. "I wanted him to feel comfortable with me around."    "I played better this year," admitted Parish, 32, "because I played fewer minutes."

    Was Larry Bird, the heart of the Celtics, cautious?

    "Every American kid in my generation had heard about Bill Walton," said the basic Hoosier hick from French Lick. "Hiding Patty Hearst in the closet, wearing a ponytail and smoking that bang-bang. None of it's true. What's true is that he's the best rebounder in basketball, and a winner. Even if he failed a physical and even if I did carry him on my shoulders all year."

Does Larry Bird love Bill Walton? Does every Celtic love every other Celtic?

After Bird drilled an unconscious three-pointer from the Houston Rockets' bench Sunday, did not the champions-to-be adjourn during a timeout to clutch the first teammate in sight? When the Celtics were in Atlanta, coinciding with the selection of the Hawks' Mike Fratello as NBA Coach of the Year, wasn't that Bird lifting the hand of his coach, his black coach, K.C.Jones, into the air as a touche?

    "This is really very unique here," Walton went on, his huge bandaged body treating a humid afternoon like Nathan might react to a crisp Christmas morning. "I mean, we were all dead tired out there today. Dead tired. Larry had nothing left. Nothing! And then he goes and sinks those three-pointers, and, man, we all know we gotta keep going.  "I was reluctant to leave California because I loved it there, and my family loved it there. But basketball is the most important thing in my life.
My wife and kids don't like that, but that's the way it is. And I had to get on a great team one more time for one more chance at something like this. When you're 23, you think you'll always win. But when you're 33, you wonder if you'll ever win again.

    "Boston. That's why it had to be Boston. All my family has seen the last two years has been the negatives of professional sports. Now my kids can see the positive side. A team like this, it makes all the sacrifices, all the hard work, all the sleepless nights worthwhile. All the mornings you wake up and you feel like you can't go on because you're so beat up."

    Beer. Bill Walton wanted a beer. A bunch of the Celtics had sworn off it in April, just in case they'd need an extra ounce of bounce for an extra loose ball in June. Even Bird surrendered, the same Bird about whom Kevin McHale once said, "His idea of heaven would be a garage filled with Budweiser and every time he drank one, it would be replaced."
   
Bill Walton got his beer Sunday, and so did Larry Bird, and so did they all. The Celtics, a team that money can't buy, had opened up their quarters to the world. It was too busy for them to hug each other now, but as Nathan love-tapped daddy on the behind, and as Dennis Johnson screamed in glee at Jerry Sichting, who was yukking it up with Parish, who was putting on his championship cap, Bill Walton stood there as though he never wanted to leave.

    "I knew we had it when we walked into this room this morning," he said. "I knew it as soon as we all showed up. I knew it when I looked in Larry's eyes. When did it all begin for this team? Probably the day Larry Bird was born."    Of course, it began long before that. The Boston Garden ceiling that is lost behind all the banners tells you that the Celtics have only one prejudice, a prejudice against losing. That's why Bill Walton picked up the phone last summer. In this crusty old building, pride lives.

9.22.2016

A Short Recap of the Greatest Show on Earth

July 3, 1986

The Boston Celtics' drive to their 16th NBA title started a year ago when the 1984-85 season and playoffs left the regulars exhausted.

Red had a Knack

July 1, 1986

Everything _ a trade, a draft lottery, a championship _ seems to go Red Auerbach's way. The image persists that his mere touch will turn a valueless object into gold.

9.21.2016

Walton to Wooden: Maybe You Should Coach the Celtics

June 29, 1986

It has been a year now since Big Red met Little Red. A year ago here, at a celebrity tennis tournament, Bill Walton phoned Red Auerbach to talk business, and it was love at first sound.

"It was like being recruited by UCLA," Walton said the other day. "As soon as (the Boston Celtics) started talking to me, I said: 'Gosh, that's what I want to do. I want to be part of that.' "

It's June 1986 and Bill Walton Envisioned only Endless Blue Skies

June 24, 1986

The smile is irrepressible, and it won't be falling from the face of Bill Walton for a long time.

Having just wound up a season with the Boston Celtics that culminated in an NBA championship, he's feeling so good he can barely contain himself.

At a celebrity tennis tournament at La Costa last week, Walton could not hide how much winning the title means to him. He was quick to add his new-found status to any introduction.

"That's Bill Walton of the WORLD CHAMPION Boston Celtics," he said good-naturedly, obviously proud of the distinction.

9.20.2016

Was Bill Walton the Most Talented Player Ever?

June 19, 1986

"Hello, I'm Bill Walton of the Boston Celtics," the man said, thrusting out a huge paw and smiling sincerely through his shock of unruly hair.

As if such an introduction were necessary, weren't superfluous, redundant. As if there were another 6-foot 11-inch redhead with size-15 tennis shoes and three-foot arms and the long, loose limbs of a basketball player at large on the grounds of the La Costa Hotel and Spa.

Sixteen Championships in 30 Years

June 11, 1986

In this city, which has produced Paul Revere, John Adams and John F. Kennedy, there is only one man who has been deified by a statue erected in his lifetime - Arnold Auerbach.

A bronze monument to Mr. Auerbach sits on a bench in Quincy Market, a short, round, balding figure grasping a cigar. The inscription reads simply: ''He has made winning synonymous with Boston.''

9.19.2016

The Party Starts Here

June 10, 1986

Bursting with pride and roaring their devotion, a green-tinted, beer-drinking throng of more than a million fans jammed city streets Tuesday to hail the Boston Celtics as the conquering heroes of the National Basketball Association.

Can the Celtics Repeat?

June 10, 1986

Through 82 victories, 67 during the regular season and 15 in the playoffs, Coach K. C. Jones, his aides, and Red Auerbach, the club's president, were repeatedly asked whether the Boston Celtics were the best team ever assembled in the 40-year history of the National Basketball Association.

9.18.2016

Larry was King Again

June 9, 1986

    Walking through the joyous Boston Celtics' locker room Sunday was to appreciate the tapestry of a champion.   Woven into the Celtics' 114-97 blowout of the Houston Rockets for the National Basketball Association championship was far more than an abundance of points and rebounds. Somewhere in a dingy catacomb of ancient Boston Garden, somewhere in the most innovative recesses of Red Auerbach's mind, there is a secret, grand design for who and what is a Boston Celtic and why he is the best.

9.17.2016

The Legend Continues

June 9, 1986

Legends take root and grow on days like this one in the Boston Garden. Legends of heroism and legends of the opposite sort, too.

With his incineration of the Houston Rockets in the sixth and final game of the NBA finals, Larry Bird added another large page to the resume that he's amassing as the best all-around player in basketball history.

9.16.2016

Larry Goes for 16, 8, and 8 in First Half of Championship Clincher

June 9, 1986

Watching Larry Bird perform must be very much like being on the same court with him, only safer. The unfortunate teammate who looks away or relaxes for just an instant may get smacked in the temple with the basketball. Bird doesn't take it well when one of his passes is fumbled out of bounds. He glares disdainfully at the offender.

9.15.2016

Red was Special

June 8, 1986

To an NBA draft list already deep and dazzling, one more name should be added. He's not that much taller than Spud Webb and couldn't shoot a basketball if somebody provided the gun. He'd have a terrific impact on whichever team selected him, however, maybe more than anyone after the lottery choices.

9.14.2016

Rick Carlisle had some Game

Four Dumb Dogs and Larry?

June 9, 1986

Watching Larry Bird perform must be very much like being on the same court with him, only safer. The unfortunate teammate who looks away or relaxes for just an instant may get smacked in the temple with the basketball. Bird doesn't take it well when one of his passes is fumbled out of bounds. He glares disdainfully at the offender.

9.13.2016

McHale's Sense of Humor was the Glue

June 6, 1986

    An intangible but unmistakable strength of the Boston Celtics is their great camaraderie, usually expressed in the form of irreverent, biting humor. Personal fouls are a way of life with the Celts, and the No. 1 hatchetman, the jolliest and nastiest of green giants, is forward Kevin McHale.

9.12.2016

Rick, Larry, and Dirk


--
Rick Carlisle played with Larry Bird in Boston and he coaches Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas, so he is often asked which player is better.

"There's no one guy who's better than the other," Carlisle said before the Mavericks played the Celtics Sunday night. "They're both great, but they're both very different. One thing I know, I still talk to Larry quite a bit and Larry is a big fan of Dirk's and vice versa. It's a cool thing."
Shortly after the Mavs hired Carlisle, he visited Nowitzki in his native Germany and he brought a DVD of Bird highlights.

"Some things that I really felt," Carlisle said, "would be good for him to develop on that right post is an area that Larry was so great at."

Nowitzki worked hard on those Bird moves with Maverick coaches.

"Their diligence working on that stuff," Carlisle said, "over there was one of things that led to him coming up with the one-legged fade, which now guys are copying."

Carlisle, a 1979 Worcester Academy graduate, played three seasons with Bird and has coached Nowitzki for six. Bird also hired Carlisle to coach Indiana and he coached the Pacers for four seasons.

The 6-foot-9 Bird averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds and 6.3 assists while shooting 49.6 percent, including 37.6 percent from threeland, in his 13 NBA seasons. The 7-foot Nowitzki has averaged 22.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists while shooting 47.6 percent, including 38.3 percent from threeland, in his 16 NBA seasons. Bird retired at age 35 and underwent back surgery. Nowitzki, who will turn 36 in June, is still going strong, averaging 21.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
"There are a lot of similarities between Nowitzki and Bird," Carlisle said. "The biggest thing is their drive to win, their meticulous approach toward preparation, work ethic and those kinds of things. A big difference is Dirk didn't have the number of Hall of Famers around him that Larry did, so in many ways he's carried over the course of his career a bigger load than almost any star player has in recent history. For that reason it just goes to show even more why this guy is one of the top 10 or 12 greatest players ever."

Carlisle believes Jared Sullinger, who slipped to the Celtics with the 21st pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, has proven a lot of teams wrong with his standout play this season.

"He's a very resourceful player," Carlisle said. "He's a great draft pick. A lot of people I think looked at his size and felt maybe that he wasn't that dynamic, but he's one of those guys that understands how to use leverage. He's extremely strong and the majority of people really overlooked his outside shooting ability. Brad (Stevens)'s got him shooting 3s and posting up and shooting mid-range and he's a big weapon for them. If you look at their wins in recent weeks, when they're winning games he's having big games."

Sullinger appreciated Carlisle's praise.

"In my eyes," Sullinger said, "I feel like I've still got a lot of proving to do, but it says a lot about Coach Carlisle and the respect he just gave me, that's big-time. A lot of people won't admit that they're wrong, but he did. So it's pretty big-time on his part."

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