McHale Thriving in 6th Man Role


The smile on Kevin McHale's face says a lot. His contract hassles are a thing of the past. He no longer feels inhibited in a Celtics offense that is imaginative and allows him to take advantage of all his skills. McHale seems to be having a ball coming off the bench for the Celtics, either as backup center to Robert Parish or backup power forward to Larry Bird. Backup, perhaps, isn't the right word. For, what McHale is doing is a reincarnation of the traditional Celtics "sixth man" principle, with a slight twist that has given the concept a new meaning.

The role was made famous by legendary Celtics Frank Ramsey and John Havlicek, both swingmen who could play either guard or forward with equal dexterity. In the '70s, the Celtics hung the tag on inside players Don Nelson and Paul Silas, because they also could play two positions. But both had liabilities no matter where they played. Nelson, a guard-forward, could shoot but not jump. Silas, a forward-center, could hold his own underneath against anybody, but some nights needed radar for a layup.

McHale is a combination of Nelson and Silas, but taller. His current role is ideal, with his college training and overall talents. McHale played forward for two years at the University of Minnesota because the Gophers had Mychal Thompson, now with the Portland Trail Blazers, playing center. McHale then shifted to strictly a center, until he became a swingman in his senior year because of Randy Breuer, now a reserve center with Milwaukee. The fact that McHale stands 6 feet 10, weighs 225 pounds and is willing to gallop with the Celtics' greyhounds fits in with what coach K. C. Jones wants to accomplish on both offense and defense.

Ramsey and Havlicek created mismatches with their size and speed. McHale accomplishes the same thing inside. He is strong enough to overpower many forwards who cannot stop his hook shots and other inside moves. Because he is basically a finesse player, big centers can muscle McHale. But he makes them pay for it, because he can also hit the jump shot, particularly the fade-away variety that only the pure shot blockers can reach, because of his unusually long arms.

"He's just like Ramsey and Havlicek" said Jones, "in that he can play two positions and score and play defense in both of them. But he gives us an added dimension in that he is a shot blocker and intimidator. "The thing I like most about him is that he gives us options. Coming off the bench, I can use him in various combinations, either with (Larry) Bird or (Robert) Parish."

McHale has been itching to play this kind of role for the Celtics since he arrived. But it was not possible as long as the Celtics had a legitimate backup center in Rick Robey. As a rookie, McHale averaged only 20.6 minutes. The next year, he averaged 28.4 minutes, alternating mostly with Cedric Maxwell at forward. Last year, he played 28.5 minutes a game, as former coach Bill Fitch began to use Robey less. Jones eliminated the middle man, and McHale is averaging 29 minutes for the first seven games. Rookie Greg Kite, the other center, has been in only one game.

"I do feel I can do more with my game," said McHale. "In the past, I've been inhibited somewhat by what we were trying to accomplish, but now I can go either inside or outside, depending upon the situation. I feel real comfortable. "I know it sounds corny, but I can't do any of this without my teammates. None of us are one-on-one players, and we need help to get a shot off. They're pressing and working hard to get the ball up the court. They make sure I get it in a position from which I can score."

McHale's thought reflects a basic philosophy, which he says is a return to a style of play that the club used often in winning the NBA title in 1980. "We fast break a lot because of the pressure," said McHale. "And that's where we get so many of our points. It's up to us big men to get out and run and get in position. That way, even if the break doesn't go, we're in a spot to do some damage."


The Celtics will be seeking their seventh straight victory and a measure of revenge tonight (7:30) in facing the Detroit Pistons at the Garden. The Pistons (3-3) handed Boston (6-1) its only defeat in the season opener in Detroit. Wednesday night, the Pistons stunned defending champion Philadelphia at home, 120-116. "We've got to be ready," said Jones. "They'll come here confident after beating us three times last year, and once already this year in Detroit. They ought to be feeling pretty good after beating Philadelphia. We've got our work cut out for us." . . . M.L. Carr has been in 500 NBA games, but he says he should also be credited for the 74 games he played in the old ABA with St. Louis.


McHale Dominates Pistons


There are nights when Kevin McHale is the ultimate weapon, a Nike Ajax missile interjected into conventional warfare. As he has done so many times since he decided not to eat spaghetti in 1980, McHale took over a game for the Celtics last night. He scored eight straight and 10 of 12 in a devestating, 18-4 fourth-quarter Celtics run that turned a two-point Boston deficit into a 12-point lead.

When it was over, Boston had a 129-115 victory, and Mchale had 30 points and 16 rebounds. Thirteen of McHale's season-high total came in fourth-period crunch time. He has scored 107 points in four games against the Pistons this year. "He's a big problem for us, obviously," said Pistons center Bill Laimbeer (27 points, 15 rebounds). "He destroys us every time we play them. He has that good jump hook, which is difficult to block, and a fallaway that you can't even get close to."

Boston had a small lead through most of the night, but Kelly Tripucka (26), Laimbeer and Isiah Thomas (16 points, 12 assists) brought the Silver Bullet Band back, and the game was tied six times in the first six minutes of the fourth period. The last tie was at 103. Then came McHale's vaporization job on the Pistons. First, he scored over Kent Benson to put the Celts ahead (105-103) for good. Then he rebounded at the defensive end, came back down and hooked over Benson. After a basket by John Long, McHale buried a hook and a fallaway to make it 111-105.

Long cut the Celtics' lead to four with one last bomb, but Parish (a not- so-incidental 24 points and 19 rebounds) answered with a turnaround. Then McHale rebounded a Tripucka miss and canned another turnaround make it 115-107. That sent 24,318 out into the Michigan's chilly suburban tundra, although most of them will be back today to see if Billy Simms can run the Lions into the National Football League playoffs. The Pistons, meanwhile, will try to devise a way to stop Mchale before the teams meet again. Benson was humiliated last night; Detroit coach Chuck Daly would have been better off with George Benson at center. When Kent was mercifully excused, Laimbeer moved over to guard McHale, but that left 6-7 Terry Tyler on Parish.

"Over the night, we probably had five or six different guys on him," Pistons coach Chuck Daly said with a sigh. "He gets it so easy, and we have to work hard for those same things." "I got the ball in good position," said McHale, who had 16 of the Celtics' whopping 68 rebounds (tops in the league this year). "Sometimes you're up against a guy you feel you can score on, but when you get it going, you feel like it doesn't make any difference who's on you." "Credit their defense, too," added Daly. "They toughened their defense at the end, and we did not get good shots."

The Celts held Detroit to 22 points and 30-percent shooting (8-27) in the fourth quarter. Remember, these were the same Pinball Pistons who came out on top in Tuesday's historic 186-184 triple-overtime shootout in Denver. Celtics fans might also be encouraged to note that the victory came on a night when Larry Bird was struggling through one of his Silverdome nightmares. Starting his second game since his knee injury, Bird made only 5 of 18 shots, although he (naturally) contributed 10 rebounds and nine assists.

Parish sparked an early 10-3 run that helped Boston to a 22-15 lead in the first quarter. The Celtics got a lot of second shots, dominated the boards (20-12 in the quarter), and led, 35-34, after one. The Celtics pushed their margin to 48-40 midway through the second, but Laimbeer and Triucka brought the Piston back, and Long delivered a game-tying (56-56) jam with three minutes left in the half. Gerald Henderson (20 points) got the running game going, and three fastbreak baskets gave Boston a 67-64 halftime lead.


Bird was 3-9 at intermission and missed three straight to start the third. Meanwhile, Isiah Thomas was taking advantage, scoring two baskets and handing out four assists to lead a 14-10 run in the first five minutes of the second half. Later, the Celtics got a little careless with the ball, and Detroit ran off six in a row to take an 87-80 lead with 4:22 left in the third. But Boston tightened its defense, took advantage of Earl Cureton (in for Laimbeer), and scored nine straight. Detroit answered with four straight at the end of the period and led, 93-91, at the end of three. At the start of the fourth, Tripucka scored Detroit's first eight points as the teams traded baskets. With 7:05 left, referee Earl Strom (remember him?) tagged Cedric Maxwell with his sixth personal foul. It didn't matter. K.C. Jones still had McHale. Against Detroit, that's all he needs.


McHale Not Much of an Athlete


As the Celtics were sifting through the Detroit newspaper's sports section during breakfast yesterday, they read this comment by Piston Kelly Tripucka: "(Kevin) McHale is just so big, with those long arms. He's not really an athlete, he just does some things really well. McHale's teammates loved it. Morale makes a big difference in a six-month season, and it's important that everyone experiences a little humbling now and then. McHale has been on a roll and was due for a some chop-busting. Tripucka provided ample ammunition.


Red & Larry Play Tennis, Red Keeps Score, Red Wins

Larry Bird's summer got off to a slow start. He dropped his annual challenge tennis match with Red Auerbach, 6-4, 6-4, although the outcome was marked by some questionable scorekeeping on the general manager's part.

"We were tied, 8-8, in the first set when I asked Red the score," said Bird. "He said it was 2-1. I said how can it be 2-1? Easy,' he said. I won the first set, 6-4, and now I'm ahead, 2-1.' Next time I keep score."

Coach Bill Fitch, who had a dollar riding on Bird, cautioned Auerbach that he might have made a mistake in winning. "Larry's mad as hell, Red. He says he's going to take it out on you the next time he sits down to talk contract."


First Forward in NBA History to win Consecutive MVPs

He's a certified local treasure, like Sam Adams, James Michael Curley and Arthur Fiedler. It's conceivable that you might someday find yourself walking across the Larry Bird Footbridge to the Esplanade, or that you'll hear Officer Bill report that traffic is backed-up all the way to Larry Bird Boulevard.


Unlike Magic, Bird is Carrying his Team

February 25, 1980

It is becoming difficult to exaggerate the effect that Larry Bird has had on the Celtics. As the club travels around the country, rivals are becoming more explicit in their praise. And just this week Utah Jazz coach Tom Nissalke uttered the most powerful endorsement yet of the Celtics' rookie.


McHale, Celtics Dismantle Nellie, Bucks

Game 2
1984 Eastern Conference Finals

Like an earthquake, it didn't last long but when it was through shaking (and in this case baking) irreparable damage had been done.

It lasted just 3 minutes, 15 seconds and, as so often happens, it came early while most of Milwaukee slept. But when it was finished there was nothing left of the proud Bucks but ruins.


Homage to the Logo

Image result for jerry west card

Jerry West has always had one direction in basketball: north.

As the Zeke from Cabin Creek, he gunned West Virginia to its only NCAA basketball final appearance, in 1959.

As the Golden Boy, he co-captained Team USA atop the Rome Olympics in 1960.

As Mr. Outside, he nailed a 63-footer at the buzzer to force overtime in Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals.

Celtics Big Three Outscore Pistons Frontline 74-18, Outrebound them 38-11

Celtics Big Three Outscore Pistons Frontline 74-18, Outrebound them 38-11

April 29, 1985

After the Boston Celtics had struggled to eliminate the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs, their real front line reappeared today and helped overwhelm the Detroit Pistons, 133-99, at Boston Garden.


Parish, McHale Too Much as C's Take 3-1 Lead Over Bullets

Parish, McHale Too Much as C's Take 3-1 Lead Over Bullets

May 3, 1982

Before Bill Fitch, the coach of the Boston Celtics, would impart any thoughts to reporters about his team's 103-99 overtime victory over Washington at the Capital Centre today, he had one question for them.


Apparently the 1988-89 Celtics were the best team ever (???)

The New York Times Blogs

July 23, 2012 Monday

HEADLINE: Best N.B.A. Team Ever (Bench Included)?


The Celtics in 1988-89? The Knicks in 1972-73? The Pistons in 1992-93? Which N.B.A. team had the most impressive roster?


James-Wade-Bosh; Pierce-Garnett-Allen; Olajuwon-Pippen-Barkley.


Fitch Deploys "Four Bigs and Archibald" Strategy


November 29, 1980

The Boston Celtics, playing their big men in various combinations, overwhelmed the Knicks, 120-106, tonight before a capacity crowd of 15,320 at the Boston Garden.

Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, Rick Robey, Larry Bird and Cedric Maxwell came at the Knicks in droves as the Celtics won the eighth of their last nine games and improved their season mark to 15-6. Bill Fitch, the Celtic coach, used his big men two, three and four at a time and they had one aim: pass the ball inside for layups. And they succeeded.


McHale Bank Shot Downs Lakers, as C's move to 33-6

McHale Bank Shot Downs Lakers, as C's move to 33-6

January 17, 1985

It was cold in Boston tonight, but for Celtic fans it was June in January, a time to relive the past.

The Los Angeles Lakers were in town for their first meeting with Boston since last June 12, when the Celtics won their 15th National Basketball Association championship.

The outcome at Boston Garden tonight was the same as it was last spring, the Celtics won - this time by 104-102 - but the hero was different. Instead of Cedric Maxwell and Larry Bird, it was Kevin McHale.


Bad Blood Brewing Between Ainge & Nellie

1983-84 Boston Celtics
November 1, 1983

It sounds as if there is still bad blood between Danny Ainge and Milwaukee coach Don Nelson. Prior to the third game of the Bucks' four-game sweep of Boston last May, Nelson publicly labeled Ainge "a cheap shot artist." Ainge was booed by Milwaukee fans every time he touched the ball in the next two games.

After the series, Celtics' general manager Red Auerbach refused to congratulate Nelson and said, "They beat us, but what they did to Ainge wasn't fair." Nelson was fined by the league and sent a letter of apology to Ainge. "I think Danny is a good player," Nelson said Monday. "I wrote Danny a letter at the end of the season, but I'm not going to comment on any of that stuff."

"Yeah, he sent me a letter of apology, if that's what you want to call it," Ainge said yesterday. "It wasn't much of a letter of apology. I think the league made him send it. He told me that I should learn how to take an offensive charge during the summer. "I've never hurt anyone in my life and I doubt any of his players are threatened by my presence.

"What he said didn't affect me, but it affected the fans and the officials. I had three brutal fouls called on me in the first quarter of the next game. I thought what he did was totally wrong. It didn't show much class, and the sad part is, it worked. He got the officials and the fans - not just the fans of Milwaukee - against me. I think that's stooping pretty low."


Lakers v. Pistons: Will Ainge Watch?

1988 Eastern Conference Finals: Reluctantly, The Torch is Passed

There were three seconds left, and that was that. Larry Bird walked off the floor and Danny Ainge walked off the floor and Dennis Johnson and the limping, gimping Robert Parish and Kevin McHale went with them.


C's Get Revenge for Playoff Sweep

1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 119, Bucks 105
Record: 2-1

Ancient philosopher Juvenal claimed, "Revenge is always the delight of a mean spirit, of a weak and petty mind." Maybe. But Juvenal probably couldn't go to his left or make the outlet pass to start a fast break. He certainly never experienced the indignity of being swept 4-0 in the playoffs.


Celtics Satisfied with Road Result

1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 109, Cavaliers 89
Record: 1-1

Bloodthirsty Celtic fans were undoubtedly disappointed with the opening weekend split in the suburban tundra of Pontiac, Mich., and Richfield, Ohio, but a realistic coach K.C. Jones said yesterday, "When you start with two games on the road and come back 1-1, I'll take it."

Celtics Subdue Pacers

1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 121, Pacers 105
Record: 3-1


Say all you want about the new defensive notions of the Celtics this year. What they still do best is overwhelm you with the toughest inside game in the National Basketball Assn. The Indiana Pacers found out the hard way last night as victims of a three-pronged attack, suffering their 17th-straight road loss in falling to the Celtics last night, 121-105. Robert Parish led the Celtics' big front line with 34 points, 29 in the second half. That was only a little ahead of Larry Bird, who finished with 31. For good measure, Kevin McHale came off the bench and added 20 points.


C's Down Bullets, Post 4th Straight Win

1983-84 Boston Celtics
Celtics 120, Bullets 117
Record: 4-1


NBA teams hate playing here. It's like putting up the storm windows, rotating your tires or cleaning the oven. It's a tough job and you know it can be done, but some days you just don't feel like working that hard. Last night, the Celtics worked. They ran. They pressed. They reduced the feared Beef Brothers (Jeff Ruland and Rick Mahorn) to a dried up heap of Beef Jerky. With dogged determination and an effective game plan, Boston built a 22-point fourth-quarter lead before letting the Bullets roar back to within striking distance.


Bird Turning Heads

February 9, 1979
Indiana Stater Master of All He Surveys
One Look at Bird's Act Starts Heads Shaking

Larry Bird plays the No. 1 city game with such panache that you'd swear he was weaned on the playgrounds of New York City, Washington, D.C., or Philadelphia.

Uh, uh.


Something is Different in the Land of Chris Ford

May 6, 1995

A strange serenity has overcome Chris Ford these past few days. Does he know something we don't know?

He's been saying nice things about this Celtics team, and we know he really doesn't like this bunch, at least not professionally. Nor do they like him.


Ford Gets the Ax

May 18, 1995
Chris Ford's turbulent five-year reign as coach of the Celtics, marred by the death of Reggie Lewis and the retirements of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, is over. Ford, who struggled to rebuild the team amid repeated setbacks, was fired yesterday after his second straight losing season.

Carr and Ford Discuss Future

June 16, 1994

M.L. Carr and Chris Ford met for more than two hours yesterday, and both came away certain of at least one thing: The 1994-95 Boston Celtics will not be like the 1993-94 Celtics. They may not even have the same coach.


Chris Ford: A Big Fan of DJ

Chris Ford, Jr: A Big Fan of DJ

February 9, 1994

DANVERS - As one would expect, the coach's son is a smart player. Like his father, the current coach and former player for the Celtics, Christopher J. Ford Jr. finds the open man and never disrupts the flow. The only part that does not seem to fit is the number on his jersey.


Chris Ford is not John Wooden

May 3, 1991
Chris Ford does not sit there calmly as did, say, John Wooden. He is practically a combat coach.

This man works at his job. When the game starts, he never takes a seat. Rather, he roams incessantly from a point midway down the Celtics bench to the hash mark, continually yelling instructions, 90 percent of which have to do with defense. He gives new meaning to the phrase "into the game." 


Ford Will Drive Celts

Ford Will Drive Celts

October 31, 1990

When Jimmy Rodgers was fired unexpectedly after the Celtics lost to the Knicks in the playoffs last May, Celtics players, fans and Chris Ford waited for the loyal assistant to be promoted. Ford had been a player and coach with the Celtics for 10 of the previous 11 years. It seemed his time had come.


Chris Ford named Celtics coach

June 12, 1990

Chris Ford named Celtics coach

The Boston Celtics, again looking within their fabled franchise, Tuesday named former player and assistant Chris Ford their head coach.


The Strangler Struggles

May 18, 1985

Say what you will about Andrew Toney, that the Boston Strangler has become the Boston Struggler, that Albert DeSalvo, or even Tony Curtis, could play better than the Philadelphia guard has played against the Celtics.

Just don't say what 76er Coach Billy Cunningham did this week, that he is considering benching Toney for today's Game 3 of the Eastern Conference championship series at the Spectrum.


DJ Gets the Tough Assignments

May 17, 1984

At one end of Boston Garden's creaky floor, Sidney Moncrief is dribbling a basketball. He prances on his toes like a Lippizaner show horse. His muscles are sleek, promising quickness and the power of someone twice his weight.

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