On January 8, 1988, the Boston Celtics released Greg Kite to make room for Artis Gilmore, who himself had just been waived by Chicago Bulls. The Celtics were hoping that the 7-2, 260 pound Gilmore would reinvigorate his game the way Bill Walton had done two years earlier.
The only problem was that Gilmore was 38 years old (Walton turned 34 during the 1985-86 season), and his game had been in steady decline for several years (Walton's game had simply been dormant and rusty due to injuries and lack of use).
Gilmore played in 47 games that year, averaging 10 minutes, 3.5 points, and 3.1 rebounds per contest. Artis had a few effective moments during the regular season, helping beat his former team with a solid 18 minutes in a 137-107 victory over the Bulls, scoring 9 points and pulling down 6 rebounds.
But more often than not, Gilmore's contributions were disappointing. After watching Artis pick up 3 fouls in seven seconds, one of the Celtics beat writers made this observation:
How many times have you watched Gilmore commit a foul and said to yourself, "Geez, couldn't Greg Kite have done that?" Funny, but one expected a benefit of having a veteran like Gilmore around was a break on the fouls. Instead, the only center in the league committing fouls at a faster rate than Artis is Martin Nessley. Artis has been whistled for an infraction at the rate of one personal for every 4.4 minutes played. Nessley's rate is 1 for every 3.8. Kite is his same old self. He's averaging a foul for every 5.8 minutes on the floor.
Gilmore had two memorable moments, both in the playoffs.
In game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Atlanta, the Celtics led, 80-73, after a DJ 20-footer, and with the Boston Garden crowd finally getting warmed to the task, Hawks coach Mike Fratello was frantically waving for a timeout as his team raced upcourt.
It was about as fruitless as trying to flag a cab in New York. Dominique Wilkins just kept coming like an express train into the lane, either ignoring or just not seeing Fratello's signal.
Down the lane went Wilkins -- up went Gilmore's massive hand -- and the rejection was gathered in by Johnson.As he hit midcourt, DJ found McHale (32 points) in stride for the breakaway layup. When Atlanta finally called time at 82-73, the momentum had swung irrevocably to the home team."That broke the game open," said Jones, "and it seemed to explode from there. We gained the momentum and Atlanta faded away a bit."
The second highlight of the Gilmore era came during the ECFs against the Pistons. Gilmore had a definite two-point takedown when he slammed Bill Laimbeer to the floor while Bird was hitting a second-quarter 21-footer. Gilmore was called for the foul, but Laimbeer was so shaken up that he missed both free throws. The Celtics went on to win the game, snapping a nine-game Silverdome losing streak.
That summer Gilmore signed to play with Bologna in the European league.