9.24.2008

Celts Prepare for Coronation

1981-82 Boston Celtics

You missed the Royal Wedding? No matter. If it's pageantry, pomp and circumstance you're after, tune in Ch. 4 at 7:30 tonight to see a coronation.

The Boston Celtics will be officially crowned as 1981 NBA champs. Comr. Larry O'Brien will be there to distribute championship rings (straight from Balfour's in Attleboro) to the returning 11 players, coaches Bill Fitch, K.C. Jones, Jimmy Rodgers, owner Harry Mangurian and creator Red Auerbach, who now will have 14 more championship rings than Billy Bulger has had press conferences.

Following the ring distribution, the entourage will proceed to the vicinity of the visiting bench for the flag-raising, whose honors will be taken by Messrs. Fitch, Mangurian and Auerbach. And then, as an extra added attraction, there will be a real, live NBA basketball game.

Selected as the parties of the second part on Coronation Night have been the Washington Bullets, a once-proud franchise in, er, transition. The only familiar Bullet faces for the average fan will be those belonging to guard Kevin Grevey and forward Greg Ballard. Gone since the end of last season are Elvin Hayes (traded to Houston), Westley Unseld (retired), Mitch Kupchak (a matched-and-signed free agent traded to LA) and Bob Dandridge (a free-floating free agent at present). In addition, league assist leader Kevin Porter has torn an Achilles tendon and is out for the season. Hence the presence of John Lucas, a quality point guard who had apparently outlived his usefulness in the Bay Area.

No such identity crisis confronts the world champion Celtics. Now that Chris Ford (hyperextended left knee) has recovered well enough to reassume his spot in the starting lineup, the only missing figure is the effervescent M.L. Carr, who has been placed on the disabled list with a leg injury. The entire frontcourt returns, and, based on their individual and collective performances during the exhibition games, they are even more formidable than last year. Tiny Archibald, the indispensible floor leader of the team, looks sharp enough.

There will be two new faces, both rookie guards. Charles Bradley, the first draft choice, and Tracy Jackson, the first of two second-round choices (the other was some weak-hitting baseball player currently coaching JV basketball somewhere in Utah). Neither appears ready to make an immediate contribution, although Jackson showed continual improvement as the preseason drew to a close.

The question is exactly how much basketball they're selling at the Garden tonight. When they felt it necessary to limit ticket purchases to two per customer, it was evident that something special was taking place. The Hook tonight isn't jump shots. It's tradition.

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