1990-91 Boston Celtics
Remembering the 29-5 Start
The season is 25 percent complete and the early results point to one, inescapable conclusion: The kids are all right.
The ultimate success of the 1990-91 Celtics may indeed hinge on their three hallowed veterans, who, despite their ages and court odometers, continue to excel. They may not be reborn -- that would indicate they passed away at some earlier stage -- but they admit to being energized and revitalized this year by the likes of Brian Shaw, Dee Brown and others.
"It's like being traded. A new life," Robert Parish said after the Celtics' 107-95 victory over the Houston Rockets Monday. "To see them so gung-ho is great. And they have a great work ethic, which is rare."
The Celtics are getting rave reviews everywhere they go, with the most common assessment being an enviable blend of youth and experience. And Shaw and Brown have given Boston a new dimension in the backcourt. They are fast and they are good.
Kevin Gamble has taken on the small forward position and played it well. Reggie Lewis, the lone regular holdover among the young, has blossomed.
But it's their attitude as much as anything that has recharged the veterans and given the Celtics hope for the season. Parish compared their impact to the impact Magic Johnson had on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And Carl Yastrzemski has always said he got a second career wind in the mid-1970s when Jim Rice and Fred Lynn came aboard.
That's what appears to be happening here.
"Their athleticism and enthusiasm has given this team a shot in the arm," coach Chris Ford said. "Robert, Larry and Kevin are getting rejuvenated. It's one thing to have youth. It's another to have talented youth."
The effect can't be measured in individual numbers; the team's 16-4 record is the best barometer. None of the three veterans wanted to go through a season like last year. Or, for that matter, the year before that.
"If we didn't do something about our backcourt, we were in for another long year," Parish said. "And nobody wanted that."
Bird's shooting of late has been woeful and he is averaging less than 20 points a game, which, if maintained, would be a career low. But with Shaw, Lewis and Gamble, the need for him to score isn't as great. He has been shifted to power forward, he still gets the ball and he still wants to take the big shot, as he showed by making two mega-threes against the Rockets.
What about these kids, Larry? Do you like what they're doing?
"I do like it. I get a chance to play a new position," Bird said. "I like change. It keeps things interesting. And I have a new role, new matchups."
Asked about the influence of the kids, Bird said, "They haven't done anything to help my shot." Hey, they aren't miracle workers.
Parish took only three shots against the Rockets, but was a monster on the boards when the Celtics pulled away with a 15-0 run. And McHale is back to his old tricks as the Sixth Man while also backing up Parish when Ford elects to go with a smaller lineup.
Does McHale, who turns 33 in a week, feel, well, at least 29 again?
"You bet. And when was the last time you saw a point guard of ours drive the lane for a 3-point play?" McHale asked.
Shaw was superb against Houston, with 26 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. Brown played 21 minutes and was on the floor in the fourth quarter when Ford went with a smaller lineup.
The two occasionally will give Ford a migraine with their decisions -- "I have to bite my tongue at times," the coach said -- but that is to be expected. Shaw is still getting readjusted to the NBA. Brown is a rookie.
Shaw credits the coach, who has brought some fun back into the game while at the same time wielding a stern, consistent hand when things go awry.
"I think we have made it more fun for them," Shaw said. "Everyone is playing loose and that's because of Chris. You want to show him you can get it done. You know, it may be fun for them, but it's fun for us, too. Everyone was saying that Kevin, Robert and Larry were over the hill. Well, they keep showing people that they're not. There's a good blend of old and new and that's keeping everyone fresh."