8.15.2009

Still No Word on Bird

January 14, 1991

The Celtics are taking a Dylan-at-Woodstock approach to any possible definitive word on injured forward Larry Bird: "If he's not here, he's not here," coach Chris Ford said. "I'd prefer it if no one even talked about it." If not knowing is indeed the hardest thing, then Celtics fans may be in for a long season. Larry Bird's back problems were laid out in detail last night, but when chief executive Dave Gavitt got to the part on how long the team's All-Star forward would be sidelined, the details came to an abrupt halt.

Asked what kind of timetable was projected for Bird's return, Gavitt answered, "When he's healthy. That's an easy timetable." Gavitt was not being evasive, merely truthful. With Boston holding a 7 1/2-game lead over Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division heading into last night's action, the team has decided to take a chronic problem affecting its most valuable player and give it the attention it merits. At this time, it's hard to gauge how long such an approach will require.

Bird was put in a flexion brace yesterday and will wear it throughout his treatment. He also was given a steroid injection, which is expected to act as an antibiotic.

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And there you have it. Bird never fully recovered. The Lakeshow swept the green during the regular season, and the Celtics finished the season 27-21 after starting it 29-5. Although they did squeak past the Indiana Pacers in the first round, the Detroit Pistons defeated them 4-2 in the second round. Bob Ryan, Grampa Celtic, had this to say:

The great irony of Bird's career is that he embarked on a punishing physical fitness regime in the summer of 1987 for the express purpose of "avoiding injury," and has had five years of grief ever since. The idea was sound. He was never more dominant than during the exhibition games of 1987 and the first six games of the regular season, and everyone who saw him knew it would be his greatest year. Then he injured his heels in Cleveland and nothing has ever been the same.

Bird is motivated to play by one thing, and it isn't money (as much as he loves to see the pile grow, he knows very well he has enough stashed away for 10 lifetimes). He enjoys competing against the best basketball players in the world. When his back isn't acting up, he belongs in that company.

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