1983-84 Boston Celtics
An eight game lead and a 42-14 record are impressive credentials, but there are still legitimate doubts about these 1983-84 Boston Celtics. First, the Celtics still don't have a backcourt shooter. Second, they tend to get careless with the basketball at the worst possible times. Finally, there is increasing evidence that they don't play well in big games.
All three concerns were on display in Friday night's loss to the Lakers. LA was playing without Jamaal Wilkes and Bob McAdoo, but the Celtics discarded the advantage with poor backcourt shooting (10-32) and sloppy ballhandling down the stretch. "We have a little backcourt trouble," coach K.C. Jones acknowledged again Friday. "We don't shoot that well. You can see it when we play Philly and LA."
"I like the way we match up against them," said Laker coach Pat Riley. "They're a little predictable. You know they're going to take it inside." The Celtics' turnover count against LA was a respectable 16, but a series of poisonous passes killed them in crunch time. "We gave them a gift is exactly what we did," said Robert Parish. "Just too many turnovers, that's what killed us." Losing to the undermanned Lakers reminded everyone of Feb. 12 when the Sixers staggered into Boston without Moses Malone or Bobby Jones and won by 18.
"It's become our trademark," a disgusted Larry Bird said Friday. "We're not beating the good teams." Bird is right. Against Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New York, the Celtics are 3-7. Add Portland, Utah and Milwaukee and the Celts are still only 7-9. In games played between the top five teams in the NBA East (Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Detroit, Milwaukee), the 76ers are 11-6 compared with Boston's 8-7.
These things have a way of changing, but Sports Illustrated had writers covering both the Lakers and Celtics last week. Friday night's winner was to be awarded the cover. "I wouldn't say that was our prime motivation for the game," said Riley . . . "We're really having our problems," says Jack Madden, executive director of the NBA referees' association. Madden has accused Earl Strom of trying to bust the union and undermining counsel Richie Phillips. Madden cites the "Boston Strangler" incident as the cause of Strom's anti- union sentiments. During the 1980-81 season, Strom accosted his partner, Dick Bavetta, in the Boston Garden dressing room and was fined by the league and suspended from the union for three years. According to Madden, Jess Kersey is aligned with Strom in an attempt to break up the association.
Wilt Chamberlain says he feels no bitterness toward Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who'll break the Stilt's career points mark either at the end of this year or the beginning of next. "There's no Jim Brown syndrome here," says Chamberlain. "If I am in town (when the record is broken) I'd like to be there, yeah. I'd like to be as much a part of it as anybody, because I don't think anyone else knows as much about what it took to do that as me." . . . Fellow big man Artis Gilmore is going to be out for a while. He was elbowed in the head by Utah's John Drew Thursday night and fractured three bones in his right cheek. Dallas assistant Bobby Weiss is rumored to be in line for the Spurs' coaching job . . . Truck Robinson criticized the Knicks for relying too much on Bernard King. The Knicks immediately went into a slump. In one loss, coach Hubie Brown responded to a fan's "put Ray Williams back in" request by saying, "That's why we're down by 11." . . . Meanwhile, Doug (Don't Sugarcoat It) Moe summed up his team with: "In past years I've always tried to defend our defense. But now I'll admit it: This year we definitely have the worst defense in the league."
Looking to buy some real estate in the Portland, Ore., area? Call Geoff Petrie & Associates. Trail Blazers guard Jim Paxson sounds as if he might be selling a home. "I would like to stay in Portland," the All-Star said this week. "But if it (his contract is about to expire) doesn't work out, it would be a new experience and I might end up with a contending team." He also might be embarrassed. The salary cap is going to severely limit free agency for most players. It's simply easier to hang on to your own players than it is to pay big dough (toward the cap) for somebody else's . . . Speaking of Portland, the Blazers have two first-round and four second-round draft selections this year. Portland (from Indiana) will probably flip Philadelphia for the No. 1 pick and Houston's Akeem Olajuwon might be enticed to come out to join his ex-college teammate, Clyde Drexler. Drexler's Portland teammates are calling him "Rexler," as in "No D." The Trail Blazers have one of the league's top PR departments (They had a writer's eyeglasses fixed after said writer was smacked by a stray pass during warmups), but were red-faced when sellout No. 300 turned out to be No. 297. Owner Lawrence Weinberg presented the PR folks with a calculator during the 300/297 ceremony . . . Portland GM Stu Inman was disappointed when Steve Johnson was traded to the Eastern Conference (from KC to Chicago for Reggie Theus). Inman's daughter is married to Johnson . . . Indiana continues to defy logic by playing its best basketball without Herb Williams. The Pacers beat Cleveland and Utah without the injured Williams last week . . . Jazz coach Frank Layden will receive an honorary doctorate from Niagara University May 27 . . . Brian Sloan, son of NBA-great Jerry Sloan, is a senior at McLeansboro High in Illinois, averaging 20 points and 13 rebounds. He ia headed for Bobby Knight and Indiana . . . End Of An Era Dept: Marc Iavaroni has finally lost his starting job. Billy Cunningham is working on the merit system and is starting Sam Williams . . . San Diego's Derek Smith looks like a rising star. Ditto for Cleveland's Paul Thompson, who scored 19 in the Cavs' overtime victory over the Sixers before 14,517 at Richfield Coliseum Thursday. It was Cleveland's ninth win in 12 tries . . . Seattle's Tom Chambers hit 12 straight field goals, 15 of 18 overall and scored 34 points against Denver Sunday . . . The Nets beat the Sixers despite getting only five combined points from starting center Darryl Dawkins (three) and forward Bill Willoughby (two) . . .This from Dennis Johnson: "My goal in basketball is to play with all 23 teams in the NBA." . . . Happy 25th birthday, Rolando Blackman.