The Sherman Douglas Shoe Saga (Part 2)


Christmas Day is almost here, and the Celtics purchased themselves a last-minute gift -- John Bagley.

This was no spur-of-the-moment purchase. Boston has been window-shopping for months, walking past the veteran point guard, stopping, looking hard, then slowly moving on. Yet, as weeks wore on, and the winter season grew more dreary, the team found itself drawn back to the window, noticing the goods were still there, with the same guarantee at the same price.

And so they walked inside, put on their spectacles and took one . . . good . . . long . . . last . . . look.

What the heck. The Celtics have plunked down their money, and now they have three point guards. Whether it's wise to have these three men remains to be seen.

Bagley was the team's best point guard last season, yet the most expendable, because he was the only one without a contract.

Understand that was the only reason he wasn't brought back. If Bagley had Douglas' contract, or any other contract, for that matter, and it was Sherm who was the unrestricted free agent, Boston would have signed Bags and let Douglas go.

All of management was in agreement that three was a crowd. They fretted about damaging Brown's confidence if Bagley outplayed him. They were concerned about Douglas' psyche if he didn't get the minutes, and that was before he took his shoes off in the middle of a game.

So what do you suppose the arrival of Bagley does to Sherman's psyche now? Evidently, the Celtics have de-termined that is no longer a top priority.

"If I had demanded Bags be here in preseason, he probably would have been," said coach Chris Ford. "But I knew we had to look to the future. We had to give the two young guys (Brown and Douglas) a good look.

"But there comes a point in time when you've got to respect competition. Maybe the competition of having Bags here will bring out the best in Sherm and Dee."

Either that, or the team has a deal pending for Douglas. That would be the true Christmas Miracle.

There are many theories as to why the Celtics have brought back Bagley, who will remain on the suspended list until he can get himself in playing shape. The most obvious is that he makes the team better, and that's a hard point to debate.

The front office understands Boston fans want results now, not next week, not next season, not in three seasons. It understands this because owners Alan Cohen and Don Gaston, and CEO Dave Gavitt have the same type of competitive makeup.

They hate to lose, and they ultimately could not continue to bypass what constituted at least a partial solution.

As for the coaching staff and the players, they don't want to hear about next year. Kevin McHale and Robert Parish have no guarantees they'll be around. Coaching staffs live on the edge from season to season. They all felt Bagley could help, and their voice was heard.

Could it be that Ford went to the front office, reminded his bosses of his good soldier act through the Douglas fiasco and demanded payback in the form of Bagley? "I didn't have to say that," the coach answered.

Through all this, Bagley himself assumed the role of a consummate company man. He did not complain about his uncertain status. He did not gloat when the team floundered without him. He did not point out the shortcomings of his fellow backcourt mates. He was both professional and admirable.

That's why it's so hard to say that signing Bagley was the wrong move.

It has nothing to do with the player himself. In fact, by signing the veteran, the Celtics could win between 5 and 7 extra games, perhaps just enough to secure a winning season and a spot in the playoffs.

Yet when will Boston realize it can't keep playing for now, and must look into the future? Yes, this young season has been both choppy and disappointing, but if the ultimate result was a spot in the lottery and the knowledge that a healthy Ed Pinckney will return in 1993-94, that's not such a bad scenario.

Remember, one Ping-Pong ball could roll the right way and land you Chris Webber.

"I don't think bringing Bags back hurts any long-term plan," said Gavitt. "Maybe John can be the difference down the stretch of some games. Part of the future includes the confidence level of the team, and losing hasn't done much to help the confidence of our young guys."

Don't be lulled into believing Bagley will lead the Celtics to the conference finals, or even the second round of the playoffs. One thing Douglas said in the past week that made sense was this team has more problems than just who is manning the point.

Bagley is no savior. He is a survivor, a tough player who can get you over the hump some nights.

Evidently, the Celtics are uneasy enough with their present chemistry to feel the need to salvage some of those nights.

In the short term, it makes perfect sense. In the long term, it means Boston is still putting off the obvious task in front of them -- rebuilding its sagging franchise.

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