The Celtics are the NBA equivalent of a $75,000 Bentley with no key to start the engine. And Bill Fitch has reached the point where he can't wait any longer to get the damn car on the road.
Until this point, his reply to the question "Are you in the market for a guard?" has been: "The market is Tiny (Archibald)." But after last night's 105-97 Market Square Arena loss to the George McGinnis-led Indiana Pacers, Fitch had something new to say. "Tomorrow," he declared, "we start putting in an offense as if Tiny weren't here. And, yes, we're in the market for a guard. If anyone asks me, I would suggest they look for guard help. If it takes a trade to get a guard, then do it."
Please understand that the lack of a point guard is hardly the only Celtic problem at the moment. The frontcourt, with the exception of Dave Cowens, has played poorly for a week.
"The forward play has been atrocious," Fitch said. "Larry Bird (who played with a bad cold last night) has been just a guy named Joe, and Max hasn't done anything." The Celtics have a terrible team speed problem. Rivals are killing them with fast-break baskets, and the next loose ball the Celtics get undoubtedly will be the first of the exhibition season.
However, Fitch has not yet installed his offense. It can be presumed that the big people would fare better under a more structured system. This only accentuates the guard weakness, for in a free-lance system, a floor leader passes out the sugar. And Gerald Henderson, with three assists in 31 minutes, did not get the job done. He remains a better off guard than lead guard.
Indiana, meanwhile, looked very impressive under new coach Jack McKinney. McGinnis was a revelation. He was an absolute joke last year, but his 29- point, 11-for-18 performance last night was not funny to the Celtics. The Pacers jumped into a 28-18 one-period lead and never allowed the Celtics to get closer than seven points thereafter.
Every time Boston got the lead down to eight or 10, the Celtics would turn it over a few times and set off another series Pacer fast breaks.
The present Celtic situation is downright depressing. "Forget the wins and losses," Fitch said. "The issue is how we'd fare if we played this way in the regular season. The answer is we're not good enough."
And so the backcourt situation has come to a head. Those fellers who duck through doorways had better keep their bags packed. After months of speculation, either Tiny shows up or one of the big guys heads out.