September 25, 1980
Cedric Maxwell bestowed him with the nickname "Quick," which on this particular Celtic team is enough to make him an item. Gerald Henderson really has a chance to be somebody this season, and he knows it.
He knows that, Tiny Archibald or no Tiny Archibald, the Celtics need Gerry Henderson's skills, that he has lateral mobility on defense and explosiveness on offense unmatched on this club. There definitely is playing time available for the second-year guard.
Nobody is saying that he will be a great player, but he does have a chance to be a pretty good one. His inaugural NBA season was reasonably impressive, if not necessarily memorable. He scored 6.2 points per game in an average of 14 minutes playing time. He shot 50 percent (191-382) from the floor, and he showed promise of being either a playmaking or shooting guard. Above all, he showed that he had extreme defensive quickness. Very few people managed to get by him, prompting coach Bill Fitch to say: He's in a group of maybe eight or nine guys (in the NBA) with exceptional quickness."
As a rookie, and as a sub, Henderson was prone to the usual insecurities. "Last year," he says, "I didn't want to make a lot of mistakes coming off the bench. I didn't try to do a lot of things on offense because I didn't want to turn the ball over. When you're being creative, you tend to make more mistakes. I think this year I can do a few more things."
Until and unless Archibald signs with the Celtics, Henderson is a starter. He can hardly ignore the presence of Tiny's ghost. "It occupies my mind only when I'm in the gym," Henderson says. "I don't let it bother me when I'm on the floor. I feel things are working out pretty well so far. I can't see where we've slowed down on the fast break, for instance."
Fitch puts the playmaker situation is perspective by saying, "If Tiny comes back, he starts last in the race. Up until now, Gerry has been taking advantage of the situation."
Nothing Henderson has done in the first two exhibition games refutes that analysis. He has led the team in scoring with 16 and 20 points, respectively, and he has done his scoring with the casual air of a seven-year veteran who merely wants to reaffirm his status. The points have come, well, easily, as if he could have scored a lot more but chose not to offend anybody.
Not that scoring is his primary job, of course. Running the team is, and in Fitch has had a man who is known to be a hard marker. "He's getting better," is as far as Fitch would stretch for a compliment following the victory over the Knicks Tuesday night.
Henderson says he feels much different about his situation than he did last year. "I know what coach Fitch wants and I know the other players a lot better," he says. "I worked all summer on my shooting and my penetration. I want to be able to stop and go up for the little jump shot and also to get the ball up the floor quicker and better this year.
"I really feel the team has more confidence in me," Henderson continues. "They know that if Tiny were here the coach would be going with Tiny, but he isn't here. It means the rest of us will have to play together. I played with the second team in practice all last season, but now I think the adjustment has been made and that everyone has more confidence in me now."
Fitch, who prefers to deal with the what-is instead of the what-if, has already began to restructure the offense to accomm odate the potential switch from Archibald to Henderson. "There are some plays that we could run because we had Tiny," Fitch explains, "but there were also some plays that Gerald would run better."
But even if Archibald returns, Henderson will still be around. How could the Celtics possibly not find room for a man who answers to the name "Quick?"
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