November 16, 1980
Cedric Maxwell isn't talking these days, which is an unfortunate development for those wondering if the Celtics' veteran forward has at last started to do his thing.
When Maxwell poured in 25 points to lead Boston past the Washington Bullets, 93-86, Wednesday night, there was genuine jubilation, for it was a positive sign that he was returning to the form that has made him the NBA field-goal percentage leader for the last two seasons. That he did it with massive Wes Unseld on his back made the feat even more impressive.
Points had not come easily for the 6-foot-8 product of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. The quick passes inside that a season ago were almost automatic had not been executed. But suddenly, Maxwell is on the rise. In the last six games, he has shot at a .638 clip (44 for 69). Maxwell hit 8 of 11 shots against the Bullets and moved his scoring average to 16.0, which was his average for the 1980 season.
His ability to break loose for easy baskets inside made him a very desirable free agent this summer, and that was one of the reasons the Celtics worked so hard to sign him to a multiyear contract. After all, this is a guy who shot at a .609 clip (457 for 750) last season, and nobody has ever accused him of being a garbage man.
That Maxwell wasn't getting the ball as much inside earlier in the season was obvious. With the arrival of a 7-footer in Robert Parish, the need to stuff the ball inside no longer is the exclusive responsibiltity of one Cedric Maxwell. His teammates realize this, and some of them admit that Maxwell at times has been a forgotten man.
"If a guy like Max or Parish can score," said Larry Bird, who used to love to look for Maxwell whenever he drew a crowd, "then we've got to get the ball in to him. He can't be out there for 12 or 14 minutes busting his hump and never seeing the ball. I know it will get him down. It hurts."
Coach Bill Fitch, while pleased with the recent turnaround by Maxwell, said his improvement can be traced to the work of only one man - Cedric Maxwell.
"Most of that (the theory about the lack of cooperation from Maxwell's teammates) is a lot of bull," said Fitch. "There have been a lot of games where he just disappears. When Maxwell gets outs, fills the lanes and continues to move, that is when he gets the ball. He's starting to do both things. That is why he is getting points."
Maxwell says he isn't particularly interested in talking about the subject at this point. That is why he spent 45 minutes in the Celtics' training room on Wednesday night, dressed there and vanished before reporters had a chance to talk with him. For the second time in his career, he has decided that he will not grant interviews, although he adds that it might be only a temporary thing. "It's nothing personal, and I'm not mad at anyone in the press," said Maxwell. "It's just that some things have been said, and I've decided I don't want to talk to the media." Maxwell declined to reveal who or what turned him off.