October 28, 1980
If Wayne Kreklow hadn't guessed it before yesterday, he knows it now: While M.L. Carr is sidelined with an injury, the rookie free agent will be pressed into a new role in the Celtic backcourt.
"To be honest, I have yet to sit down with Red (Auerbach) and discuss the situation," said coach Bill Fitch said yesterday. "But my thinking is that we can use Kreklow in the fatigue minutes.' Those go to a fourth guard coming off the bench and picking up the guys who need a blow."
Kreklow, in fact, will be moving up only one notch from his status as 11th player, which he shared with Eric Fernsten. Last year, Tiny Archibald and Chris Ford were the starters, with Gerry Henderson coming off the bench, and Don Chaney filling in the "fatigue minutes." Things changed after Pete Maravich showed up and became a third guard or was used in tandem with Henderson. But the "fatigue-minute" concept had been established.
This season, the Celtics had been starting Carr and Henderson and using Archibald and Ford off the bench in tandem because Fitch wanted to give Archibald some time to get his speed game together and because Henderson had proved in training camp that he deserved a shot at a starting position.
The notion that Carr could be as effective as a guard as he is against certain small forwards remains facinating, but his left-ankle injury is expected to keep him out six weeks.
"I was just starting to come," said Carr yesterday. "I mean, I was just reaching the point that my confidence was high and my game was getting better. Then this thing happens. It's the first time, really, that I have had a broke bone. I've had a bad ankle before. But usually, I get it taped and I'm right back out there. This time it's different."
Now, Archibald and Ford probably will become the starters again. That backcourt pushed the Celtics to 60 victories, the best record in the NBA and the Atlantic Division championship last season. But Fitch plans to retain the option of interchanging both men with Henderson, who will be a third guard in some situations and a starter in others.
Kreklow has played a total of eight minutes in two of the Celtics' seven games. Veteran free-agent backcourtmen such as Ricky Sobers, Jim Cleamons, Larry Wright and Henry Bibby are still available, as are Ron Perry, Don Newman and Arnette Hallman, who were cut at the Celtics' training camp. But Fitch said: "I think Wayne is going to work out." "It was like I was telling Carr, if we could make a guard out of him, we can make a guard out of anyone. We've got two games this week and we'll go basically with 10 men. In the meantime, we'll do a lot of talking about the possibilities.
"Haste can make waste," said Fitch. "If I fill the spot right away by making a move or bringing somebody back, we still have the problem of what to do when M. L. returns. By being here at practice today, M. L. shows you that he doesn't mean for the recovery to take all that long. He was already in the weight room. His loss is a tough one. We miss his inspiration and his leadership, and the fact that he was a fun person to have around. But a lot of guys are already auditioning for his comedian's role."
Kreklow found out at practice yesterday what it means to have Fitch on your side. While the rest of the team was showering, he was still out on the floor with rookie Kevin McHale, running a one-man, full court, fast-break drill, playing both offense and defense. To say he was exhausted when it was over is an understatement.
"It is one of the advantages, or disadvantages, of being here at home," said Fitch. "On the road, he's doing the same things that guys who play 38 minutes do. He's got to learn that to be ready, he's got to do that and more to make himself better. He can't get it from playing time, so he has to spend extra time developing the skills that he has."