October 27, 1980
The Saturday night fear became the Sunday afternoon reality. M.L. Carr has broken the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot and will be sidelined for approximately six weeks.
That was the original diagnosis of Washington Bullet team physician Dr. Stanley Levine following the Saturday night first-quarter mishap that occurred when Carr was contested by Washington guard John Williamson as he was trying to score on a fast-break drive. But it wasn't until Carr returned to Boston yesterday with the team and was examined by team physician Dr. Thomas Silva that a definite assessment of the situation could be made.
What will the Celtics, who next play on Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons at the Pontiac Silverdome, do now? As of yesterday morning, coach Bill Fitch wasn't sure. There appear to be three possibilities:
- Bring back Ronnie Perry or Don Newman, the last two men cut during training camp. Perry would be more of an offensive answer in the backcourt, while Newman would be available as a kamikaze on defense.
- Bring back forward Arnette Hallman. Fitch feels the loss of Carr has, among other things, taken away a key defensive option at his disposal, because Carr was always ready to guard a troublesome small forward on an opposing team.
- Sign or trade for an available veteran guard. Among the unemployed free- agent backcourtmen are Ricky Sobers, Jim Cleamons, Larry Wright and Henry Bibby. Keep in mind that taking on one of these types would raise the serious question of what would happen when Carr returned. "Realistically," Fitch says, "you can't play more than nine men unless you go heavily into platooning, which we do have the capability of doing."
Both Fitch and Carr agree that the injury could not have come at a worse time as far as M.L.'s backcourt career is concerned. "He was just starting to show people, including the coach, that he really could play the backcourt," Fitch submits. "That's the tough part," adds Carr. "I think Bill was really starting to have confidence in me back there."
Th accident occurred with 35 seconds left in the first period of Boston's 103-87 trumph over the once-proud Bullets. Carr was on the left side of a 3- on-2 fast break. He knows he probably should have given the ball up earlier, in which case he would never have been involved in the action. At any rate, he took the ball hard to the hoop as Williamson, a very strong guard, challenged him.
"I just came down on his foot," sighs Carr. "I've never had a break like that before, but I knew immediately I had broken something. There was a pop' sound and a very sharp pain."
The interesting aspect of all this is that not only did Carr stay in the game to make his two free throws but he also hobbled back on defense and then dragged himself downcourt on the subsequent transition in time to bank in a long jumper with eight seconds remaining that capped a dazzling 25-4 Celtic run. It was somewhat reminiscent of gallant Bob Gibson being struck by a Roberto Clemente liner and then finishing the inning, only to discover that the blow had broken his leg. "John Wayne would have been proud of me," jokes Carr. "I was hurting, but I went down shooting."
Fitch says that he assumes M.L. will be a good healer. M.L. says that he will try to beat any recuperation estimate, if only by a day. "Meanwhile," Carr concludes, "all I can do is sit around, be cheerful and try to lend encouragement to my teammates." Now that is one promise we know will be kept.