The Sherman Douglas Shoe Saga (part 3)

December 21, 1992

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. It was more than 20 years ago that Beatle Paul made news by removing his shoes for an album cover shot with teammates John, George and Ringo.

The stunt sparked weeks of Paul-is-dead hysteria as rockologists looked for hidden meanings.

Our Shoeless ShermanDouglas episode has been similarly overblown and tiresome, but last night Douglas was back, and he helped the Celtics beat the New Jersey Nets, 106-104.

This game was won when Dee Brown, Shoeless Sherm's replacement, drained a 20-footer with 1.4 seconds remaining.

Douglas scored 6 points and handed out 5 assists in 17 minutes. He was on the floor when the Celts built their 16-point fourth-quarter lead, and his presence enabled coach Chris Ford to keep Brown fresh for the finish. Dee played 42 minutes against the Knicks last week and is beginning to look like Louis (Gandhi) Orr. This is one of the reasons the Celts need Douglas.

Shoeless Sherm took the charge from all opponents at Brendan Byrne Arena. He handled Kenny Anderson, Rumeal Robinson, the full-court (print and zone trap) press, and some fans hooting him from the baseline seats.

"I take it as humor," Douglas said of the hecklers. "You can't take a lot of it personally. You'll drive yourself crazy, and I don't want to do that."

Bingo. The Celtics have led us to believe that Sherman is a man on the edge ever since last week in Minneapolis when he removed his shoes and socks during the third quarter of an overtime victory. It was the last we saw of him for five days.

The disappearing act resulted in a week of "What's Really Wrong with Sherm" stories, and a subplot featuring the first disciplinary crisis of Ford's coaching career.

Ford finally met with Douglas yesterday. Their little chat was long overdue. Ford wasn't at the original meeting when Douglas went to the Celtics brass after going barefoot-in-the-Target Center and he didn't talk to the guard Sunday or Monday when Shoeless Sherm returned for practice.

Ford was asked if Douglas has been disciplined, and answered, "It's an in-house situation right now. As of today, no. I don't think he's been fined for what he did."

Celtic general manager Jan Volk went into Ron Ziegler Overdrive when the question was asked and said, "That's a matter between Sherman and the Celtics and we will have no comment on it."

What about you, Sherm? Any fines?

"You'll have to ask them," Douglas said. "As far as I know, I don't think so. I can't discipline myself."

Ford is the only member of the Celtic family who is saying what the fans are saying.

"Encompassing all things, I didn't like what he did," said Ford. "I was not happy with the way it happened."

Being a team guy, Ford said he approved of the way management handled the sticky situation.

But did the coach think the episode made him look bad?

"Yeah," said Ford. "Because of things that came out about it -- not being able to communicate with players and losing control of the ship."

The Celtics led by 4 last night when Ford turned to his right early in the second quarter and said, "Sherman."

Douglas played eight minutes in the first half, scoring 2 points with 2 assists. He was back on the floor at the end of the third quarter and helped the Celtics build the big lead. He was in his usual rotation, the very role he's disturbed about. He came off with 7:23 left and watched from the bench as Brown won it.

"I thought he did a good job," said Ford. "He pushed the ball."

"Everything was smooth," Douglas said. "I was just playing to have fun. It was a good feeling to get out with the guys and play."

And how does he feel about not being fined?

"That makes me feel good," he said. "It's like they stood behind me and stood by me through this."

Celtic czar Dave Gavitt didn't make it to Exit 16W for the return of Shoeless Sherm. At this point, it's fair to say that Douglas has emerged as Gavitt's Matt Young . . . Sagging confidence. Can't throw to first base. Can't be traded because of his contract.

Sherm was spared this time. They didn't pound him with Maxwell's Silver Hammer. That would have been only for the benefit of Mr. Kite, or the bloodthirsty talk-show callers.

Abbey Road. Causeway Street. Take a sad song and make it better. The Douglas problem won't go away, but for the time being, Celtic management has decided to let it be.

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