No Need to Cry Out Loud


The local breast-beating and garment-rending over the Celtics' third-place finish in Sunday's lottery has been of championship caliber. Glad to see this town still has what it takes to lead the world in wallowing in self-pity.

Howls are loud and long that the Rick Pitino era is over before it begins. Thanks to Tim Duncan, the San Antonio Spurs will be NBA champs in perpetuity as soon as Michael Jordan retires. Duncan will become the last great center in history. Americans are shrinking. We're not producing coordinated 7-footers anymore.

Perhaps. But recent history argues against the doomsayers. Even assuming that Duncan will become the supreme pivot man of his time, even granting the pessimists their extraordinary genetic forecast, one lottery disappointment has not ended the Celtics' chances of returning to glory. The game has changed. A team still needs at least two Hall of Fame players to win a title. But one of them need not play center.

From Bill Russell's rookie season through Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's last title in 1988, an immortal center was indeed a prerequisite for an NBA championship. In those 32 seasons, the league champ had a Hall of Fame or certain future Hall of Fame center 29 times.

In the eight years since then, ever since the Pistons' first championship in 1989, the NBA champ had a surefire Hall of Fame center only twice, in 1994 and '95, when the Rockets won with Hakeem Olajuwon. Those were the years Michael Jordan was taking his sabbatical.

Isiah Thomas and Jordan, along with the shortened 3-point line, altered pro basketball's dynamic. If a team has a very great forward and a very great guard, it can win with a center who's merely competent.

The two winningest teams in the league this season were the Bulls and Jazz. Their respective starting centers are Luc Longley and Greg Ostertag.

Finding the next generation's equivalent to the likes of Jordan, John Stockton and Karl Malone is obviously an incredibly difficult proposition for Pitino and the Celts. But missing out on Duncan doesn't make it impossible.

Logic tells us that if the legitimate center is becoming an extinct species, forwards and guards will provide more of the sport's dominant players, not less.


FLCeltsFan said...

Very much enjoyed seeing Doc label the Perk trade a big mistake. Gee I knew that right from the start.

Lex said...

It was a bit odd.

I believe the Heat were pretty excited about it though. . .

FLCeltsFan said...

That may have been the beginning of the end of Doc and Danny's same page relationship. I'm thinking Danny traded him against Doc's wishes. With LA Doc demanded to have control over personnel decisions.

Lex said...

es possible

that was 2011, right?

FLCeltsFan said...

Yep, Doc traded him in 2011. He had just come back in January from the ACL/MCL/PCL tear in the 2010 playoff. He had to work very hard to come back that quickly. And the Celtics rewarded his hard work by trading him.

Lex said...

killed the team that year

FLCeltsFan said...

That year and the others after when Doc was forced to play KG at center because Danny couldn't find a Perk replacement. You know, now that I think about it, I'll bet that Doc wouldn't even try to play other centers - like Darko, just trying to prove to Danny he screwed up. Have to think about that one a bit more.

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