Blazers Crush C's on the Glass

Blazers Crush C's on the Glass

 February 21, 1999

WASHINGTON - Rick Pitino hasn't called the Psychic Friends Hotline yet or taken out an ad with the toll-free number: 1-800-I-NEED-A-REBOUNDER. But it may come to that, soon, if we are to believe the coach was speaking out of something other than utter exasperation after Friday night's wipeout in Portland. Pitino had just seen his club get demolished inside by Brian Grant & Co., 106-86, and bludgeoned on the boards, 52-37. He emerged from the locker room wondering how he might be able to get blood from a stone. "I have to do one of two things," he said. "I can move Antoine [ Walker] to small forward, which gives us a bigger lineup. Or I can make a trade and bring in someone who rebounds the basketball.

We're getting dominated on the glass." This, of course, is not a news bulletin. "Rick has been preaching that for a long time," Dana Barros said. "It was our biggest problem last year and it's still here. It's not like it's a new problem or something." Asked if he thought Pitino was exasperated by the situation, Barros said, "I think he's probably beyond that." The Celtics' sacrificial centers have been a source of concern all season. They have not had a real post presence at either end since Pitino has been here - and before he got here. They're a finesse team, basically, which gets by making outside shots and creating havoc on defense. Pitino indicated he'd likely start addressing the problem by moving Walker to small forward.

Walker probably should be at small forward, except that position is currently manned by an individual with seven games of NBA experience who also happens to be their best player: Paul Pierce. And if Pierce moves to the backcourt, that takes away minutes from Ron Mercer. The other option - a trade - is something Pitino has said he'd be extremely reluctant to do if it meant dealing what he frequently calls "an asset." Translated, that does not mean Eric Riley or Greg Minor. It means Pierce, Mercer, or Walker or perhaps Kenny Anderson. He has to find a team that needs what he has - shooters - and has what he needs - bruisers.

The Celtics' rebounding numbers are not all that bad; they're one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league. But Pitino wants rebounds at the other end. It's not a good sign when an opponent's offensive-rebound total matches your defensive total. That happened Friday night. "Outside of Paul Pierce, we are not physically imposing at a lot of positions," the coach said. "Our [ big men] aren't killers on the glass. From a physical, rebounding position, all you see is Paul Pierce. We're going to have to do something about it."

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