Obie Moves Delk and Rogers into Starting Lineup after One Practice
February 25, 2002
To paraphrase Ferdinand Magellan, what a long, strange trip it was.
The Celtics are back from their annual February frolic through the West. It was their Headbands-over-America Tour, covering three time zones, seven games, and 14 days. They returned home yesterday still squarely in the thick of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. But they were a grumpy group overall after losing the last two games, and four overall.
The green headbands were revealed in Denver in the trip opener. They were a sign of bonding, unity, and togetherness and they remained throughout the trip, through good times and bad. We safely can state they had no impact whatsoever on any of the results and, from a fashion standpoint, the Celtics are not going to be walking the runways of Florence any time soon.
The trip had the usual number of quirks, not the least of which was a significant deal with Phoenix. Boston brought aboard two veterans in Tony Delk and Rodney Rogers. Delk moved into the starting lineup after one practice; 24 hours earlier, coach Jim O'Brien said the newcomers would have to be worked in gradually.
The trade allowed the Celtics to keep their regular rotation intact, although Delk looks like he's replacing Kedrick Brown (he went from starter to DNP), and Rogers will get some minutes. The new lads still are looking for their first win as Celtics, having come aboard in Texas.
Some other strange happenings: The Celtics lost to Golden State, a team that has had only one win since the All-Star break, and beat Portland, a team that has had only one loss since the All-Star break. Portland beat Dallas before losing to Boston and then beat the Lakers.
The trip included: the first two triple-doubles of the season for Antoine Walker, including a gem in Denver; the Celtics inflicting a third straight loss on the Lakers, a first in Phil Jackson's LA incarnation; the Celtics winning when they scored a lot (3-0 when they reached 100 points); and the Celtics getting pummeled everywhere on the glass (a differential of 11.5 a game) and in blocks (41-17).
The highlight was the improbable win in Los Angeles. The Celtics were down by as many as 18 points and trailed by 12 late in the fourth quarter. They were down by 2 in the closing seconds when Walker banked in a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left. Then the Celtics sweated out a call they had every reason to think they wouldn't get: the disallowance of a potential winning jumper by Kobe Bryant.
For almost a minute, the result of the LA game was in doubt. You don't expect to get a winning call against the defending champions in their building. But referee Sean Corbin ruled, correctly, that the ball was still in Bryant's hands when time expired. (The Celtics, by the way, are 5-0 in games in which Corbin has officiated this season. The lowlights: the loss to the lowly Warriors, who held the Celtics to six field goals and 28 points in the second half; and the Texas two-step conclusion, with second-half yard sales in Dallas and Houston. In both cases, the Celtics were facing undermanned teams and had big leads, including a 20-pointer against the Rockets.
Still, the 3-4 trip was the best February outing since 1990, which says more about the last 12 years than it does about this year. It enabled the Celtics to stay squarely in the playoff picture; they are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, even if they also are only three losses out of ninth. But a 3-4 trip also can be agonizingly unacceptable when (a) you have gone 3-2 after five and (b) two of three wins came against playoff teams (Lakers, Blazers) while two of the losses came to certain lottery participants (Warriors, Rockets).
The Celtics have 26 games left and 16 of them are at home. No Eastern Conference playoff contender has played more road games (31). Of the 26 left, however, five are against Western Conference playoff contenders, including roadies vs. Minnesota and San Antonio and home games against the Mavericks, Lakers, and Trail Blazers.
The Celtics' next game is Wednesday night with Milwaukee, the Bucks' first visit to Boston.
. . .
The Celtics will host the eighth annual "Rocks for Jocks" fund-raiser tonight at The Rack at Faneuil Hall. The entire team will be there for the event, which runs from 6 to 9. Admission is $35 and fans must be 21 or older. Proceeds go to the Fannie Mae Foundation's Home Team Program, which helps revitalize and rehabilitate inner-city neighborhoods.
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