1.08.2016

The 1988 Trade Deadline



IF YOU'RE interested in seeing the Boston Celtics in the NBA finals again this year, there are a few things you should know:

1. On Saturday, the day before Boston was wiped out by the Lakers, Larry Bird was spotted playing one-on-one basketball with Bill Walton at Loyola Marymount. The big fella looked pretty good.

2. Artis Gilmore's line Sunday: 13 minutes, no shots, no rebounds, five fouls, and an air-ball free throw.

3. Bird's comment: "The Lakers are just better than us, that's all. They have more talent."

4. Mychal Thompson's comment: "The night I was traded to the Lakers (almost exactly a year ago), I looked north and saw a new star in the heavens. It was big and bright, and it was gold with a purple hue around it."



All of which adds up to this: The Lakers are somewhere around 13th gear, steamrolling their way to the title, and getting positively giddy. The Celtics are getting desperate.

In a way, Larry Bird's week told the whole story. He had a phenomenal run through Texas, averaging 40.7 points in three games, and after leaving the Forum, he cranked up 49 at Phoenix on Monday night.

But Bird had just 25 against the Lakers, and it seemed more like none. With Michael Cooper playing the kind of defense that can only be described as history-making, Bird missed 14 of his 22 shots and never really showed up. When the Celts made that remarkable comeback from a 20-point deficit in the third quarter, Kevin McHale did the big damage.

Everything's going the Lakers' way right now. Byron Scott has become a prime-time player; Thompson and A.C. Green provide consistent muscle up front; James Worthy's sore knee is improving, and Cooper - for the moment, at least - has Bird's number. We'll wait until the NBA finals (if the Celts get that far) before closing the case on that one.

When Bird suggested the Celtics couldn't go all the way with the talent they have, it meant just one thing. They have to make a change. Their bench is one of the league's biggest jokes.

Brad Lohaus and Mark Acres, nice guys that they are, are overmatched now, and they always will be. Fred Roberts' main contribution is his conversation-piece haircut. Gilmore should have retired in the '60s. Rookie Reggie Lewis isn't ready (evidence: three garbage-time minutes against the Lakers). Dirk Minnifield has a reputation of folding in the big games, and he sure did disappear on Sunday (no points, three turnovers in 10 minutes). Super-soft Darren Daye had the hot hand earlier this season, but when Bird and McHale came back from their injuries, Daye still thought he was the man. You're so very, very wrong, Darren.

"It used to be, when we got beat, we had guys on the bench who wouldn't let you lose the next game," Bird said. "M.L. (Carr), Cedric Maxwell, they'd start talking about your family, the girl you're dating. Now it's a lot different. We got a lot of young guys just learning the game."

The simplest solution would be Walton. It's all sort of hush-hush right now, but Celtic insiders feel he might be ready for the playoffs. Walton has come back in great shape before. In fact, he's has made a career out of it.

Without Walton, the Celtics have to make a trade. Like, tomorrow. The way they play in Detroit - losing their last seven, most of them blowouts - there's no guarantee they'll even get through the Eastern Conference.

How often has the Boston management talked trade? "Every single day," said one source close to the team. "But who do you give up? The five starters are tremendous. They're winning this thing (the Eastern race) on pure smarts alone. You can't trade any of them."

And there's nothing left in reserve. The days of Frank Ramsey, John Havlicek, Bailey Howell and Paul Silas are long gone, fans. Before long, the Celtics may be, too.

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