Birdless Celts Prepare for Texas Triangle

1981-82 Boston Celtics

Now we'll find out what the Celtics are made of. They will begin an intriguing three-game Texas tour this evening (Ch. 4, WRKO, 8:30) without both Larry Bird and Tiny Archibald.

Bird was operated on by plastic surgeon Dr. Gaspar Anastasia yesterday morning at University Hospital. The hour-long operation, performed under local anasthesia, was necessary to repair the cygomatic arch, a facial bone damaged when Milwaukee's Harvey Catchings smashed his right elbow into Bird's face with 41 seconds remaining in the first half of the 106-102 Sunday afternoon Boston triumph.

"It wasn't a medical problem as much as it was a cosmetic problem," explained Dr. Anastasia. "This bone doesn't have any big function other than to shape the face. It's not connected to any important nerves or muscles, and it's not related to the eye. If this were 100 years ago, he would have towalk around for the rest of his life with a hole in his face. Now we can do something about it.The blow did come close to the joint of the jaw, making it uncomfortable for him to open his mouth, which is understandable.

"He'll need two or three days in order to get himself together," continued Dr. Anastasia. "I would be uncomfortable with him playing before that time."

Archibald, meanwhile, is still not ready to play. The cast was removed yesterday from his injured right wrist, but he won't be making the trip. On the plus side, however, Chris Ford, who has missed the last three games with a bad back, will be back in the lineup against the Mavericks tonight.

Bird was taken to University Hospital for x-rays following Sunday's game, and when the x-rays revealed a fracture an appointment was scheduled for 9 a.m. yesterday. At that time a decision was made to operate. Following the hour-long surgery, he retired to the recovery room, and he was released late yesterday afternoon. His progressed will be monitored by Dr. Anastasia daily.

"There is no way we won't miss him," said Bill Fitch, "but we'll adjust along the way. Larry has picked up the slack in the past when others have been out with injury or illness. Now it's their turn. Larry's worked so damn hard to get us here, so let's not let him down."

Kevin McHale will replace Bird in the starting lineup, and Fitch also has the option of swinging M.L. Carr up front. "But M.L. will start at guard," asserts Fitch. "We can move (Rick) Robey, (Charles) Bradley or even Chris up there.

The Dallas game has attracted the first pre-game sellout crowd in Mavericks' history. Dick Motta's team has been playing excellent basketball over the past six weeks, with their most recent conquest being a triumph over the smoking Houston Rockets. "It's a typical Motta team," contends Fitch. "Very forward-oriented. Those young guards, (Rolando) Blackman and (Elston) Turner, are very impressive, and (Allan) Bristow was a big pick-up.

"I've had this week circled in red on my calendar for two months," continues the mentor. "Even when others were talking about the coast trip, I was worrying about Texas. I'm just glad we were able to get by Milwaukee before heading on this trip."

Tonight's game will be the first the Celtics have played without Bird in the lineup since the All-Star forward joined the club for the 1979-80 season. Bird had participated in 219 regular season games, 25 exhibitions and 26 playoff games without missing a start, let alone a game. But given Dr. Anastasia's analysis of the situation, Bird might be back as early as Friday's game in Houston.

Having won three straight, the Celtics have again regained the honor of having the league's best record. Maintaining it without Bird and Archibald against Dallas, San Antonio and Houston will be a true test.

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