June 10, 1986
Through 82 victories, 67 during the regular season and 15 in the playoffs, Coach K. C. Jones, his aides, and Red Auerbach, the club's president, were repeatedly asked whether the Boston Celtics were the best team ever assembled in the 40-year history of the National Basketball Association.
Their responses were always the same. ''It's the deepest and the most talented team,'' they would say. But they would skirt ''best'' by saying ''We haven't won anything yet.''
After the Celtics won their 16th championship in 30 years Sunday afternoon by eliminating the Houston Rockets, four games to two, Jones was again asked the question.
''Times change and the game changes,'' said Jones, who earned his 15th championship as a collegian, an Olympian, a pro player and a pro coach. ''But during the time I've been around, I would have to say this is the greatest team ever assembled. Not only does it have great chemistry but they are the most intense and determined team I have ever been associated with.''
How did Kevin McHale, who has played on three championship teams in his six Celtic seasons, rank this team?
''Call it a magical season,'' said the 6-foot-10-inch forward, and the leading scorer (155 points) in the final series. ''Our goal from day one of training camp was to regain the championship.''
A year ago in the Boston Garden, McHale's 32 points and Bird's 28, were not enough as the Celtics lost their title to the Los Angeles Lakers, 111-100.
The loss highlighted the issues of age, lack of bench strength and poor outside shooting.
Auerbach found a way to solve the problems again. He traded to get Bill Walton for bench strength and Jerry Sichting for outside shooting off the bench. With the 6-11 Walton providing needed rest, 32-year-old Robert Parish played younger than his age.
No team has repeated as champion in 17 years and next season Walton will be 34 years old and Parish a year younger. But the Celtics have the second pick in a deep draft which has several good big men, McHale has proved time and again he is the best power forward in the league and Dennis Johnson's defense gets better with the years. And as long as Larry Bird can dominate a game with his passing, scoring, rebounding and defense, the way he did Sunday, the Celtics could be the team to do it.
While the champagne was flowing in the Celtics' dressing room Sunday, Robert Reid, the Rocket guard, was saying: ''There is a lot to be said about this club. We are young and we will be back next year.''
Several coaches and general managers believed Reid, but they also believed that Akeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson, the Twin Towers, were not enough. Most believed the biggest need was for a guard who can penetrate and take some of the pressure off the big guys up front.
They also discounted Ralph Sampson's poor series in which the 7-4 center-forward scored only 89 points. Instead, they were in agreement that the experience Sampson gained in the championship series would make him a better player. ----Parade of Champions The Celtics will be feted with a parade through the streets of Boston today. . . . The Celtics will divide $505,000 in playoff money and the Rockets' $345,000.