McHale Not Much of an Athlete


As the Celtics were sifting through the Detroit newspaper's sports section during breakfast yesterday, they read this comment by Piston Kelly Tripucka: "(Kevin) McHale is just so big, with those long arms. He's not really an athlete, he just does some things really well. McHale's teammates loved it. Morale makes a big difference in a six-month season, and it's important that everyone experiences a little humbling now and then. McHale has been on a roll and was due for a some chop-busting. Tripucka provided ample ammunition.

"Hey, Kev, Tripuka says you're not an athlete," laughed Danny Ainge as the Celtics boarded a bus for Detroit Metropolitan Airport. "He thinks you're just some big geek.""Who's Tripucka think he is?," answered a smiling McHale. "He's not exactly Renaldo Nehemiah or Bruce Jenner." On the bus, assistant coach Chris Ford noticed the quote in the paper. "Hey, Kev," started Ford. "Did you see what Tripucka said about you?""Yeah, yeah,' sighed McHale. "Five guys have already started on me about it."

Perfect. Just when you think you're pretty hot stuff, a good teammate will find a way to bring you down to earth. Large or small, with megabucks or rookie's wages, no one is spared.However, it'll take more than careless comments by Tripucka to stifle Boston's dominating 6-foot-10 reserve. In 27 games, he's averaging 19.5 points and 8.1 rebounds while shooting 58 percent (195-338) from the floor. McHale has been a one-man demolition derby against the Pistons. In Saturday's 129-115 Celtic victory, McHale scored eight straight and 10 of 12 points in a fourth-quarter 18-4 run that carried the Celtics from a two-point deficit to a four-point lead. McHale finished with a season-high 30 points and 16 rebounds.

Scoring 13 in the fourth quarter against the Pistons was nothing new for McHale. Three weeks ago McHale scored 19 of his 29 points in the fourth period as the Celtics beat Detroit, 114-99, in the Garden. In four games against Detroit, he's averaged 26.8 points and 12.3 rebounds while shooting 63 percent (39-62). "I don't think they are easier to score on than any other team," he said Saturday night. "The offensive players in this league are so skilled, it doesn't matter how well your defense is working, it's how your offense is working."

In other words, even a nonathlete can take over an NBA game, right Kev?


The Silverdome crowd (24,318) was the third straight time more than 20,000 attended. Only the Seattle SuperSonics have duplicated the feat . . . With Reggie Theus benched for three straight games, Piston Terry Tyler owns the NBA's longest consecutive-game streak (434) . . . The Pistons might sign Lionel Hollins, who has dumped agent Larry Fleischer in favor of Ron Grinker . . . Robert Parish leads the Celtics in minutes and is averaging 37.8 overall. He's been on the floor for a whopping 40 minutes per game in the last nine games. The Chief had a season-high 19 rebounds Saturday. Boston's 68 rebounds against Detroit was tops in the NBA this year. Dennis Johnson had 15 rebounds Saturday. . . Larry Bird was 5 for 18 Saturday and is now 14-41 (34 percent) in the Silverdome this year. Milwaukee, Detroit and Golden State are Bird's least- favorite arenas . . . Quinn Buckner has scored only 12 points in his last seven games . . . Scott Wedman (strain in right hamstring) did not make the trip. "K. C. told him to rest, and it's gotten better since he's rested it," whispered trainer Ray Melchiorre, who's fighting off a case of laryngitis . . . Jones gave the Celtics yesterday and today off. They'll practice tomorrow and entertain the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday, then New Jersey Friday.

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