Conlon Helping Celtics
January 7, 1997
His numbers suggest that Marty Conlon is slightly less than an NBA superstar. Nonetheless, he is there when the Celtics need him, and lately that has been every night.
On Sunday night, he was on the floor for 28 minutes of a 109-102 victory over the Phoenix Suns. At crunch time in the fourth quarter, he was working the two-man game with Dee Brown and punishing the Suns' Mark Bryant with bump-and-grind tactics.
All in a day's work, says Conlon.
"A lot of people don't think of me as a great defensive player," says Conlon, an NBA veteran who has played for six other teams, including the Suns. "But I think I can hold my own against anybody, as long as I know how the referees are calling the game.
"This team is pretty young. We have good people but some guys who aren't familiar with all the players in the league. I've become real comfortable with David Wesley and Dee in the two-man game. I think he's good as long as we spread the floor."
Finding positives in any Celtic game these days can be difficult, so it was nice to see the former Providence College star contribute. The box score showed that Conlon had just 6 points and 7 rebounds. But when you factor in 6 steals and his ability to frustrate Bryant, it was a solid all-around effort.
No one will ever confuse Conlon with Larry Bird. It is a strain to move his 6-foot-11-inch, 245-pound body up and down the court. He can shoot, but when he does, people tend to hold their breath.
Despite that, Conlon stays employed.
"The thing you like about Marty is that he is able to use experience to fight for position," says coach M.L. Carr. "When you're trying to prevent a guy from going to the basket, position becomes important. He's been around for a while and he understands how to play the game.
"Because he is an offensive threat, you have to pay attention to him. Everybody knows he can shoot the ball. So you have to respect that. You get him on the floor and he won't hurt you."
Conlon is one of those guys who kicks around the NBA but still seems to be in demand. When he was signed by Boston as a free agent Nov. 2 for the minimum $ 247,000, he joined his seventh team. He also played for Charlotte, Sacramento, Washington, Milwaukee, Seattle and Phoenix. He has played in 24 games this season, averaging 2.6 points.
Conlon is a member of the Green Team, which means in practice he works with the players who come off the bench. Conlon plods along and bangs away in the trenches with surprising success. Fans get excited when he arches a 3-pointer.
"Marty is a good passer and a very deceptive scorer," says Brown. "He's not pretty going to the basket. But he makes some tough shots. We run a lot of pick-and-rolls in practice. He sets screens for Todd, or Dana when he's spotting up. In practice, we beat the White Team every day. We make them work and take pride in doing that."
Given the Celtics' injury problems, the confidence that the Green Team brings into games can only be a plus. Frank Brickowski (sore right shoulder), Dino Radja (bruised lower leg) and Alton Lister (strained right hamstring) are all hurting. Any contribution off the bench is much appreciated.
Discipline and understanding your role is something all players can work on, says Conlon.
"It's been a tough transition for me," he says. "But now I feel more in tune with what the guys are doing on both offense and defense. You have to understand your role. Sometimes you're going to shoot a little more. Sometimes you set some picks.
"Against Phoenix, the guys who shoot the ball were hot. Thus, I felt I should set picks, hitting guys who are open and just hitting the boards. As long as I know that's what I've got to do, I'm comfortable doing it."
The Celtics took a rare day off from practice yesterday and will resume work today at Brandeis in preparation for tomorrow night's game against San Antonio . . . Todd Day's 25-point performance against Phoenix was a reminder of what he can do when his head is in the game. Day hit 9 of 18 shots, including 3 of 6 from 3-point land. It should happen more. "It's not from a lack of confidence," said Day. "I have confidence every time I shoot. But in this game, I got some shots and a good rhythm. I was able to get my feet under me and not have to rush it. I get good looks at the basket. Anytime I do that, I'm capable of scoring. If I rush out there and try to do too much, I wind up taking bad shots." . . . Keep Brown away from Foxborough. He is a diehard fan of his hometown Jacksonville Jaguars and already has jinxed one NFL team. "We were in Denver the day before they played Jacksonville," said Brown. "I went to the stadium and put the hex on it. It's a Southern thing. I took some of the dirt and ate it, and spit it back on the field. Got a win! I'll try it at Foxborough and see what happens."
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