November 1, 1979
Larry Bird, the most publicized National Basketball Association rookie since, well, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, is making a big impression on his first trip around the league.
He brought his act to Piscataway Wednesday night and helped the Celtics to their seventh victory in nine games. Bird is averaging close to 19 points a game and is proving to be one of the best passing big men in the league.
"This is a good life and as long as we're winning it's an even better life," the 6-foot-9 Indiana State product said. "It's a good life and I wouldn't trade it for nothing."
The season is still young, the legs are still fresh and the enthusiasm is still there. The dogdays of the NBA don't hit until winter and Bird has yet to experience the rigors of traveling.
Bird has become a media event in each city the Celtics play. He is a novelty everywhere he goes, and coach Bill Fitch figures it will begin to take its toll shortly.
"He's has lived up to everything we hoped. The thing is he's such a great person," Fitch said. "Larry is going to get better, naturally. But he is adjusting as we go around the league.
"He doesn't know what Los Angeles looks like, except for Magic. Imagine what he'll be going through when we play in San Diego, Los Angeles and Golden State in three nights. None of those places would have seen him and it will be rough."
Bird is learning each night, too. One night it's Julius Erving, then Bob Dandridge, Rick Barry, John Drew...
"Night in and night out I face the best. Dr. J one night, Bobby Dandridge the next night. It wears the body down," Bird said. "Playing defense is probably the biggest adjustment. As a rookie, they really take the ball to you.
"This is a strong league and I'm glad to be part of it."
New Jersey Coach Kevin Loughery, who watched helplessly as Bird led the Celtics to an easy 116-79 victory over the Nets, was impressed like everyone else with the rookie.
"He's a great player. He didn't do anything that surprised me," Loughery said.
Boston fans are hungry for a basketball winner after their team went through a very uncharacteristicCeltic-type 29-53 season last year.
"We have great fans," Bird said. "I just hope we prove we're a better team than people anticipated."