Hornets Crush C's, Despite Dressing only 9

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March 10, 1999

   CHARLOTTE, N.C. - He's been around for a while. He has a Rookie of the Year trophy and he's matched threes with Larry Bird in the heat of the playoffs. Chuck Person may not be headed to Springfield soon, but he thinks he knows the game of basketball a little.

What he saw last night wasn't right. He said so himself. 

And he was on the winning side.

Person was one of seven Hornets in double figures as injury-marred Charlotte, dressing only nine players, mugged the Celtics, 105-87, before an announced gathering of 18,342 at the Coliseum. (They count appendages here.) Boston shot poorly (41 percent) and played uninspiring basketball from start to finish, and what looked to be a sure road kill given Charlotte's state of chaos and depleted roster instead turned into a nightmare.

Person had one theory: The Celtics rely far too much on Antoine Walker, who led them with 32 points.

"The killer for them was that Antoine Walker," Person said. "He had a bad 32. A very bad 32. I don't think that's good basketball."

Person then said, as an aside, that he doesn't like to trash other players, but he couldn't stop himself. He said a lot of the same things about Keith Van Horn last week, when the Hornets beat the Nets. He said one player should not get all the touches because it can tune out the others, who want theirs.

"You have to trust each other, that's the key," he said. "How can you have that much talent and not share it? One guy is getting all the touches on that team and that's not the way it should be. When one guy gets all the touches, it's tough on the other guys. You gotta play together."

The Celtics definitely are not doing that now. Rick Pitino said, "I don't think we have great chemistry," and added that he was disappointed with the effort. That's a mild understatement. If the team thought it had bottomed out in Toronto - and it graded the lowest of the year in that game - this one was exponentially worse, given the opponent.

Charlotte already was without Glen Rice and Anthony Mason. Derrick Coleman also missed the game with a foot injury. Then, just before game time, Bobby Phills was scratched with a possible stress fracture. Charlotte still won handily, with J.R. Reid (26 points, 12 rebounds) leading the way.

The Hornets led at every checkpoint and pulled away in the second half, outscoring the Celtics by 15 points. Paul Pierce sprained his right ankle, Ron Mercer got cramps in his hamstrings, and Kenny Anderson pronounced himself "totally frustrated" by the proceedings. It was not a pretty sight.

"They played really frustrated," said ex-Celtic David Wesley. "And they didn't look real fresh out there. But the frustration is what came out."

Anderson agreed. He and Wesley have been rivals for years, ever since they were on the Nets. There's not a lot of love lost between them - they even exchanged words last night - but Anderson owned up to it.

"I'm totally frustrated now, but I've been in this situation before," Anderson said. "I gotta play through it, that's all. Right now, it's very frustrating. I can't really pinpoint what it is. But I have to keep my head up and play hard. This is what I've got."

Added Walker, "To lose to a team which isn't healthy and has a lot of turmoil, it's hard to explain. I don't have an answer for it." He said the offense, which stagnated again, was well designed, "but when the first option isn't there, we act like it's the end of the world. We don't go to the second or third option and that's what separates us from being a good team from being an average team."

Pitino likened the situation to last year, when the Celtics lost at Denver and Golden State. But he added that at no time last year did the team grade out as poorly as it is grading it out now.

"When you start losing and play poorly, it can steamroll," he said. "If you have great character and veterans, you can turn it around."

Pitino didn't bother to finish the thought, because he knows what we know: The Celtics have neither. And if we want to check for sure, just ask Person. He'll be more than happy to explain it.

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