Happy 56th Birthday Larry Bird

Well it’s another legendary Celtics player’s birthday. It was on this day 56 years ago in the small town of French Lick, Indiana that the Celtics greatest player of all-time was born.

There’s really no place to start with describing how good Larry Bird was when trying to write this blog. I could probably write 1,500 words, and it still wouldn’t be enough.

In sports, one of the most overused words is amazing. It’s used all the time when a big moment occurs, or when a player does something that stuns the fans and media. But using it to describe Bird isn’t an overstatement. He was that good, and for many Celtics fans, he was simply the best.

For 13 years he, along with Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, led the Celtics to three championships in 1981, 1984, and 1986. In addition, they went to the Finals in 1985 and 1987. The three players also formed arguably the greatest front court in NBA history, and were dubbed the Big Three. But Bird was the straw that stirred the drink. During two of the championships, he earned the Finals MVP in 1984 and 1986.

Bird also won Rookie of the Year in 1980, league MVP three times from 1984-1986, and made the All-Star team 12 times.

Throughout the 80s, he and Los Angeles Lakers guard Magic Johnson formed a friendly rivalry that brought interest back to the NBA. After Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain retired, the league went into an attendance and lack of interest funk in the 70s. But the 80s were all about the Celtics and Lakers. Johnson would win five championships versus Bird’s three. In total, the Celtics and Lakers won eight out of a possible ten championships during this decade.

Despite the Lakers winning more, the 1985-1986 Celtics team is considered by many fans and media personalities alike to be the greatest basketball team of all-time. The Celtics went 67-15 on the way to their 16th franchise championship. They were so good that they lost just one game at home, in the Boston Garden, and that includes the playoffs as well. Like I mentioned above, Bird won the league MVP, and Finals MVP that year.

Bird was also the ultimate team player. He often sacrificed his body for the good of the team by diving on the floor for loose balls. In fact, his style of play led to numerous back injuries and an early retirement at the age of 35. To this day his back isn’t right, and it’s a reason why he resigned as president of basketball operations of the Indiana Pacers this past offseason.

There are even many moments of when he came up clutch, and I’ll name a few. Who could forget Bird stealing an inbound pass by Isiah Thomas during the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons? How about him exploding for 60 points against the Atlanta Hawks back in 1985? In fact, it was Bird who scored all 16 of the Celtics final points in that game.

Today, when fans debate on who was the greatest Celtics player of all-time, the argument always ends with either Bird or Russell. The late Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach even dumped fuel onto that debate by saying Bird was the greatest basketball player of all-time. Despite all the accolades and honors from the basketball world, Bird is still just a quiet guy from French Lick, Indiana.

Happy Birthday Larry!

Photo (cc) by nantonin and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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Happy 66th Birthday Jo Jo White

Another Celtics legend’s birthday has arrived. This time it’s for the clutch shooter Jo Jo White who turned 66 years old today.

For fans who don’t know him, White was a staple for the Celtics during the 1970s.

In 1969, the 6’3″ point guard was drafted out of the University of Kansas by legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach. He was part of the Kansas team that went up against Texas Western and their all-black starting lineup, which inspired the movie Glory Road. Kansas ended up losing a double overtime thriller to Texas Western, in the Midwest regional final (Texas Western went on to win the championship).

When White was drafted, Celtics’ legend Bill Russell was on his way out as player/coach. The 1970s would start off slow where the Celtics would miss the playoffs for two season. However the tide would start changing when White, along with Dave Cowens, and John Havlicek would lead the C’s to two championships during the 1974 and 1976 seasons.

During White’s career he made the All Star team seven straight seasons from 1971 to 1977. He would also finish in the top ten in assists for five consecutive seasons from 1972 to 1977.

However, the biggest moment in his career occurred during the 1976 NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns. In Game 5, he scored 33 points in 60 minutes during a thrilling triple-overtime victory, which is considered by many fans and media personalities to be the greatest game in NBA history. His performance earned him the NBA Finals MVP award.

White’s career with the Celtics ended in 1979 when he was traded to the Golden State Warriors. His career officially ended in 1981 after he played several games for the Kansas City Kings.

In 1982, the Celtics retired his number 10 to the Boston Garden rafters to live forever among the team’s greats.

It’s also interesting to note that White isn’t in the Hall of Fame, but according to Basketball Reference, he has the highest Hall of Fame probability rate among players who played pre-1990.

Here is a video of White making a game winning shot against the Philadelphia 76ers during Game 1 of the 1977 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals:

Picture is from the author of this blog’s personal media library. Some rights reserved.

Celtics Get Thumped by the Bucks at Home Opener 99-88

This game was another stinker.

No urgency, horrible defense, too many turnovers, no rebounding, bad shooting and early foul trouble. The complete recipe for a disaster, and it was all against a bad Milwaukee Bucks team.

Inexcusable loss.

For a team that prides itself on defense, tonight it was non-existent. When Kevin Garnett is in full control of what’s going on in the defensive end, then the Celtics have a good chance in winning. But that was nowhere to be found tonight. The Celtics were eaten alive by the fast and talented backcourt combination of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. It was the second straight game where the defense looked lost. Obviously, the new guys are still learning, but the display over the last two games has been atrocious. The learning curve has been pretty slow.

Rebounding is still a joke. It has been for a few years now. Five guys stand around while James Franco’s twin Ersan Ilyasova pulls down 11 rebounds, including four offensive ones, is unacceptable. I know the Celtics like to get into transition after an offensive possession, but watching them get beat on the boards is painful. Teams that don’t rebound, don’t win championships. Ask Bill Russell about how important rebounding is.

The offense was just as bad as the defense. There was no urgency at all in pushing the ball, and that led to turnovers and bad shots. It was Jekyll and Hyde for the offense all night.

The Celtics shot just 30 percent in the first half, including a pathetic 28.3 percent in the second quarter. When the first half finished they were down by 16, and with just a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, they were down by 22. The Celtics did come back in the second half by shooting 61 percent, but the defense and poor decision-making in general killed them.

Let’s look at some individual performances.

The floor general Rajon Rondo had just three assists in the first half. As a leader, it’s his job to get the ball into the hands of his shooters and to make defenses work on every possession. That didn’t happen. By the time Rondo turned it on in the second half, where he had eights assist, it was too late.

Part of the reason Rondo had a bad night was probably to due to Paul Pierce’s ineffectiveness. He was pretty much useless tonight. Pierce had three fouls, two turnovers, and two points in just 10 minutes during the first half.

This reminds me, what is going on with Pierce’s shooting recently. It has been atrocious. He has chucked up some horrible shots recently. Has he morphed into Antoine Walker or something? What gives. I know he was injured last year, but his shooting in the first few games this year have been reminiscent of last year. A year ago, his shooting percentage was .443, down from .497 the year before. Let’s hope age isn’t taking over his body.

With him gone, Jeff Green took his place and he didn’t look to good either.

Green did play better than he did against the Miami Heat a few nights ago, but he still sucked. I don’t know why, but he has a hard time handling a pass and getting into the paint. Green was doing that during the preseason, but after all that was just the preseason. In 27 minutes, he scored just 11 points. Out of those 11 points, seven came in the third quarter where he made all three shots, including a 3-pointer. Overall, for someone who needed to redeem himself after that stinker in Miami, he failed.

Garnett did alright on offense. Nothing to write home about. Under Garnett’s standards, he sucked.

He struggled making easy shots under the basket in the first half, but scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half. I wouldn’t worry about Garnett.

Basketball’s favorite whipping boy Darko Milicic played in his first game with the Celtics, and it was quite forgettable. He looked like a lost little boy looking for his puppy tonight. In just over four minutes, he had two turnovers, a foul, a rebound and a missed shot. That was all in the first half too. Doc Rivers never let him leave the bench after that.

Looking at Jason Terry, he too had a Jekyll and Hyde game. He played only nine minutes in the first half and struggled where he missed his only two shots. In the fourth quarter alone, Terry made all four of his shots including two 3-pointers in all 12 minutes of play. Pretty impressive. Like everyone else though, there was too much inconsistency and when he started to heat up, it was too little and too late.

Despite Terry’s inconsistencies, I’m wondering if he should start over Courtney Lee, who was brutal tonight too. In 33 minutes, he scored just seven points and had three turnovers. One of the turnovers was an ugly pass that was intercepted by Jennings, who took the steal and blew past the Celtics up the court for an easy basket. In fact, that was one of six steals Jennings had in the game too.

I was also disappointed in Rivers tonight. Usually I agree with most of what he does, but not tonight. I never thought I’d see the day that he’d give a rookie more minutes than a veteran. In this case, we’re talking about Jared Sullinger, the young and talented power forward who so far has looked overmatched against the competition. Don’t get me wrong, I think Sullinger will turn out to be a very good player, but I think there’s too much pressure on the rookie. Tonight, he played in 18 minutes. That’s more than double the minutes that Milicic and Chris Wilcox received combined. One of the veterans should’ve gotten more of Sullinger’s minutes. Wilcox has been aching to play, and letting Milicic play just four minutes doesn’t cut it. If Rivers is just going to yank a player like that out of a game for below average basketball and not play him again, they might as well release him.

Oh, Leandro Barbosa went back to being irrelevant too.

If there was a bright side to the game, it’d have to be Brandon Bass. He didn’t have a game like he did against Miami, but he played extremely hard. Bass had 10 points, six rebounds and three uncanny assists. He did struggle on the defensive side like everyone else. Help and rotating defensive schemes that involved him broke down. Jennings and Ellis were able to blow past him for easy scores.

It was also nice to see Wilcox back after his season was cut short last year due to a heart irregularity, which required heart surgery in the offseason. He scored two points.

Overall, the Bucks are a bad team and the Celtics should’ve won. They know it, you know it and I know it. Next up is the Washington Wizards. They’re probably worse than the Bucks. Beating them shouldn’t be an issue for the Celtics, but after tonight’s performance, who knows. One thing for sure is that the defense needs to shape up quick. Rebounding has to be better and defensive needs to pick it up if they want to win. No more allowing 120 or 99 points. The Celtics are better then that. The offense needs to get on the same page and show some urgency too. Consistency, consistency, consistency is the important factor if they want to win.

Happy 64th Birthday Dave Cowens

How can any Celtics fan forget that today is Dave Cowens birthday. Yeah, I understand that remembering athletes birthdays are weird, but I saw that it was his birthday when I was surfing the internet, so I figured why not do a blog on one of the greatest Celtics and basketball players of all-time.

After a rare down period of not winning after Bill Russell retired as a player and coach, the Celtics were in a small state of flux.

Then during the 1970 NBA Draft, Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach pulled another rabbit out of a hat and drafted a big red-headed, Kentucky boy out of Florida State University with the 4th pick of the draft. This was the beginning of Cowens career with the Celtics, which lasted from 1970-1980.

Of course, Auerbach was told that the 6’9″ Cowens was too small to play center. He was told that he couldn’t match up against big centers such as Wilt Chamberlain or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That was a bunch of crap. In fact, the league would have to watch out for Cowens for a full decade.

What did Cowens do in his 11-year Celtics career?

He was a seven-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year in 1971, All-Star MVP in 1973, league MVP in 1973, All-Defensive First Team in 1976, NBA All-Rookie First Team in 1971 and of course a two-time NBA champion in 1974 and 1976.

After Cowens retired, he was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team and elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991.

Not bad ehh?

Don’t forget Cowens was probably the hardest and grittiest player to ever wear the Celtics uniform. His coach during the two years he won championships was Tom Heinsohn. You can bet your bottom dollar that if Heinsohn was handing out “Tommy Points” back then that Cowens would be the recipient and winner every night.

Cowens was all heart, and he poured buckets of sweat and even some blood at times for the Celtics, his teammates, Auerbach and Heinsohn. He was always diving on the floor for loose balls, and devouring rebounds whenever the ball was within an arms length reach and then some.

In a day where athletes are overpaid divas and who go by whatever their agent tells them, it’s always good to look back and reflect on players, such as Cowens, who gave everything they got to the game in order to win.

Here are some highlights from his career.

Photo (cc) by murphman61 and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Five Basketball Blogs That Will Keep You Informed

If you like websites such as ESPN, CSNNE, FoxSports, and Sports Illustrated but want more, then take a look at these five interesting blogs, especially if you’re a Celtics’ fan!

Over the last few years, Yahoo! Sports has emerged as a leader in breaking sports news or reporting on interesting stories. It has earned such a good reputation that many of the best sportswriters in America have left newspapers to go work at Yahoo!.

Being a reputable website also led Yahoo! to create blogs for different sports. For basketball, the blog Ball Don’t Lie has interesting stories that range from announcing player trades or signings, to President Obama’s obsession of playing pick-up basketball games to catching up with past players such as Celtics’ legend Bill Russell.

There’s a little bit of everything.

Aside from this, many of the sportswriters for each sport have their own blogs too. Here fans can find blogs for NBA experts Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Spears who provide in-depth coverage of player movement and rumors.

If Yahoo! Sports is too broad with their coverage, then maybe SB Nation would satisfy a fan’s thirst for sports.

SB Nation is a site where everything is strictly blogs. This is a great site if fans want to get news for just the teams or region they live in. For example, there’s a SB Nation Boston with sites that follow under it for the teams in Boston such as CelticsBlog for the Celtics. SB Nation is a must visit for sports fans.

Like Yahoo!, NBC Sports jumped onto the sports blogging bandwagon as well.

It has ProBasketballTalk (PBT) and it’s a good site as it gives fans news from around the NBA, rumors, and articles on past and current players. The downside is the majority of articles are written by just one writer. However, it’s highly worth visiting, as it’s quite informative.

The last blog that will be highlighted is RealGM Basketball. There are good blogs here, as this site gathers all sorts of NBA news from the internet to form their articles. However, the highlight for this site is that all the current players in the NBA can be found in a database. For example, if you want to look up Paul Pierce and see all the news or stats regarding him; you click on his name and a page will come up with all sorts of information about his career. Another cool feature for this website is you can sort players out alphabetically, by team, position, or college etc.

These are just a few blogs that’ll interest you, but overall these websites will get you that basketball fix that you crave.

Photo (cc) by Will Brenner and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.