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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Celtics Sign Darko Milicic

Well, well, well. Just when you thought the Celtics were done wheeling and dealing, they go out and add depth to their front court by signing veteran big man Darko Milicic, who apparently turned down a lucrative offer of 3 years/$6M to play for Real Madrid in Spain to sign with the C’s.

According to a Croatian website, and confirmed by A.Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE, the Celtics sign the 27-year-old Milicic to a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum.

As most fans know, the 7-foot center was selected #2 overall in the 2003 NBA Draft, behind Lebron James and ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, by the Detroit Pistons.

The rest is obviously history as he played just 159 minutes with the Pistons during his rookie season in 2003-2004, which was also the year the Pistons beat the Lakers to win their third championship.

After his rookie season, he started playing a little bit more, but it was nothing meaningful as he was stuck behind veterans Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess and Tayshaun Price during the 05-06 season. That year, he was dealt to the Orlando Magic where his tour of the NBA started. After his stint in Orlando, he was signed as a free agent by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2007, then traded to the New York Knicks in 2009, then traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2010 where he was famously referred to by T-Wolves GM David Kahn as “manna from heaven.” Yeah…..

That never worked out and he was waived by them this July and now he’s a Celtic.

You catch your breath after that.

Analysis

Now enough of his biography. Milicic never lived up to his #2 pick billing and you can be damn sure that Pistons GM Joe Dumars would love to go back and select someone else such as Bosh or Wade, but what’s done is done.

As deep as the draft was in 2003, Milicic has officially been one of the biggest busts in NBA history.

To give him a smidgen of credit, a lot of the situations he has been in haven’t exactly been his fault. During his tenure in Detroit, the teams he played for were stacked with good veteran big men so it was hard to break into regular rotations.

Milicic has also played on some real bad teams that had no shot at winning such as the T-Wolves and Knicks. When you’re in a losing environment for so long, it can take a toll on your psyche.

With saying that, he was part of a championship team his rookie year and a team that went back to the finals in 04-05, so you would’ve thought that would motivate him to get better, work to crack a rotation and take some minutes away from a veteran, but it didn’t.

So the knock on him is he’s lazy and his work ethic isn’t good. Basically, he goes with the flow.

With saying that, he isn’t coming in to take over a position for the Celtics. He’ll be a role player where he’ll back up Chris Wilcox, Jared Sullinger and maybe Jason Collins, depending on how he and Collins fare in training camp.

Milicic can rebound and block shots as he averaged two blocks a game with the T-Wolves two years ago and pulled down over six rebounds a game with the Grizzlies in 07-08.

If Milicic doesn’t want to work or doesn’t show Doc Rivers or Danny Ainge he can compete and be a part of the team, than he’ll be cut. End of story. No harm, no foul. However, if he wants to be a key role player in the NBA and works his butt off in Waltham during training camp, than there will be a spot for him with this team.

The main issue for the Celtics last year was rebounding. They were dead last in that category, and was a key factor in them getting bounced out of the playoffs the last two years and losing the Finals against the Lakers in 2010. Milicic adds depth and a body to absorb fouls and preserve Kevin Garnett’s legs.

All in all, it’s a win-win situation. If he performs, it helps the team. If not, than nice seeing you Darko.

Here’s a famous video of Darko going psycho about some referees.

Photo (cc) by k1k0.com and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.