Celtic price

by Adam Small | 11/22/00 6:00am

Ahh, the Boston Celtics. One of professional sports' most venerated franchises, with 16 NBA Championships to their credit and 28 members of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

And now they suck. They went from dominating the Eastern Conference in the 1980s, to being a perennial playoff team in the early '90s to a doormat in the late '90s.

What happened? We can start by looking at personnel.

From the legendary days of the Big Three (Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish) and DJ (Dennis Johnson), the Celtics have come to having big name players like Chris Corchiani, Stojko Vrankovic, Mark Blount and the inimitable John Bagley.

The Celtics and cheapskate owner Paul Gaston haven't been able to attract any talent in the last decade. They've drafted what they could and proceeded to overpay them (Dee Brown), be unable to sign them (Jon Barry) or let them go to Europe and never come back (Anderson Hunt).

Untimely death has certainly not helped this team. Len Bias, who easily could have been better than the real Michael Jordan, or so Celtics scouts said, died of a drug overdose.

Then there's the Reggie Lewis saga, but we won't go into that, since it's left a black eye on Reggie's name, and the name of the Celtics.

Boston has also had some of the worst coaches in history of late. Chris Ford was a relative reject (see his years as Clippers coach for further proof) and M.L. Carr was so bad at coaching and general managing that he made his Celtics teams look like the 1589 version of the Spanish Armada.

All this, while good people languished on the bench as an assistant (Dennis Johnson) or in limbo as an announcer (Danny Ainge) before going on to success elsewhere.

Well they've got Rick Pitino now to solve the second problem, and Ricky has returned to his college boy Antoine Walker and Kansas product Paul Pierce to solve the first.

The last two years with this triumvirate has produced no more enjoyable results than the previous two years. The Celtics added Kenny Anderson to the mix and had a revolving door of players with them, but they still have absolutely sucked.

But wait! This season the C's are 4-4, having lost three of the four by under five points. They have looked at times like a legitimate franchise.

Is this a Bostonian renaissance? Could we see the first Celtic playoff game since 1995?

That depends on health and mystery. Health might refer to the oft-injured Anderson (currently injured), and injury-plagued bad boy Chris Herren (currently Anderson's banged-up backup) being able to add their sparkplug-like talents to the mix.

Boston needs to teach a new talent at Camp Pitino: longevity. It needs to turn Kenny Anderson into the NBA equivalent of Strom Thurmond, political views notwithstanding.

Walker and Pierce must clearly stay healthy as well, as the two legitimate (maybe) stars. Pierce gave everyone a scare this fall when he was stabbed 13 times at a nightclub fight, but he has returned to play his best ball yet.

Mystery hinges on Herren and largely on Tony Battie. The former Texas Tech Red Raider has shown hints of Shaq and just as many hints of Nervous Pervis (Ellison, of Louisville fame).

Should the Celtics' Battie develop the sort of consistency Boston fans have grown to demand, nay expect, nay pray for from a big man, the Celtics may be in line for a playoff berth.

That would be welcome, since Boston's historical rivals, the Lakers, Knicks and 76ers are making the Celtics look pathetic. The Lakers are the defending champs, the Sixers are the only undefeated team in the NBA and the Knicks are 5-3 and looking like they might have another year left in their gas tanks.

At least Boston fans could wave goodbye to Patrick (I missed, ergo there was a foul) Ewing and know that they won't have to see his hideously ugly mug drain clutch fadeaways against their team anymore. Or at least only twice a year now.

Perhaps newcomer Jerome Moiso will answer the leprechaun's prayers. But he hasn't even taken the time to pull a Walt Dropo, getting dropped onto the injured list at the beginning of the season.

Some say the C's lack a big man. I, for one, feel that the Celtics lack a big time clutch shooter.

Reggie Miller made many a Pacer fan forget about the injuries and foul trouble that always dogged Rick Smits. In 1994, the Suns had no big man at all, but Dan Majerle was able to bury shots for them when it became necessary.

Boston's got, hold your breath now, Bryant Stith! What the Celtics really need is to find a way to pick up a top-notch shooter this offseason.

It's time for some serious Celtic winning guys. Red Auerbach, the Celtics' inspirational beacon, lost his wife this off-season, so the Celtics should reward him with the rebirth of HIS team, which has been dead far too long.