Blakely: Light up a birthday cigar for Red

Blakely: Light up a birthday cigar for Red

BOSTON -- He stood just 5 feet and 10 inches off the ground, but make no mistake about it.
Arnold “Red” Auerbach, the architect who shaped the Boston Celtics into a dynasty of the likes the NBA has not seen before or since, was a basketball giant who still casts a tremendously large shadow over the league.


Today marks what would have been Auerbach’s 100th birthday, a milestone worth noting for a man who did so much for the game.
Auerbach, who passed away on October 28, 2006, did more than make the Boston Celtics a household name.
His up-tempo brand of play made the Celtics -- and the NBA, for that matter -- must-watch basketball at a time when the league was still establishing itself.
But the true measure of Auerbach’s worth goes far beyond the 16 NBA championships (nine as a head coach, seven as an executive) or the countless Hall of Famers who played for him.
His greatest accomplishments can be seen in the lives he impacted, the players who got to know him beyond as a head coach, and the opponents who had little choice but to respect him for what he accomplished.
“As I reflect on when I was playing . . . I completely trusted Red Auerbach,” Bill Russell said in an earlier interiew. “That he would not do anything at my expense to make himself look better. I had that trust and it was a bond. So whenever he said something to me, I took it that he was trying to help. And that’s very difficult to get with players and coaches.”

Russell shared a story about Auerbach wanting to talk to him after a team dinner shortly before the start of the 1958-59 season.

“So we go up to his suite and [Auerbach] says, ‘Listen, tomorrow morning, when we start practice I’m going to be all over you,’ ” Russell recalled. “ 'Don’t pay any attention to it. If I can’t yell at you, I can’t yell at anybody. I’m yelling at you, but it’s not really aimed at you. It’s for the other guys.' ’”
Russell went along with it, but he acknowledged it wasn’t easy.
“So the next day, it’s like I gave him an unlimited budget and he went over it,” said Russell who immediately broke out into laughter.”
A few years later, Auerbach thanked Russell for allowing him to do that.
“I said, ‘Red, I came this close to attacking you,' ” quipped Russell.
Auerbach’s players weren’t the only ones who held him in high esteem.
“Red Auerbach helped the Celtics to win, immeasurably,” Los Angeles Lakers great Wilt Chamberlain said prior to his death in 1999. “I’ve never been a huge Red Auerbach fan. He was the adversary and sometimes he really ticked me off. [But he] was able to do things with his team that no other coach didand he helped to make them the best franchise in sports. Just like [John] Wooden did for UCLA . . . Red did so in spades in basketball professionally.”
The NBA logo himself, Jerry West, also had high praise for Auerbach.
“He was one of the first coaches that commanded a lot of attention,” said West, now a consultant to the Los Angeles Clippers. “The thing that was most noticeable in my mind was how hard he got the players to play for him every night. His players played so hard, it was unbelievable. His teams played a very aggressive kind of game, both offensively and defensively. They played with a confidence that was hard to believe sometimes. You’d have some guy come down and shoot one on four. He encouraged that style of play. He wanted an open game. He knew how to play with the officials. His demeanor on the sideline was very interesting. He knew how to motivate his players and he was just one of those people, sometimes they’re hard to describe how they get the most out of people. He had a skill very few coaches have been able to emulate.”
Added former Celtic Bill Walton: “There is no franchise that has contributed more to the NBA than the Boston Celtics. And to me, that all comes from Red Auerbach. Red’s ability to identify the talent to put the team together.”
But as much as Auerbach embraced the spotlight that shined so brightly for so many years on him and his players, it was those quiet moments to himself, when the final ashes of yet another victory cigar have smoldered down, that were times to reflect on what was an amazing basketball journey that took this scrappy kid from Brooklyn to the highest of heights in professional basketball.

“The best moment was when you win your first championship,” Auerbach recalled in an interview prior to his death. "And after the game I went home, I sat in a room, a chair, ‘you’re one lucky S-O-B,' talking to myself. 'Imagine a guy like you, what you did, your background, you’re the coach of the greatest basketball team in the world. How good can it get? You’re one lucky guy.' ”
But Celtics fans and the NBA are the really lucky ones who have benefited greatly from this 5-foot-10 basketball giant.
“His legacy," said West, "will be there forever."



NBA: Congrats to the Celtics on the win, but they for sure should not have won

File Photo

NBA: Congrats to the Celtics on the win, but they for sure should not have won

The NBA officials' Last Two Minute report for Tuesday is out, and boy did the Celtics get away with one!

The league admitted to missing two infractions -- both committed by Marcus Morris -- on the possession on which Morris hit a game-winning three-pointer against the Thunder. 

The C's began the possession with Morris inbounding the ball, but a stopwatch revealed to the league that Morris did not release the ball within the five seconds allotted on an inbounding play. Had the correct call been made, the ball would have been turned over to the Thunder, who at the time held a two-point lead with 7.7 seconds remaining. 

Furthermore, video replay led the league to determine that Morris traveled prior to taking the shot. The video evidence that suggested this was that Morris was wearing an NBA jersey in the video, but also he moved his pivot foot prior to the release of his dribble. That call would have also given the Thunder the ball. 

What these nerds didn't consider is that the basketball gods have more power than their stopwatches. What a win. 

Celtics have shown a knack for the comeback this year

AP Photo

Celtics have shown a knack for the comeback this year

BOSTON -- As I made my way towards the Boston Celtics locker room following their 100-99 win over Oklahoma City on Tuesday night, I walked past co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, who, as you might expect, was pleased with what he had just witnessed.
“That was a good one,” he said.
That’s one way to describe it.


But explaining the Houdini-like way the Celtics seem to get out of some serious jams over and over again, and against really good teams, is indeed a head-scratcher for most.
It’s getting to the point where we’re running out of fresh adjectives to describe this team, which has a knack for the comeback.
“Improbable” doesn’t do justice to how Boston’s hit-the-lottery luck has played out so often on nights when it seemed on the doorstep of defeat.
And this town loves a good comeback story, whether it’s Tom Brady leading the Patriots to a Super Bowl win after being down by 25 points, or the Celtics spotting the NBA champ Golden State Warriors a 17-point cushion before rallying for a meaningful November win -- a rarity in the NBA.
But the obscure and unexpected have become standard in this seemingly alternate basketball universe that the Celtics play in, one that we have been bearing witness to all season.

I mean, look at their body of work:

DECEMBER 18: Down by one on the road at Indiana in the closing seconds of play in what appears to be a tough road loss, Terry Rozier steals and races down the floor looking like Deion Sanders in high-tops, for a game-winning dunk.

DECEMBER 28: Trailing the Houston Rockets by 26 points in the third quarter, they rally back and steal the win with not one, but two offensive fouls drawn in the last minute by Marcus Smart against perennial league MVP candidate James Harden.

JANUARY 11: In London, they erased a 22-point deficit and defeated Philly.

FEBRUARY 4: There was a buzzer-beater by Al Horford to beat Portland on Super Bowl Sunday.

And . . . well, you get the idea.

Boston has six wins by a single point this season, which is tied with Miami for the season lead and is one shy of tying the franchise record for one-point wins in a season. 

In addition, Boston has won 10 games this season in which it fell behind by 12 or more points. 
Winning so many games under less-than-ideal circumstances has not only padded the Celtics' win total, but also reinforced this team with a Teflon-strong mindset. They believe they're tthe ultimate practitioner of basketball necromancy, consistently finding a way to rise up from the basketball graveyard of defeat and win in dramatic fashion.

Like they did Tuesday night against the Thunder.

How can you bank on Carmelo Anthony, a career 81.2 percent free-throw shooter, missing a pair with less than nine seconds to play?
Or botching the play Brad Stevens drew up at the end of the game -- "We kind of messed [it] up," said Jayson Tatum -- but, rather than it leading to a turnover, instead becoming a game-winning 3-pointer by Marcus Morris with 1.8 seconds to spare? 


 It was another crazy ending in what has been a season filled with bizarre finishes, jaw-dropping rallies and a never-say-it’s-over brand of basketball that has kept Celtics fans on the edge of their seats all season.
“It’s great to be in a situation where you’re down six with under a minute to play or whatever it was, and you find a way to win the game,” said Stevens. “That’s going to be pretty unique, but they just kept playing the next possession and we were fortunate that that shot went down. That was a heck of a shot by Marcus."
A heck of a shot?
But in this bizarro world of Celtics basketball this season, it was predictable as the Thunder became yet another team to play Boston and leave wondering the same thing most Celtics fans do … “Did THAT just happen?