Kevin Durant and Reggie Lewis: A number of similarities


Kevin Durant and Reggie Lewis: A number of similarities

Boston has never stopped dreaming about Kevin Durant racing down the parquet floor in Celtics green. The vision feels as fresh today, with Durant set to enter free agency, as it did nine years ago, when the Celts had the second-best odds at landing him in the 2007 draft.

But fate intervened. The ping-pong balls fell wrong, the Celtics ended up with the fifth pick, Durant went to Seattle, and Danny Ainge constructed the new Big 3.

Even though it worked out fine -- remember Banner 17? -- Boston’s feelings for Durant haven’t diminished. Fans still wonder what would’ve happened had the C’s won the lottery and landed Durant.

With rumors swirling around the Celtics’ looming pursuit of Durant, Isaiah Thomas recently sent out a tweet with Durant's No. 35 next to a green shamrock. The tweet was representative of Boston’s all-in recruitment of Durant, but it also sent a reminder to fans of what could’ve been -- not just of Durant, but of another No. 35.

Durant isn’t just any NBA superstar to Celtics fans. At a subconscious level, Durant is a reminder of Reggie Lewis.

Celtic fans have always wondered what could’ve been if, 23 years ago, Lewis hadn’t passed away at the age of 27. But beyond the vexing question of “What if?” Durant’s resemblance to Lewis extends deep.

Like Lewis, Durant is lanky with wide shoulders and long arms. Like Lewis, Durant can score by shooting over the top or by dunking loudly at the rim. Durant has the chance to deliver the promise that Lewis showed, a beacon of hope for a franchise starved for a championship.

Durant will listen to the Celtics’ pitch when free agency opens on July 1. Boston has plenty to offer: Strong organizational stability, a cohesive locker room, the assets to add multiple players.

But the Celts can pitch much than that, if they choose, by offering Durant -- who wears No. 35 in Oklahoma City -- the opportunity to honor the life of Reggie Lewis by wearing his retired No. 35.

I asked Lewis’ mother, Inez Ritch, how she’d feel if the Celtics asked for her blessing to offer No. 35 to Durant as a tribute to her son.

“I don’t think it would take anything from Reggie because his number is still hanging up in the Garden,” Ritch told me over the phone. “If I see Durant running up and down the court with the No. 35, I don’t know how my emotions would be until it happens.

"I don’t think I would be upset about it. I think it would be a good thing because he is a very nice, humble young man. I don’t know a lot about him, but I know of some of the things he has achieved while wearing the No. 35.”

It’s not an unprecedented move for pro sports team to unretire a number. The Spurs gave Bruce Bowen’s No. 12 to LaMarcus Aldridge. Syracuse recently restored Jim Brown’s No. 44. The Broncos gave Frank Tripucka’s No. 18 to Peyton Manning.

Having a player of Durant’s stature wear Lewis’ No. 35 would stand as a symbol of the Celtics’ 70-year history. Lewis was 27 was when he passed away in 1993. Durant, who turns 28 in November, could carry on the tradition with honor.

“You can feel the tradition walking in here,” Durant once said in respect to Celtics lore. “You see all the guys plastered on the walls as you walk into the locker room. The tradition of being a Boston Celtic is second to none.”

In the private confines of the visitor’s locker room at TD Garden, the stories continued. Speaking with myself and a few other reporters, Durant described how Kendrick Perkins raved about his time in Boston. The fans. The front office. The legacy. Then, as Durant walked slowly down the hallway towards his team bus, he looked at the Celtics legends pictured on the wall and whispered, “Man, there's a lot of history in this building."

The Celtics retired Lewis’ No. 35 in 1995 not only for his triumphs on the court, but his impact off it. Lewis was active in the community in Boston and at home in the Baltimore area. He ran his own foundation and always participated in community events that helped children in need.

“It was quite an honor to have my child be recognized in this manner for the achievements that he had achieved in the short time,” Ritch said. “And to know that people all over loved him so much, it’s quite an honor to be able to say that was my little boy.”

Durant grew up only one hour away from Lewis, in Washington D.C., and today has his own foundation that aims to enrich the lives of at-risk youth from low-income backgrounds. The struggling D.C./Baltimore area longs for him to return home, but Boston isn’t far and could serve as a close connection to the area.

Both on and off the court, Durant is the only player in sports that can ‘remember Reggie.’ There is no other player the Celtics should even consider offering the number to. There’s something poetic about even the thought of it. It almost feels like destiny.

The No. 35 will always belong to Reggie Lewis, but Kevin Durant is a player fitting to continue his legacy.


Blakely: Why Celtics should feel pretty lucky on St. Pat's

Blakely: Why Celtics should feel pretty lucky on St. Pat's

It’s hard being an NBA fan and not thinking about the Celtics on St. Patrick’s Day.

All that green, the shamrocks and the libations that so many of us enjoy even more today than most days, it’s pretty cool and certainly something – well, for me at least – to be thankful for.

The Celtics, yeah, they got a few – quite a few - things to be thankful for as well.

So what better day to point a few of them out than the unofficial holiday of the Celtics, St. Patrick’s Day.


When Danny Ainge drafted Terry Rozier three years ago, I admit I wasn’t a believer. You had guards, Danny Ainge. What do you need another one for? Draft Sam Dekker from Wisconsin, or UVA’s Justin Anderson. Hey, that kid Bobby Portis from Arkansas looks pretty good, too.

Ainge and the Celtics took a look at all those guys and came away convinced that Rozier was the best fit for what the wanted both in the short and long-term from that draft.

While Rozier has not emerged as a star, he has shown us all more than enough to know that he’s a pretty damn good player.

And throw in the fact that the dude was born on St. Patrick’s Day - as was Ainge - how can this guy not have a little bit of luck on his side?


LeBron James’ timing has been impeccable when it comes to leaving for greener pastures. So, when Kyrie Irving let the Cavs know he wanted out of Cleveland, it took a minute to sink that they were about to be LeBron’d by someone other than LeBron. But in making his desire to be traded, Irving was giving the Cavs an opportunity to get something in return for shipping him out to who knows where. The Cavs eventually wound up with a couple of draft picks, with one being a coveted first-rounder via Brooklyn in June’s NBA draft along with a trio of players headlined by Isaiah Thomas who was still on the mend from a hip injury.

The injury took longer to heal and the Cavs wound up trading Thomas and ex-Celtic Jae Crowder to teams out West.

Today, Cleveland is treading water as a middle-of-the-pack club that has shown very few signs of late that they will be nothing more than first-round fodder for some team with deep playoff aspirations and a roster ready to make that happen.

And Irving?

He was named to his fifth All-Star team and has spent most of this season playing for a Boston team that until recently held down best record in the East and currently sits in the No. 2 spot.

Irving is dealing with a sore left knee that has limited him recently to not playing, but it doesn’t appear to be an injury that will significantly impact what he does in the postseason for a Celtics team that, despite all their injuries, still holds out hope of making a strong postseason run.


Whenever you ask Brad Stevens about his decision to leave Butler for the Celtics in the NBA, he makes it clear from the outset how difficult a decision it was for him and his family.

Just imagine if Stevens had won a national title instead of having a pair of national runner-up finishes to his name? Leading a mid-major like Butler to an NCAA title, which would have meant slaying UConn or Duke in the process? Stevens would have been more than just a big deal on the Butler campus. He would have been seen as a basketball god who would have had an even tougher time walking away from what he had helped build at Butler.

So Celtics fans, be thankful for Duke and UConn because without their national title game wins over Butler, there’s a very good chance that Brad Stevens would not be coaching the Celtics now.


Remember back in 2013 when Danny Ainge had the serious basketball man crush on Duke’s Justise Winslow, a player that he was willing to trade plenty of draft picks (reportedly as many as four first-round picks) to acquire the rights to draft?

Ainge suspected the Miami Heat would select him with the No. 10 pick, so Ainge tried to swing a deal with the Charlotte Hornets who were in the No. 9 slot.

Charlotte liked Winslow, but they were more smitten with Frank Kaminsky. Because of that, they wouldn’t do a deal with the Celtics.

Not doing that deal allowed Boston to have the kind of assets to eventually acquire Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Irving, moves that have collectively led to Boston’s surge towards the top of the NBA standings despite having the fifth-youngest team in the NBA.

Winslow, selected by the Heat with the 10th overall pick, has come nowhere close to being the impact player Miami was hoping they would get. And while Kaminsky has had some decent stretches, he too has been a bit underwhelming. Meanwhile, Boston kept its 16th overall pick and used it to select Rozier who as it turns out, has arguably been the best player among the trio.

Having a good scouting staff is important, of course.

But a little luck every now and then doesn’t hurt, either.




Against Magic, C's do what they're supposed to

Against Magic, C's do what they're supposed to

Beating one of the few teams already eliminated from the playoff race is in itself not that big a deal.

It’s called doing what you’re supposed to do.

But for these Celtics, their 92-83 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday night was more than just another victory.

It was the latest installment in a season filled with teachable moments and lessons that can bolster in some fashion their chances at a deep playoff run.

While there’s no way they’re going to go far without their core guys Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, getting guys to fill in for them and still manage to win, is important in this team’s overall development in both the present and future.

No one on the Celtics’ roster can score like Irving, the league’s 11th-ranked scorer at 24.4 points per game.

Still, getting his fill-ins Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin to go for 17 and 10 points certainly helps.

And Jaylen Brown’s ability to play both ends of the floor at a high level is huge, but rookie Abdel Nader has shown he too has some potential to be a solid two-way talent.

Smart’s defense sets him apart from others, but the Celtics collectively were able to make up for that with an impressive defensive rating of 83.1 against the Orlando.

And their collective efforts serve as yet another teachable moment for the Celtics.

Here are five takeaways from a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score might lead one to believe: 

There may not be another Celtic whose stock has risen more than Terry Rozier’s this season. He has become a reliable two-way talent off the bench whose capable of giving you starter-like production when needed. He had 17 points against the Magic along with seven rebounds and five assists.

With Marcus Smart (right thumb) out for the rest of the regular season, Terry Rozier in the starting lineup along with Marcus Morris, those are three really big chunks of Boston’s second unit no longer coming off the bench. The second unit players might have been different, but that didn’t affect the Celtics’ bench from impacting the game in a significant way. Against the Magic, they outscored Orlando’s backups, 39-28. 

He signed with the Boston Celtics at a time when a role for him was far from defined. His patience and Boston’s faith in him has paid for both as Larkin continues to be that utility player that Brad Stevens has leaned on at times. Larkin was solid off the bench, scoring 10 points.

This may be one of the closest Coach of the Year votes we have ever had in the NBA. Regardless how short the list may be, you can bet Brad Stevens will be on it. The way he has been positioning the Celtics to be among the last teams standing despite all the injuries they have endured this season, speaks to his ability to not just draw up X's and O’s but also his ability to develop players who when called upon to play, are more than ready for the challenge.

It’s fair to expect the Celtics are going to be short-handed for the rest of the season, which means those still around have to step their game up – Horford included.

For Horford, stepping up involves being more assertive as a scorer and not rely as much on his skills as a play-maker. We saw that from Horford on Friday, as he tallied a near double-double of 15 points and nine rebounds but more important, he took a game-high 18 shot attempts.