Sanders named to 2011 Hall of Fame Class


Sanders named to 2011 Hall of Fame Class

By A.Sherrod Blakely

WALTHAM Every now and then, you'll see this slender, lanky, bow-tie wearing man at the Boston Celtics practice facility.

One by one, current Celtics will stop to say a few words to the distinguished gentleman, showing the kind of admiration that's reserved for basketball royalty.

It's Tom "Satch" Sanders, one of the Celtics' greatest role players ever and an integral part of eight championships during his 13 NBA seasons -- all with the Celtics.

So it's only fitting that Sanders became the latest Celtics player to be elected to the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Sanders, 72, enters the Hall of Fame as a contributor, selected by the veteran's committee.

"It was fun playing with so many of those guys," Sanders said. "It certainly is fun to be on the club again."

Although he averaged double figures scoring in 9 of his 13 seasons, Sanders didn't put up the kind of scoring numbers usually associated with a Hall of Fame career.

He was a 9.6 points-per-game career scorer, and never averaged more than 12.6 points in a single season.

But his impact on games wasn't about numbers, unless you focused on the low shooting percentage most of the guys he guarded shot against the Celtics.

Sanders' game was about four letters: W-I-N-S.

"The quintessential team member was Tom Sanders, who had a very selfless role as a player," said Tommy Heinsohn, Sanders' former teammate and coach with the Celtics. "He was a guy, I termed him the second-best defender on a very good defensive team, next to Bill Russell. But he was never recognized in the league for that."

Despite being such an important cog in the Celtics' defensive machine under Red Auerbach and later Heinsohn, Sanders was considered no more than a role player on a very good team.

In fact, it was what Sanders did after his playing days that had as much with him getting into the Hall of Fame as anything.

Along with coaching stints with the Celtics and Harvard University, Sanders played a pivotal role in the development of NBA rookie orientation programs that, in many ways, were emulated by other professional sports leagues.

"That influences the lives of current players, past players to where they can adjust to the life, liberty and what the country is all about," said Heisohn, an NBA analyst for Comcast SportsNet. "He's been a solid contributor in every way, every facet of the game. He coached. He was a coach at Harvard. He was my assistant coach at the Celtics (and later the head coach when Heinsohn was dismissed in 1977-78). It's long overdue for Sanders to make the Hall of Fame."

When the Celtics drafted him with the eighth overall pick in 1960, Sanders knew he was joining a team where winning an NBA title wasn't a goal, but an expectation.

Oh, yeah, he definitely felt some added pressure.

"One thing I didn't want to do was become the guy that was drafted and . . . not have them win," Sanders said. "That was a heck of a burden at that point in time. And then we kept on winning, and the burden is now on the shoulders of some other rookies' shoulder that comes in because I'm in the club now."

Only two players in NBA history -- Sanders' teammates, Bill Russell (11) and Sam Jones (10) -- were part of more championship teams than Sanders.

Those teams consisted of players who had very defined roles, and rarely strayed from that because the goal was clear: win a championship.

"Everybody had been on winning teams and knew what it took to be winners," Heinsohn said. "They remind me of the current Celtics team and the one that won in '08. Nobody cared about who scored what. They were worried about the wins and losses. Satch epitomized that."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace


Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

As the wins continue to pile up for the Boston Celtics, so does the praise and adulation from others throughout the league. 

It’s a double-edged sword if you think about it. 

Acknowledging how good the Celtics are, is indeed a sign of respect. 

But it also means Boston plays every game with a large target on its back unlike any of Brad Stevens’ previous Celtics teams. 

And that means every game they play, even those like tonight’s matchup at Atlanta where they will be heavily favored, are dangerous matchups.

Because for some teams, the next best thing to competing against the champ (Golden State) is facing the team with the best record who just knocked off the champ. 

That will be one of the dynamics at work tonight when the Celtics (14-2) kick off a three-game road trip against a trio of sub-.500 teams beginning with the Hawks (3-12).

Boston has shown tremendous focus and attention to detail during their 14-game winning streak. But in that span, the Celtics have never had a trio of teams right behind each other that struggled as much as the Hawks, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have this season. 

Not including games played on Friday, Boston’s next three opponents are a combined 11-33. 

All three of those teams would love to be the one to knock off the Celtics, the kind of victory that could significantly shift the direction of their respective franchises from their current downward spin. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will look to continue to play with the kind of defensive temperament that has catapulted them to the top of the NBA’s defensive standings in several categories. 

“The way they’re beating teams it ain’t pretty,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “But they win. Last I checked, that’s what matters most.”

And that success has to a large degree, put a bigger bullseye on the Celtics than ever. 

“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

Especially if they continue to defend at a level we haven’t seen in years. 

Boston has a league-best defensive rating of 95.4. A key component in Boston’s strong play defensively has been their ability to win the battle of the boards. They come into tonight’s game with a .530 rebounding percentage which is second in the league to Portland (.539).

And that defense, while praised for how it functions collectively, it also consists of some pretty good individual defenders as well. 

Among guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has four players ranked among the top 10 in defensive rating (Marcus Smart, 93.5 defensive rating, 2nd); Jaylen Brown (93.6, 3rd); Terry Rozier (95.0, 5th) and Kyrie Irving (96.4, 8th). 

When you look at forwards, Brown headlines a trio of forwards that includes himself, Al Horford (94.2, 3rd) and Jayson Tatum (96.1, 7th). 

Aron Baynes has the best defensive rating (90.6) among centers, followed by Horford (94.2).

“Our guys are locked in and really trying and again we can really play some pretty ugly basketball at times,” Stevens said. “But I do think that we are competing which is really good.”