Celtics

Satch's induction honors contributions on, off the court

191544.jpg

Satch's induction honors contributions on, off the court

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
SPRINGFIELD, MA. For Tom Sanders, life in the NBA has never been about numbers, unless you're talking about championships.

He was a key cog in Boston's NBA reign in the 1960s, but his greatest impact had little to do with points - and everything to do with people.

Sanders played an integral role in the establishment of the several NBA programs that would go on to help rookies deal with the various challenges they would face as professional players on and off the court; programs that would go on to help shape similar transition programs in other professional sports leagues.

For years, Sanders' efforts went unnoticed.

Not anymore.

Sanders was among the 10 individuals chosen as members of the 2011 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class. Sanders enters the Hall of Fame as a contributor, which was voted on by the veteran's committee.

"He has been an enormous asset to the NBA," said Celtics great Bill Russell, during a video tribute to Sanders. Satch understood to lead, is to serve."

Joining Sanders in the 2011 Hall of Fame class were former NBA players Dennis Rodman, Artis Gilmore, Arvydas Sabonis and Chris Mullin along with four-time NCAA women's coach of the year Tara VanDerveer, four-time Olympic gold medalist Teresa Edwards, all-time NCAA wins leader at Philadelphia University and former Boston Celtics draft pick (1963, No. 62 overall pick) Herb Magee, coaching legend Tex Winter and former Harlem Globetrotter Reece "Goose" Tatum who was honored posthumously.

And in typical Sanders style, his opening remarks during his acceptance speech began with congratulating the other nine members of the Hall of Fame class.

"The quintessential team member was Tom Sanders, who had a very selfless role as a player," said Sanders' former Celtics teammate Tommy Heinsohn, Hall of Fame class of 1986 who was chosen by Sanders as his presenter. "He (Sanders) 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."

A 13-year NBA veteran, Sanders was part of eight championship teams in Boston.

Only former teammates Bill Russell (11) and Sam Jones (10) can boast more championship bling-bling than Sanders.

And while Russell and Jones' contributions were clearly seen, the role that Sanders played in the Celtics' success often went overlooked by those not donning the Green and White.

"Oh, we knew how valuable he was," Heinsohn said. "When you have all that talent like we did, you don't win unless guys accept their roles. Satch had a role, and he played that role to the best of his ability every night. He meant as much to our success as guys like (Bill) Russell, like Sam Jones, myself. "

At 6-foot-6, Sanders was the Celtics' top perimeter defender, drawing such daunting defensive assignments such as guarding Oscar Robertson or Elgin Baylor.

Sanders said it was former New York Knick forward Mel Hutchins and former Celtic Bill Sharman who made him "really begin to think about playing serious defense."

"He (Hutchins) was so smooth defensively, always in the right place," Sanders told CSNNE.com moments after delivering his acceptance speech. "I thought to myself, 'I sure hope one day I can play like that.'"

Sanders would have days - years, actually - where his defense would be one of the keys to Boston's run atop the NBA.

So while much of the attention back then was paid to the Celtics' bevvy of dynamic players, Sanders' defense was also an important part of the C's championship ways.

But Sanders could score, despite averaging just 9.6 points per game in 916 NBA games.

When the Boston Celtics drafted Sanders with the eighth overall pick in 1960, Sanders knew it would be difficult to score like he did at NYU where he finished his career as the team's all-time second leading scorer.

"I would have liked to have been a scorer, a star and all those kind of things," Sanders said. "But the reality was I had to find a way to fit."

And the best way to fit, was to simply do something that addresses a specific need, like defending at a high level.

"The reality was I had to find a way to make that team," Sanders said. "To make that team, I had to fit that particular role."

The Celtics were already an established NBA power at the time.

Sanders didn't want to do anything to disrupt that.

"One thing I didn't want to do was become the guy that was drafted and that was there, and not have them win," Sanders told CSNNE.com recently. "That was a heck of a burden. And then we kept on winning, and the burden is now on the shoulders of some other rookie's shoulder that comes in."

With the Celtics continuing to dominate the NBA landscape, Sanders steadily grew into more and more of a leadership role.

But as he grew older, wisdom set in.

And as that wisdom led him to look forward to a post-basketball life, it actually brought him back to where his NBA hoops dreams became reality.

A transition program for incoming rookies was unprecedented, and paved the way for other programs to follow that benefit players.

The fruits of that labor can be seen throughout the NBA now, with a number of players like Chauncey Billups recognizing just how valuable Sanders' contributions have been to the game of basketball.

"It's a long time coming," Billups told CSNNE.com. "Everybody knows what he means. He came into league, was active, tried to give these younger guys a voice in what's going on. He's done so many great things beyond the game.

Billups added, "I can only imagine how alone I would have felt and guys like me when they got to the NBA would have felt, if it wasn't for the programs he started."

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

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

We have seen the Boston Celtics play less-than-stellar basketball for long stretches, only to turn it on in the second half and escape with a win.

But Monday night’s game at Dallas was different.

Usually it has been Boston’s offense that has kept the game closer than expected, but on Monday it was the team’s defense that struggled more than usual.

MORE:

But this team continues to show an ability to withstand all in-game struggles to eventually emerge victorious which was exactly what happened as the Celtics rallied from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to knock off the Mavericks 110-102 in overtime.

The Celtics (16-2) have now won 16 in a row which ties the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

But this win, like so many of its predecessors during this historic run, was not one to celebrate afterwards.

“Quite a resilient comeback in the fourth,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Not our best foot forward before that. Of all the comebacks, that did not look good for a long time. We found a way to win it.”

Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 47 points, 10 of which came in the overtime period.

But his performance was just one of many Boston needed to extend its winning streak.

“In a game like this, you have to do whatever it takes, both ends of the floor,” Boston’s Jayson Tatum told reporters afterwards.

And he did just that.

In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Tatum’s defense forced a Harrison Barnes miss that would have won the game for Dallas.

And in the fourth quarter, Tatum’s rebounding was critical to Boston (16-2) extending its stay atop the NBA standings.

The 6-foot-8 rookie had a near double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds, with four of his boards coming in overtime.

Boston also got another strong game from Jaylen Brown (22 points, nine rebounds) and Marcus Smart, whose shooting was well off the mark most of the night (3-for-15) but like he has done too many times to count, Smart managed to make a positive impact on the game.

He led the Celtics with eight assists off the bench, in addition to a slew of hustle plays that included a desperation save of a ball going out of bounds that managed to find its way into the hands of Kyrie Irving, who drained a much-needed 3-pointer late in the game.

“Those are worth more than whatever the shot goes in,” Stevens said. “That’s why it’s hard to quantify Marcus Smart.”

The same can be said about Boston’s winning streak which has come about despite several stretches, every game seemingly, where the Celtics struggle.

But to their credit, they don’t allow the in-game setbacks take away from their focus night-in and night-out and that’s to find a way, any way possible, to emerge with a victory.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Stars, studs and duds: Kyrie Irving stands tall

Stars, studs and duds: Kyrie Irving stands tall

As NBC Sports Boston’s Kyle Draper talked with Kyrie Irving following his best performance as a Boston Celtic, you could hear the chants “M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!” from the crowd behind him.
 
Considering the way Irving played on Monday night, that’s not just a case of fandemonium people!
 
Irving delivered a performance that won’t be forgotten anytime soon, tallying 47 points in leading Boston to a 110-102 overtime win at Dallas.
 
With the win, Boston has extended its winning streak to 16 in a row which ties the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
While there were lots of Celtics who contributed to the victory, no one stood as tall as Irving who tallied 10 of Boston’s 16 points in overtime.
 
“We had to claw, fight our way back for this one,” Irving told NBC Sports Boston’s Kyle Draper. “But we had to earn it. These guys, the Dallas Mavericks, they gave us their best shot.”
 
And the Celtics countered with their best shot – Irving.
 
Even before the edge-of-the-cliff finish, Irving was in a rhythm that made it absolutely clear that he was going to have a big night scoring the ball.
 
“We just have to continue to get better from this point,” Irving said.
 
And as far as those “M-V-P” chants?
 
“It’s pretty awesome,” Irving said of the chants. “But we got a long way to go.”
 
Here’s a look at Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-102 overtime win over Dallas which extends Boston’s winning streak to 16 in a row which is the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
 
STAR

Kyrie Irving

This wasn’t even close, folks. Irving kept the Celtics afloat for most of the game, then guided them to victory with a dominant performance. He finished with 47 points, the most he has scored as a Boston Celtic. And on a night when most of the team struggled to make shots, they needed everything he had to offer.
 
 
 
STUDS
 
Harrison Barnes

He had a chance to win it in regulation, but failed to knock down the game-winning shot. Still, Barnes had a strong game for the Mavericks while finishing with 31 points and six rebounds.
 
Jaylen Brown

Kyrie Irving’s backcourt mate had yet another strong performance for the Celtics. He had a near double-double of 22 points and nine rebounds.
 
Jayson Tatum

Don’t let the 15-point total fool you. Tatum was a major factor in Boston’s comebacks with his ability to finish in transition and his defense down the stretch on Barnes gave the Celtics a shot as the game went into overtime.
 
J.J. Barea

The former Northeastern star was a huge spark off the bench for Dallas, tallying 16 points.
 
Marcus Smart

You can count me among those who cringed at a lot of those shots Marcus Smart took – and missed. Despite going 3-for-15 from the field, Boston doesn’t win this game without Marcus Smart. He made hustle plays defensively. He set teammates up for easy scores. And as bad as Smart shot the ball, he did make one of the biggest shots of the night, a 3-pointer that cut Dallas’ lead to 96-94 with 1:23 to play.
 
 

DUDS
 
Al Horford

He poked the ball free from Harrison Barnes late in the game which was a huge play, but for the most part Horford’s imprint on the game was non-existent. He missed four of his five shots from the field, tallying 3 points to go with eight rebounds and seven assists.
 
Dennis Smith Jr.

He is an explosive guard and scored six points in the first couple of minutes. From there, he was a non-factor, finishing with eight points on 4-for-16 shooting and maybe most significant, being nothing more than a cool breeze defensively as Kyrie Irving blew by him time and time again.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE