Celtics

Celtics legend John Havlicek, a mainstay of '60s and '70s champions, dies at 79

Celtics legend John Havlicek, a mainstay of '60s and '70s champions, dies at 79

BOSTON -- “Havlicek stole the ball! Havlicek stole the ball! It’s all over!”

One of the most iconic moments in Boston Celtics lore, no one will ever forget the call in the 1965 NBA Eastern Conference Finals made by announcer Johnny Most or the player who made a play for the ages, John Havlicek. 

Havlicek, the Celtics’ all-time leading scorer (26,395 points) and one of the most decorated players to ever don a Celtics uniform, passed away on Thursday. 

He was 79. 

The Celtics released the following statement upon announcing Havlicek's passing:

John Havlicek is one of the most accomplished players in Boston Celtics history, and the face of many of the franchise’s signature moments. He was a great champion both on the court and in the community, winning 8 NBA championships and an NBA Finals MVP, while holding Celtics career records for points scored and games played. Named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, he is enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame and his retired #17 hangs in the Garden rafters. His defining traits as a player were his relentless hustle and wholehearted commitment to team over self. He was extraordinarily thoughtful and generous, both on a personal level and for those in need, as illustrated by his commitment to raising money for The Genesis Foundation for Children for over three decades through his fishing tournament. John was kind and considerate, humble and gracious. He was a champion in every sense, and as we join his family, friends, and fans in mourning his loss, we are thankful for all the joy and inspiration he brought to us.

A 16-year NBA veteran, all with the Celtics, Havlicek was one of the central figures in the Celtics’ rise to prominence in the NBA, having been a mainstay on eight championship teams (1963-1966; 1968, 1969, 1974, 1976) in addition to being named NBA Finals MVP in 1974 and a 13-time All-Star.

In addition, he was one of the NBA’s first “Sixth Men” standouts, which would later prove to be one of the many ways this future Hall of Famer revolutionized the game. 

His No. 17 Celtics jersey was immediately retired and hung in the Boston Garden rafters upon his enshrinement in the Hall in 1984. 

The first NBA player to score 1,000 points in 16 consecutive seasons, “Hondo” was best known as a tireless worker who was in constant motion on the floor, making it challenging for foes to keep up with him. 

Said fellow Celtics legend, and his former teammate and coach, Tommy Heinsohn: “He's still the all-time leading scorer, isn’t he, with the Celtics? And justifiably so. He gets lost in the brouhaha over the [eras around him]… He became a total star."

Heinsohn's broadcast partner, Mike Gorman, the voice of the Celtics for 37 years,  remembered Havlicek the man, as well as the player.

"I cannot come up with words to describe what we lost with the passing of John Havlicek," Gorman said. "I can only assure you that everything you hear or read about what a genuinely good man he was is true. He was what we hope our heroes can be."

Celtics legend Bill Russell paid tribute to his former teammate with this tweet:

 

In many ways, his play would be the template for generations of Celtics who came after him to try and emulate. 

Selected with the seventh overall pick in the first round out of Ohio State in 1962, Havlicek was also a such a good athlete that he was also talented enough to get drafted by the NFL's Cleveland Browns. 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver tweeted out this statement after Havlicek's passing:

Here’s a list of Havlicek’s numerous honors and accomplishments: 

  • 8-time NBA champion (1963–1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1976)
  • NBA Finals MVP (1974)
  • 13-time NBA All-Star (1966–1978)
  • 26,395 points (franchise record)
  • 4-time All-NBA First Team (1971–1974)
  • 7-time All-NBA Second Team (1964, 1966, 1968–1970, 1975, 1976)
  • 5-time NBA All-Defensive First Team (1972–1976)
  • 3-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1969–1971)
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team (1963)
  • No. 17 retired by Celtics (1984)
  • NCAA champion, Ohio State (1960)

 

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Gordon Hayward's return will help Celtics the most in these four areas

Gordon Hayward's return will help Celtics the most in these four areas

BOSTON — With Gordon Hayward set to return possibly as early as Monday night’s game against Cleveland, he’ll be rejoining a squad that’s playing great basketball which has them among the NBA’s top teams.

But here’s the thing. 

Before suffering a fourth metacarpal fracture in his left hand which has been surgically repaired, Hayward and the Celtics were playing the best basketball of any team in the league. 

Can they get back to where they were with Hayward?

If they do, look for Boston to make notable strides in the following areas of play. 

OFFENSIVE OPTIONS

Now keep in mind, even when Hayward was healthy, the Celtics weren’t exactly killin’ the game with a ton of points or red-hot shooting. 

What they did more than anything else was create a pick-your-poison scenario on a game-to-game basis for defenses.

While there’s some element of that still around in his absence, there’s no debate that Hayward’s presence makes Boston a much more dangerous team to defend. 

And upon his return, the Celtics will be even more dangerous, thanks to the emergence of Jaylen Brown, who has been delivering All-Star quality production with Hayward out, along with the solid contributions Boston has been getting all season from Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. 

DEFENSIVE VERSATILITY

The NBA is all about creating mismatches on the floor, so teams with the ability to switch effectively on defense will find success. The return of Hayward gives Boston another body who has the size, strength and mobility to defend multiple positions. 

When he was healthy, the Celtics' defensive rating of 101.5 was the fifth-best mark in the NBA, which was surprising when you consider they lost defensive anchors Al Horford (Philadelphia) and Aron Baynes (Phoenix) in the offseason.

Boston’s defensive rating without Hayward dipped to 104.7, which still ranks seventh in the NBA. 

And while Hayward’s defensive ability has been questioned in the past, his defensive rating of 100.6 stacks up well relative to his teammates. 

WING DEPTH

If you want to win in the NBA, you better have wings — and that’s plural, not singular. And the Celtics have more than their share of talented ones, which is why the return of Hayward is so vital to the team’s overall success. 

Hayward has the ability to do many things on the floor, evident by his stats this season which touch on all the key categories. 

In addition to averaging 18.9 points per game, Hayward is also grabbing 7.1 rebounds to go with 4.1 assists per game.

Those are good numbers for sure. 

But what makes the Celtics so dangerous is they have not one but two others delivering similar production or better from the wing position, in Jayson Tatum (21.2 points, 7.0 rebounds) and Jaylen Brown (20.0 points, 6.9 assists).

STRONGER BENCH

The Celtics’ second unit has taken its share of hits this season because they don’t score as much as some — OK, most — other reserve groups. Of course that’s partly because Boston has one of the highest-scoring starting fives in the NBA, which means limited opportunities for the backups and thus, less points. 

Because of that, it puts a greater premium on their bench players to come in and impact the game at the defensive end of the floor. 

And the return of Gordon Hayward will provide that group some much-needed depth with what will likely be the return of defensive ace Marcus Smart back to that unit which has been solid this season. 

According to hoopsstats.com, Boston has allowed opposing second units to score 33.4 points per game which is the fourth-fewest allowed in the NBA this season.  

That number will likely take a drop with Smart directing that group more than he is currently. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Tommy & Mike have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics injury report: Robert Williams ruled out vs. Cavaliers

Celtics injury report: Robert Williams ruled out vs. Cavaliers

The Boston Celtics will be missing some size on their bench for Monday night's game vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Robert Williams has been ruled out with left hip soreness, the team announced Sunday. Rookie Romeo Langford was also ruled out as he continues to recover from the ankle injury he suffered during a game with the Maine Red Claws.

On the bright side for Boston, Gordon Hayward could make his long-awaited return to the court after missing the last month with a fractured left hand.

Hayward originally was slated to return from his injury around Christmas.

The Celtics (16-5) and Cavaliers (5-17) will face off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Monday.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Tommy & Mike have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.