Posted on: March 1, 2012 7:57 pm
The 50th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game is not only an occasion to remember the accomplishment, but also the man.
What better way to reflect on Chamberlain’s signature moment than through the eyes of his friend and most bitter rival?
So I called Bill Russell, the 11-time champion of the Celtics, and asked if he’d be so kind as to share his thoughts about the occasion 50 years ago Friday. I’ll provide his response, followed by the context.
The response from Russell: “Not really.”
“Is it a bad time, or is it a topic you don’t really want to talk about?”
“A little of both,” he said.
And that was that. I apologized for the intrusion and wished Russell the best.
“No intrusion,” Russell said. “And thank you.”
I shared the conversation with Sy Goldberg, Chamberlain’s longtime friend and attorney. On the phone from Los Angeles, Goldberg was neither surprised nor particularly offended by Russell’s reaction.
“There was a love-hate relationship between these two guys,” Goldberg said.
Let it be noted that Russell, who turned 78 last month, harbors no grudges or animosity toward Chamberlain – nothing different than they ever did, anyway. Goldberg said in the old days, the NBA used to schedule the Sixers and Celtics on Thanksgiving Day, and when the game was in Philadelphia, Russell was a guest at casa de Chamberlain for Thanksgiving dinner.
“Russell was there all the time,” Goldberg said. “They were close friends.”
But Chamberlain never forgave Russell for questioning his toughness after Lakers coach Jan van Breda Kolff refused to put an injured Chamberlain back into Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals against the Celtics. Chamberlain had asked out with six minutes left and asked back in with three minutes left, but van Breda Kolff declined. The Celtics won, 108-106, for their second straight championship and last of the Russell era.
“That day, Russell said something like, ‘I don’t care how bad he was, I would never have come out of the game,’” Goldberg said. “Wilt never forgave him for that.”
But with Russell and Chamberlain, the hard feelings weren’t permanent. On the day Chamberlain died of heart failure, Oct. 12, 1999, Goldberg got a call from a frantic Russell, who didn’t want to believe the news.
“I had been called by the gardener, and the police were there, and it was real pandemonium,” Goldberg said. “And I got a call from Bill Russell. His quote was: ‘I wouldn’t believe any news at all unless you tell me it’s true.’ And he sounded like he was devastated.”
In the old days, Chamberlain got all the attention and Russell got most of the championships. So on the eve of Wilt’s 100-point anniversary, the old Celtic stays quiet.
Maybe that’s for the best. Maybe that’s how Wilt would’ve wanted it.
Posted on: April 4, 2010 1:34 pm
Edited on: April 4, 2010 2:19 pm
BOSTON -- The video of Andrew Bogut's horrific arm injury was bad enough. The specter of a late-season injury to their own teams was enough to make stomachs turn Sunday at TD Bank Garden.
Ray Allen, a former Buck who had been preparing for possibly facing his former team in the playoffs, said, "This is a tough time of the year because they are making playoff plans, selling playoff tickets and they’re right there in the hunt. I think every coach dreads that."
Rivers was adamant -- and I agree -- that Bogut was not the victim of a dirty play. Running out for a court-length pass and breakaway dunk Saturday night against the Suns, Bogut dunked ahead of Amar'e Stoudemire and tried to hang on the rim in an effort to protect himself and Stoudemire.
"If he could've hung onto the rim long enough to get his feet back, he wouldn't have been injured," LeBron James said. "Just a freak accident."
There was no significant contact from Stoudemire, who may have had a hand on Bogut as he went up -- if that. The issue was that as he tried to protect himself by grabbing the rim, Bogut lost his grip and tried to brace the fall with his right arm, which bent catastrophically beneath his entire body weight.
And with it, the Bucks' aspirations of going deep in the playoffs crumpled, too.
Posted on: August 4, 2009 10:17 pm
NEW YORK -- Celtics managing partner Wyc Grousbeck didn't want to talk about the collecting bargaining negotiations he participated in Tuesday. But he had no problem anointing the Celtics as the "hands down" favorites in the Eastern Conference next season.
"I think we should be the favorites in the conference, hands down," Grousbeck said after emerging from a 3 1-2 hour bargaining session between the NBA owners and the players' union. "And we’re going to start proving that Oct. 27."
That's when the Celtics open the 2009-10 season against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But it'll be a very different Celtics team than the one that couldn't get past Orlando in the conference semifinals. For one, Kevin Garnett will be recovered from the knee injury that caused him to miss the entire playoffs. "Just fine," Grousbeck said, when asked how KG's recovery was going.
Also, Grousbeck raved about the Celtics' big offseason acquisition -- the talented, enigmatic, and combustible Rasheed Wallace.
"I personally recruited him with five others guys," Grousbeck said. "My guys lobbied us for the signing because the players who’ve played the game for 10 years at a high level, they know who can help them and what they can do. They know the score. Rasheed was everybody’s first choice: ownership, general manager, and players. We all wanted to have him as a first choice, and we got him."
Grousbeck said he questioned Wallace about his status as the NBA's undisputed king of technical fouls and menace to officials during his 14-year career and was satisfied with 'Sheed's answers.
"He’s a feisty competitor, obviously," Grousbeck said. "We talked about that in the interview and the recruiting session. He said he means it always to try to help the team. He and his former teammates and coaches that you talk to when you do research on him, they love him as a player. Coaches love him, players love to play with him. The refs have mixed feelings, but that’s what refs are for."
Asked if he was prepared for all things Rasheed, Grousbeck said, "I actually told David (Stern) that I was going to modify my baseline ref assistance program a little bit to make up for the fact that we’ve got Rasheed. So I’m going to be doing a little less helping of the refs from the baseline. Just trying to even things out."
As for restricted free agent Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Grousbeck said the Celtics have had "a lot of conversations with him" and added, "We expect to see him in green. But things play out and you never know."
Posted on: May 7, 2009 12:28 am
Since Rafer Alston's slap to the back of Eddie House's head will be a topic of conversation until Game 3 between the Celtics and Magic on Saturday, I thought it would be appropriate to share details of a chat I had with Alston before Game 1 on Monday night in Boston.
I was asking Alston what he thought of Rajon Rondo's physical play in the first round against Chicago. Given his face-rake of Brad Miller and WWE move against Kirk Hinrich, Rondo certainly established himself as a focal point of confrontation as the Celtics ventured into the second round against Orlando.
Alston told me those two plays against Chicago weren't unique in Rondo's arsenal. "They just saw those two," Alston said. "He’s been doing it a long time. The series started to get a little physical and he was in the midst of it all. I don't think he’s a dirty player at all by any standard, But definitely, the latter part of that series, he started getting some fouls, getting into some physical confrontations."
Then I asked Alston what I thought was an important question: How do you match Rondo's intensity without crossing the line?
"I usually don’t get into that unless I think they’re taking too many cheap shots," Alston said. "But other than that, I don’t normally get into the back and forth, shouting match, hit-for-hit, and shove-for-shove. I try to let the refs handle that. But if it’s going on long, I may either say something to the refs or give a shove or something like that. But I don’t get into it for the most part."
Enter Mr. House. Now don't get me wrong, Eddie House is an immensely valuable 3-point shooter off the bench for the Celtics. Anybody who watches and knows the NBA knows that he's also one of the cockiest, most annoying, most willing trash-talkers in the league. He's known for barking at the opponent's bench after hitting a 3-pointer nearby. Whatever transpired after House hit the 3-pointer that led to Alston's slap, Alston is the one under the microscope. As well he should be. Should he be suspended? I think not. For a Three Stooges impersonation? C'mon. Sure, it was extracurricular, gratuitous, and had nothing to do with the play. But I think the standard for suspension should be a little higher than a Mo, Larry, and Curly move. But that's just me.
Given Alston's comments before Game 1, it would be interesting to find out what precipitated his decision to pop House in the head like a Catholic school teacher. If he was answering my question honestly -- and I have no reason to believe he wasn't -- then there must have been some other extracurricular activity to prompt him to go off like that.
Lost in all of this: Boy, the Magic are a weak-kneed bunch, no?
Posted on: May 3, 2009 1:42 am
BOSTON -- As the Bulls started climbing back from double-digit, third-quarter deficit -- closing to within three points early in the fourth quarter in Game 7 against the Celtics on Saturday night -- I couldn't stop thinking about Ben Gordon's 3-pointer that was incorrectly ruled a 2-pointer way back in the first quarter.
It's a good thing the NBA got that one right.
Gordon lost the ball, and the crowd roared for a double-dribble, before he launched a 3-pointer that should've given the Bulls a 14-6 lead with 8:32 left in the first quarter. The game offcials called it a 2-pointer, much to the chagrin of the Bulls bench.
TV replays showed Gordon was clearly behind the 3-point line and should've been credited with three points. The referees reviewed the video during a timeout with 3:37 left in the quarter and inexplicably let the 2-point shot stand.
The way this series had gone, it seemed inevitable that Game 7 would come down to the thinnest of margins -- that being one meaasley point. Then the Bulls did what you expected them to do. They trimmed what had been a 12-point deficit late in the third quarter to three points, 81-78, early in the fourth.
Uh-oh. What a shame it would've been for this epic, classic series to end with an officiating controversy -- especially after the Board of Governors earlier this season had voted to expand the use of replay review to determine whether 2-point and 3-point baskets had been judged correctly on the court.
With 5:44 left in the game, the public address annoucer at TD Banknorth Garden informed the crowd that Gordon's first-quarter shot had been reviewed and changed to a 3-pointer. The extra point actually had been added to the scoreboard after the third quarter, but hardly anybody noticed. After the initial review by the game officials, the Bulls apparently called the league office to protest the ruling. Good thing they did -- especially if Game 7 had gone down to the wire like five of the other six games in this series.
See, it all works out in the end. Most of the time.
Posted on: May 2, 2009 7:39 pm
BOSTON -- An hour before the seventh and final game in an epic playoff series, what more could possibly be said? The always quotable Doc Rivers found a way.
Asked in his pre-game briefing with reporters how unlikely it would be for either the Celtics or the Bulls to make adjustments at this late stage of the series, Rivers said, "If we play Kevin, that would be a huge adjustment."
Kevin, of course, is Kevin Garnett, who has been out for the entire series with a knee injury. Rivers and general manager Danny Ainge have said repeatledly that they don't expect Garnett to play at all this postseason. But that hasn't stopped inquiring minds from reading between the lines. Ainge's choice of words Friday -- that he wasn't "planning" on Garnett being available for Game 7 or at any point in the playoffs -- set off new rounds of speculation that K.G. could shock everyone and suit up for the Celtics' most important game since last year's NBA Finals.
Asked he was playing Garnett Saturday night, Rivers laughed and said, "No, I'm not. Hell, you guys have said it all over the last couple of days. I told somebody this morning that I thought somebody was going to report that they saw Big Foot and Sasquatch."
Both Big Foot and Sasquatch, no doubt, would be assessed flagrant fouls if they were playing in Game 7 of this series.
Posted on: May 1, 2009 6:29 pm
The NBA reviewed video Friday of the scuffle between the Celtics' Rajon Rondo and Bulls' Kirk Hinrich and took no further action, ensuring that the two guards will be available Saturday for Game 7 of their epic first-round series Saturday.
The flagrant foul called on Rondo for tossing Hinrich into the scorer's table and then throwing an elbow that didn't connect, and the technical foul assessed to Hinrich for rushing Rondo and shoving him, "stand as called," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said.
It's the right decision because nobody threw or connected with a punch, and neither player took any action to escalate the violence beyond the initial Heat-of-the-moment skirmish. Those are key criteria league officials use in deciding whether to upgrade flagrant one fouls to flagrant twos, and whether to issue suspensions.
Had crew chief Joey Crawford hit Rondo with a flagrant foul, penalty two, he would've been automatically ejected from Game 6, won by the Bulls 128-127 in triple overtime. The league office didn't single out this altercation for review. All flagrant fouls are reviewed to determine if the game officials made the right call.
Posted on: May 1, 2009 1:15 pm
When I attended Indiana University, I encountered many people from Chicago. As far as sports fans in general and Bulls fans in particular, I didn't think much of them. Part of it was that I was cranky about having to watch the Colts and Bears every Sunday during NFL season and never got to see my Giants. Part of it was that I was a Knicks fan, and as such hated the Bulls with a passion and also came to believe that their fans were spoiled brats. (And not the kind you eat, although I hoped that they would eat some spoiled brats.)
Hey, if the Knicks had Michael Jordan, they would've won six championships, too. That was my attitude. (Plus, New York was better, so there.)
I went to a game at Wrigley Field with some college buddies one summer. This was when the Knicks were playing the Bulls in the second round and while Michael Jordan was trying to hit a curveball. We left the Cubs game early to watch the end of the Knicks-Bulls at the Cubby Bear. The Knicks won the game -- I believe it was the one with the awful call on Scottie Pippen resulting in the Hubert Davis free throws -- and I came pretty close to getting my head handed to me on a platter at the Cubby Bear. This is a favorite pastime of wise guys from Long Island; just ask Prisco.
So a couple of things: First, let this dispel the myth once and for all that I am some sort of Celtics fan. Never. As I've said, the only bad thing about being a sports writer is that you can't be a fan. You write what happens, write your opinion, and the only thing you root for is a good story. My laptop runneth over in this series, and so doth my newfound appreciaion of Chicago sports fans.
It's not just the loudness of the United Center; the Gah-den is every bit as loud, maybe louder. But from my press seat in section 115 -- great seats, by the way -- I noticed that Bulls fans aren't a bunch of drunken rowdies (although there was some of that.) They knew basketball. They were asking the writers about how many timeouts each team had left, why certain substitutions were being made, why a certain play was drawn up for this player as opposed to that one. When Rajon Rondo swiped Kirk Hinrich's layup off the rim and no goaltending call was made, a fan made eye contact with me and made the goaltending gesture. Yes, I nodded. Goaltending. He frowned.
So before I get on a plane and head home to repack my suitcase for Boston, where who-knows-what will happen next in this delicious display of basketball, I just wanted to give you Bulls fans a shout. You, you're much better than I thought.