Antics are thought provoking
Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, Rasheed Wallace, and Tony Allen did not invent goofball behavior. Kevin Garnett is not the first Celtic to talk trash. Paul Pierce is not the first Boston player to predict victory. The 2010 Celtics are not the first Green Team to annoy and intimidate the Lakers with on-court antics and locker room comedy.
This all happened in 1984 when the Celtics beat the Lakers in seven games.
“They were the Muhammad Alis of basketball,’’ Michael Cooper remembers. “You do a little talking to see where the opponent’s heart is at, try to intimidate them.’’
Lakers coach Phil Jackson was clearly agitated with the comportment of the Celtics in the closing minutes of Game 4 Thursday night. Speaking with the media Friday, Jackson said, “You can be provocative and get out there and act kind of like they do, if you want to, and get in people’s faces and do that, but that’s not the way I like to coach a team. That’s not what I consider positive coaching. And that’s what I like to think is the right way to do things.’’
This came in the wake of Big Baby drooling and yelling and sticking out his jaw while Robinson hopped on his back.
“I just felt like a beast,’’ said Baby.
“I just love bringing the energy,’’ said Robinson. “We’re like Shrek and Donkey. You can’t separate us.’’
“Let me tell you something right quick,’’ added Davis. “When you’re in the moment, you’re in the moment. If I slobber, snot, spit, please excuse me. Kids, don’t do that. Have manners and things like that. Sorry about that.’’
The 2009-10 Celtics talk junk and earn technical fouls with great gusto. They are probably the most disliked team in the league. Going into tonight’s Game 5 at the Garden, both Wallace and Kendrick Perkins are one technical away from an automatic one-game suspension. Those operating ABC’s sideline mikes have learned to stay alert. The Celtics are a combustible bunch, liable to say anything at any moment.
It wasn’t all that different 26 years ago when Larry Bird and friends prevailed in an epic seven-gamer against Pat Riley, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy & Co.
“We had character and characters,’’ said Cedric Maxwell.
Starting with Max. In the second round of the ’84 playoffs, Max was asked how he was going to contain Knicks scoring machine Bernard King.
“He has scored his last 40 points,’’ said Max, while imitating King’s distinct manner of walking. “We’re going to stop the [expletive]. The Knicks are going to lose, there’s no question about it.’’
King refused to shake Maxwell’s hand when they lined up for the jump ball before Game 1. When the Celtics won the first two games, Kevin McHale said, “They’re in the grave right now. We’ve got to keep pouring dirt on them.’’
King scored 43 on Maxwell in Game 4, but the Celtics won in seven. After beating the Bucks in the conference finals, the Celtics came face to face with the Lakers.
The Lakers took a 2-1 series lead, just like this year. LA won Game 3, 137-104. In Game 4, McHale clotheslined Kurt Rambis, Bird bumped Cooper into the expensive seats, and Abdul-Jabbar elbowed Bird in the head. When Worthy lined up for a free throw in overtime, M.L. Carr yelled at Worthy, telling him he was going to miss. When Worthy missed the first free throw, Maxwell walked across the paint and put his hand to his throat. Riley called the Celtics “thugs’’ after Boston’s Game 4 win.
Naturally, the series went seven. Danny Ainge brought a stethoscope into the Celtics locker room before Game 7. He wanted to see if anybody had heart. Carr wore goggles during pregame — his way of mocking Abdul-Jabbar.
When the Celtics won, Red Auerbach lit a cigar, seized the trophy, and said, “You guys were talking about a dynasty the Lakers had. But what dynasty? Here’s the only dynasty right here. This team.’’
In victory or defeat, Red was never gracious. And he absolutely hated Phil Jackson.
Before practice at the Garden yesterday, Kobe Bryant was asked about the Celtics’ excessive celebrating Thursday. Kobe wouldn’t bite. He just calmly told us he was thinking about the next game.
Thinking about the next game. That’s what Red always said he was doing when he lit up the victory cigar.
Oh yes, the victory cigar. It would remind us that the Celtics literally invented taunting. When we start talking about the smack talk and bravado of Messrs. Davis, Robinson, Wallace, Garnett, Perkins, and (Tony) Allen, we’d do well to remember Red and his cigar on the bench. When victory was assured, Red would light up and puff his victory stogie while the final seconds were played.
“It made all of us uncomfortable,’’ remembered Bob Cousy. “It was more offensive to us and everyone else on the road. When he did this, it got everyone’s attention. The fans were already pissed off because it looked like they’d lose the game. And they did.
“This was an irritant. He sat benignly and comfortably on the bench, smoking away, with a guard behind him. Meanwhile, we were out on the floor taking all this abuse. I hated that thing.’’
So did the other teams.
Dolph Schayes, who played against Auerbach’s teams for 15 years, said, “In those days, most of us would love to have shoved that cigar right down his throat. He was very arrogant.’’
As it was then, it is now.
Nothing has changed.
From Red to Rasheed.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.