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Please sober up

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff  August 2, 2007 11:45 AM

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For you young'uns, as well as impressionable elders, let me remind you what a proper Supporting Cast in the NBA really is.

What it isn't is the one the Celtics have at the present time. From roster spots 4 through 12, the Celtics are the most impotent team in the NBA. You must accept this, or else there is no chance of us having a decent conversation. The new trio of stars is a nice start.

A nice start. Period.

A generation ago the Celtics had a formidable frontcourt. They had, on the same team at the same time, future Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, with Larry not only being a Hall of Famer in the making but, to this moment, the absolute best forward who has ever played the game. Parish is an all-time Top 10 center. McHale is, alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the greatest low post scorer of the last 50 years.

And Kevin didn't start full-time until his sixth year. That's because the Celtics also had Cedric Maxwell, a formidable low post scorer in his own right. You look up to the rafters, and you'll see his number 31 retired.

Here are a few other people who could formed the Supporting Casts of those years: Dennis Johnson, Danny Ainge, Tiny Archibald, Chris Ford, Gerald Henderson, Quinn Buckner, Scott Wedman, Jerry Sichting, Bill Walton, and, for 23 games in the 1984-85 season, Ray Williams.

Dennis Johnson was one of the greatest guards of all-time. His exclusion from the Hall of Fame is an embarrassment and a mockery. If you need to have him explained, you probably are beyond hoop salvation. Danny was a great shooter, relentless hustler, and good enough to get into the 1987 All-Star Game.

Tiny Archibald and Bill Walton are in the Hall of Fame. Tiny was truly special, and by the time he arrived in Boston he was in the process of re-inventing himself from a Leading Man into a Best Supporting type. He was a true point guard floor leader. Walton is the reason the 1985-‘86 Celtics would have beaten anyone and everyone in a seven-game series. He was a unique Sixth Man in '85-‘86.

Ford was a phenomenally resourceful player. Henderson was a dogged defender, a streaky offensive player and just a great athlete. He also made a steal of note, without which there would have been no championship in 1984. Sichting was a drop-dead shooter who shot 65 percent from the floor (99.999 percent on jumpers) in the final 17 games of the '85-‘86 season. Wedman was another former All-Star who went 11-for-11 from the floor in the famed '85 Memorial Day Massacre of the Lakers. Williams was a talented, er, eccentric. But very talented.

That's the kind of "support" messrs. Bird, Parish and McHale had.

With these "supporting" players, messrs. Bird, Parish and McHale came away with championship rings in 1981, 1984 and 1986. None came easy. They could easily have been swept by the Lakers in '84. The Rockets put up fierce insurgent-style resistance in '81 and '86.

But the Celtics did not win in '82, '83, '85, '87 and '88. In 1987 the Celtics had the best starting five the league has had in the entire David Stern Era, and they still didn't win. They were at least one man short, maybe two. Even with The so-called Big Three, the Celtics always needed more.

Nothing has changed. You need more than three great players. You also need quality support players. The Celtics are better now than they were at the end of the 2006-‘07 season. I mean, duh. But "better" means they should make the playoffs. That's a reasonable goal. But until Danny Ainge makes some significant moves to give his new trio of veteran stars the support they need, any talk of Eastern Conference titles or NBA championships is a total joke.

And God forbid one of these 30-somethings gets hurt.

So when Danny adds a Hall of Famer or All-Star to help "support" his stars, come and see me.

P.S. -- If Danny was going to give up the two number ones, he should have held his ground on Ryan Gomes. He would have been ideal to blend with the stars.

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About bob ryan's blog Opinions, observations and anecdotes from Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan.
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Bob is an award-winning columnist for the Globe and the host of "Globe 10.0" on Boston.com.

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