Celtics legends K.C. Jones, Robert Parish, and M.L. Carr spoke with the media at halftime of Wednesday night’s game to pay tribute to Dennis Johnson. Below is a partial transcript of their thoughts:
On being shocked by the news of Johnson’s death: “I was blown away. I was on the bus going to a game in upstate New York. I got the phone call. It was hard to deal with. Being the coach and being close to him, you’ve got the Larry’s, the Robert’s, and Danny. That was hard to take.”
On what young players should take away from DJ’s game: “Strong defense. Intelligence. A guy who would guard the tough guys. If someone else out there was a problem, he would guard them … One of the biggest guys who really believed in him was Larry Bird, and Larry doesn’t lie; he likes you or he doesn’t like you. Whatever it is he keeps it quiet, but you know where he’s coming from. That speaks volumes about Dennis.”
On what DJ did as a teammate that no one else did: “DJ was unique because he played that point guard and that two guard very well. I can’t think of anyone else that can do that … Also it was strong leadership. He was able to mesh all those egos on the floor and keep everyone happy. When one guy had a problem, DJ was always the one that went to that player and made everything alright, and that is rare … I think that’s one of the reasons we endeared ourselves to DJ, because of the initiative he took to make sure everything was alright with us.
“How many superstars can go to another team and accept a lesser role without moaning and groaning? Before DJ came here he was a big star with Phoenix and Seattle and so I think that says a lot about his character to come here and take a lesser role and be effective. He didn’t moan and groan about minutes and not running plays for him. He just did whatever it took to get the job done.”
On Johnson’s reputation in the clutch: “He was not only clutch offensively but defensively as well. He got the big rebound, he got the big steal, he got the big defensive stop … We needed a good play for a last-second shot, he was very diligent and patient in making sure he got the ball to the right person. It might not necessarily have been Larry (Bird) all the time; whoever had the hot hand. That was one of the things I liked about DJ. He didn’t show any favoritism towards Larry because it was Larry’s team. He treated us all the same and that’s rare.
On whether Johnson should be in the Hall of Fame: “There is no question that he should be in it. When you think about the uniqueness of the way he played, the defensive piece of it, because he could shut you down defensively, so he was one of the best there was. He could have put up a lot more points, but he came in here and took a role and helped us win championships. There is no doubt in my mind he’s done enough to be in there.”