All this talk about Dwyane Wade whining about Rondo's hard foul had me thinking about how basketball used to be played. You know by now that I read a lot of books on Celtics history. I love reading the story about how the Celtics didn't back down from anyone. Those Celtics teams in the old days had some swagger. I know that part of that swagger came from winning, but anther part came from just being the Celtics. They had the attitude that they were the Celtics and they won because of the swagger, not the other way around. The 2007-08 team had that swagger. This team is showing that same swagger and I love it.
While some people may be questioning Rondo's hard foul, I loved it. I love that he wasn't going to take the hooking and shoving off on every single drive and let them know that. Sometimes technicals are worth it. That's why I love Perk so much. He won't take anything from anyone and lets them know it. As I said after the game, Rondo's foul reminded me of Dave Cowens. In case you didn't read it there, the story goes that Dave Cowens was called for fouls several times down the court as the Rockets' Mike Newlin flopped and got the calls. If there was one thing Cowens hated, it was flopping. Later in the game, Cowens slammed Newlin with a blind-side hit with both forearms that flattened him to the floor. "Now that's a foul!" Cowens was heard to say to the ref as he left the court. Dave sure had swagger.
I'd like to reminisce a bit here. This video was from the classic 7 game Detroit/Boston playoff series in 1987. In game 4 of this series, the Evil Bill Laimbeer jerked Larry Bird to the floor by the neck. Bird reacted with some good punches and a bench clearing brawl ensued. After the tangle of bodies was straightened out, Bird and Laimbeer were both ejected. It was at this point that Larry fired the ball point blank at Laimbeer's face so hard that it had to have left an imprint of the logo on his face. Later, hearing that Laimbeer claimed he was just trying to go for the ball, Larry replied that he was just giving it to him. Larry had swagger and then some.
In the 1984 finals, Larry Bird wasn't happy with his teammates. He called them out saying that they had played like a bunch of sissies. In the game after this pronouncement from Bird, the teams locked in a classic battle. It was literally 48 minutes plus overtime of a basketbrawl. Kareem attempted to take Larry's head off his shoulder with an elbow. James Worthy hammered Cedric Maxwell into the basket support and Kurt Rambis and Carr were at each others throats over and over. The most memorable of these run ins was McHale's clothesline of Rambis. Laker fans still hate McHale and talk about it to this day. This play and this game changed the whole complexion of that playoff series. A little intimidation goes a long way.
To his credit, Rambis didn't lay there whining about how he got hit, he was immediately on his feet and ready to fight. And finally, there are no two players who are as professional and as classy as Bird and Doctor J. But in 1984, frustration set in and with his team losing, Doctor J punched Larry Bird. Larry then went for Dr J's throat giving us the photo that leads off this article and one that will live in NBA infamy.
We all remember the "Bad Boys" from Detroit who were famous for their intimidation and tough play. The Celtics and Pistons sure had some battles. And the Celtics gave as much as they got. No one could capture the spirit of those Pistons better than the legendary Johnny Most. "Oh the yellow, gutless way they do things here."
Ok, enough of the reminiscing. That was then and this is now. I am not pushing for more fights or for the current Celtics to become thugs, but I love seeing this team, led by Rondo and KG, with some of that swagger again. That tough defense that says "Not in my house." I'm hoping to see more of that heart and swagger that shows people that the Celtics won't back down and that we are a force to reckon with. I especially want to see it this season in the Garden. The 1986 team lost just one game in the Garden. That is home court advantage. Make them think twice when they come there to play.
The defense was very obviously lacking in the Celtics opener in Miami. But I know that this team can and will play some very tough defense this season. We saw it in that throttling they gave New York in the preseason. We will see it again all this season. We don't need to get in fist fights or to clothesline players show that swagger or that Celtics Pride. But, if the Celtics are being abused on the court and the refs aren't calling it, the Celtics won't back down. They need to play tough strangling defense on teams and let them know "Not in my house!" It's time to go back to the good old days. Every player must commit to playing defense and bring back that swagger to Boston. I truly believe that this team has that in them. And this team will bring us back to the good old days when the end of the season meant another banner in the rafters.