with the Dallas-Phoenix playoff game on in the background, the best of
the playoff matchups so far. As we get closer to the NBA
finals, the Dowbrigade, inveterate sports fan that he is, has been ruminating
on the state of professional basketball and the prospects of the team
he follows, the recently eliminated Boston Celtics.
The Celtics are in a sorry state, loaded with talent but sorely lacking
in gamesmanship, character and class. Their two best players, Antoine
Walker and Paul Pierce, have superstar ability and yet have failed utterly
over the years in forming the kind of cohesive core around which a championship
team can be built.
Antoine Walker is the single most frustrating player we have seen in
all our years as a basketball fan. He has all the tools; size,
strength, coordination, passing ability, shooting range and rebounding
instincts. He wants to win and tries so hard it almost hurts to watch
him sometimes. And yet he continually makes the most boneheaded decisions
on the court, taking the ball to the basket against three defenders while
stand around, completely open, shooting threes when a lane to the basket
is available, playing on the perimeter when his talents were needed inside,
trying to take over a game when the defense is keying on him.
It got to the point that we just couldn’t watch the games any more when
he was on the court. It was like watching a wayward child whose heart
is in the right place, but who keeps getting into trouble that "isn’t
his fault". He was traded away last year, and Celtics fans breathed a
Then, halfway through this year, the Celtics pulled off a trade and
brought him back. To everyone’s surprise he was like a different
player. He really seemed to "get it". He was playing inside, rebounding
shooting nary a three. Boston went on a streak, won 8 in a row, and the
fans embraced him. Americans in general, and New Englanders in particular,
love a story of redemption – the prodigal son returned, reformed, resplendent.
Where there’s a heartbeat, there’s hope.
But you can’t expect a tiger to change its stripes, the changes didn’t
last, and by playoff time Antoine was back to all his old, bad habits.
clear that in order to place their new talent in a winning context and
take the team to the next level, management needs to blow things up and
start again with a younger core, sans Antoine.
In the NBA there are three ways to improve your team; trading, drafting
and signing free agents. The first depends on having tradable talent
on your roster, and the last requires deep pockets, so let’s look for
a moment at the annual draft of college, high school and foreign players,
coming up next
Fully cognizant of drifting into dangerous waters, the Dowbrigade is
of the opinion that the Boston Celtics should take their first round
pick and select the BAWG – the Best Available White Guy.
What! Haven’t we transcended that color thing here in the 21st century?
Are we suggesting that the team would be any better or more popular if
it had a white guy on it? Well, yes. Not that we think white guys are
so great at basketball – all of our favorite players are black. But
in as diverse a city as Boston, it seems as if on a roster of 15 players,
they could find at least ONE paleface, at least an oriental or native
We know that it isn’t easy to find an NBA-capable white guy in American
colleges these days. There are no Larry Birds or Bill Waltons out there
waiting to be drafted. The only decent non-black big men out there are
foreigners; Dirk Nowitski, Yao Ming, Andrew Bogut. The Americans that
do make it to the league are inevitably freaks of nature like Mark Eaton
(7’5") and Shawn Bradley (7’6"), or deadeye outside shooters like the
Barry boys, who have obsessively honed their shot with millions of repetitions
over decades of dedication. The big bruisers in the league, the power
forwards, are almost exclusively black.
Sure, the Most Valuable Player in the league this year was a white guy,
Steve Nash, but he’s a hippie from Canada, for God’s sake. So we
strongly suspect that when the Celtics pick 18th next month, the BAWG
is going to be a foreigner.
From the look of things, that Yao Ming is the real deal; 7’6" with legs
as solid as oak trunks, not a scarecrow like Bradley. There must
be more where he came from. Not known as a basketball stronghold or a
particularly tall race, the Chinese have one thing going for them – demographics.
Even if finding a reasonably coordinated seven-footer is a one in a million
proposition, that would mean China has about 1,400 of those guys to choose
Speaking of which, by the same token India should have over a thousand
coordinated seven-footers, and as far as we know there has NEVER been
an Indian NBA player. What are
all those really
tall Hindus up to? They can’t all be playing cricket! If we were running
the Celtics we would send a scouting team to scour the Indian sub-continent
for the Hindu Yao Ming.
We still love this game, even if we can only get excited about it in
our imagination these days.