Friday, January 27, 2012

24 Hours Of Orlando

So how was your day?  

Thursday morning, alarm went off at 4:15.  By 5:30, I was on a JetBlue flight to Orlando. 

That means many things, among them being that while you’re never get the sleep back, you can replace all the things I had to surrender to TSA that can’t go on commercial flights.  

But before I crashed into about 47 minutes of the luxury that is commercial-airplane sleep, I was watching Federer-Nadal from the Australian Open. And even with the men’s game in something of a malaise down period, you watch those two because you may very well see something you’re going to remember for a very long time.

Now since the Celtics had already done that Monday in the first half of the home-and-home with the Magic (scroll down to Tuesday morning’s entry), it seemed there was as much chance of it happening again, as there was for Federer after he got run over in the third set tie-breaker.

Monday without Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen, they held the Magic to 56 points, their worst offensive performance in franchise history.  Little did we know, they hadn't yet begun to offend.

Thursday, make it a road game, and take starting center Jermaine O’Neal out of the mix. So for perspective, it left the Celtics with two centers to match up with Dwight Howard. One, Greg Steimsma, who averaged 6 points and 4 rebounds a game last year…in Turkey.  And the other, Chris Wilcox, who’d made five shots all year and hadn’t played in two weeks.

Elias says the last 282 times an NBA team built a 27-point lead, they held on to win. 

So what do you do for an encore after one of the statistically best defensive performances in league history?  When you’re down three starters and another key reserve goes down in the first half? When the two point guards you have left have played less than 500 NBA minutes?

You stop a 282-game win streak.

It was the Celtics biggest comeback since 1996.  Of all the extraordinary accomplishments of the New Big Three Era, big comebacks haven’t been one of them. Why? Because the Celtics the last five years have rarely gone down by 20 points.  In fact, the Celtics entered this year having fallen behind by 20 just 15 times in 4 years….

2007    2008    2009    2010    2011    2012

15+ POINT DEFICITS                                35            7             11          15             8              7
20+ POINT DEFICITS                                17            2               4             6              3              5

The result, it was just the second time since 2007, the C’s had come from 20 down to win.  The other being the first leg of the Texas Triangle sweep in 2008.  In fact in their first seven wins of the year, their biggest comeback was four.


27 - @ ORLANDO – JANUARY 26, 2012
23 - @ PHILADELPHIA – JANUARY 20, 2003
22 - @ SAN ANTONIO – MARCH 17, 2008
20 - VS. L.A. CLIPPERS – FEBRUARY 9, 2005
20 - @ NEW JERSEY – DECEMBER 9, 2006
19 - @ CLEVELAND – DECEMBER 21, 2002
18 - VS. MEMPHIS – NOVEMBER 9, 2005
17 - @ PHOENIX – DECEMBER 26, 2003
17 - @ PORTLAND – FEBRUARY 24, 2008
16 - @ CLEVELAND – DECEMBER 18, 2004
16 - @ ATLANTA – JANUARY 10, 2006
16 - @ MILWAUKEE – NOVEMBER 25, 2006
16 - VS. SEATTLE – MARCH 9, 2007
16 - VS. TORONTO – NOVEMBER 10, 2008
16 - VS. ATLANTA – NOVEMBER 12, 2008

Of note, the previous high on that list, was also on TNT, MLK night in Philadelphia nine years ago.  Marv Albert, who called Thursday's game on TNT, had another one on that list, calling the win in New Jersey for YES in 2006. That was the Paul Pierce buzzer-beater that started a 5-game win streak for the Celtics.  And then that season, yeah, went another way.

The two Orlando games follow a compelling win in Washington Sunday.  If the Celtics find a way with a 3am arrival this morning to pull off the back-to-back win against the Pacers Friday night, it may not be the best week of the New Big Three Era, but certainly the most shocking.

Now are the Celtics suddenly contenders for the championship again? Can they continue to win games with 3 of their 5 starters on the sidelines?  Have we seen the last of Roger Federer as the dominant force on the men's side? Is Tuesdays With Morrie so absurdly popular that a woman was reading it voraciously on my flight this morning as if it came out yesterday? 

The last answer is yes, the others you can decide for yourself. But it’s pretty amusing every day to read tweets from people, and columns from writers about the Celtics needing to “blow it up”.  When the team on the other end of the floor is the one imploding.

Time check…4:22am.  My 24 hours of Daytona Orlando…are over.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Bad Weekend For Field Goals

January 24, 2012 - 1:45am

Just a quick entry.

They say you live long enough, you’ll see everything.  You call enough NBA games, I suppose the same holds true.

The Celtics entered Monday night's game with Orlando having lost 6-of-8, a middle-of-the-pack NBA rank of 12 in field-goal defense with a third of their roster, including two starters out.

How stacked was the deck for Orlando Monday night?

The Celtics were without their floor leader Rajon Rondo, responsible for nearly forty percent of the Celtics offense. Without Ray Allen, second in the NBA as 56% from behind the three-point line. And without Mickael Pietrus and Keyon Dooling, the only other candidates to stretch the defense, welcomed the 11-4 Orlando Magic to Boston.

The absent Celtics had scored 40% of Boston’s points through the first 15 games.
The starting backcourt (Avery Bradley, Sasha Pavlovic) that had averaged 17 minutes a game combined through the first month, while the return of Hedo Turkoglu put the rested Magic at full strength.

The Magic were rested, having blown out the Lakers Friday night, while the shorthanded Celtics were on the second night of a back-to-back, a circumstance in which they’d lost 10 of their last 13.

Now, you know how the NBA works, games that look like mismatches on paper, often end up coming down to the final possession. 

This one, did not.

For two and half hours later, we had this.


56 - VS. MILWAUKEE – MARCH 13, 2011
56 - VS. ORLANDO – JANUARY 23, 2012
57 – VS. MILWAUKEE – FEBRUARY 27, 1955
58 - VS. DENVER – JANUARY 24, 2003
59 - VS. NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 29, 2007
59 - VS. CHARLOTTE – OCTOBER 28, 2009
62 – VS. MIAMI – APRIL 2, 2003
62 - VS. MIAMI – MARCH 30, 2008
62 - @ CHARLOTTE – DECEMBER 11. 2010
63 - @ SACRAMENTO – DECEMBER 28, 2008

            * Shot Clock Era

Really?  Yes, really.

With 56 points, 24.6% from the floor and 16 made field goals, it was the worst offensive night in the 23-year, 1,788-game history of the Orlando Magic.  They hit their previous low 57 against the human-rain delay that was the 1997 Cavs coached by Mike Fratello.

It was the sixth time in the shot-clock era the Celtics have held a team under 60 points, four of those six have come in the New Big 3 Era.  One, was in 1955. The other in 2003 against a Denver team that featured Vincent Yarbrough, Junior Harrington and Donell Harvey…in the starting lineup.  And off the bench John Crotty, Mark Blount and the legendary Nikoloz Tskitishvili.

Keyon Dooling missed the game Monday night, but he’s already seen this show.  He was on the Bucks team against whom the Celtics set the franchise record ten months ago.

A record the Celtics were about to set on November 30, 2007, in a memorable early-in-the-championship season TNT game with the Knicks.  But another future-Celtic, Nate Robinson hit a buzzer-beating three from just across half-court, that kept the Knicks out of the record book in a 104-59 Boston win.

It was also the fourth time in the New Big Three Era the Celtics held an opponent under 30% from the floor…


.246 - VS. ORLANDO – JANUARY 23, 2012
.270 - VS. PHILADELPHIA – MARCH 28, 2004
.279 - @ SACRAMENTO – DECEMBER 28, 2008
.288 - VS. MIAMI – MARCH 30, 2008
.298 - VS. CHICAGO – OCTOBER 31, 2008
.299 - @ CHICAGO – NOVEMBER 6, 2002

It was an historic night for the Celtics at the Garden, as and Billy Cundiff will tell you, a bad weekend for field goals in New England.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mets Fan Bids Kid Adieu

February 17, 2012 - Chicago

I was finishing my prep for tonight's Celtics game in Chicago when the news came. A few miles from where Gary Carter hit his 300th home run in the summer of 1988, an quest which had become such a Tim Wakefield-aian struggle at the end, David Letterman did a whole bit on it later than night. The outpouring of obituary affection was overwhelming and at some level comforting. Almost as much as the knowledge that his pain was finally over.  Such a bittersweet moment to think that more than once in 1985, Gary Carter and Whitney Houston were the two best parts of my teenage day.

I wrote this last month, when things seemed most grave.  It was an ode, and a paying of due respect.  But really, it was therapy for me and maybe at some level, that ridiculous, youth-inspired backwards sports-thought that you could jinx something from happening, merely by saying it out loud.

It didn't work.

But the Empire State Building, which I could see out of my window every day growing up, bright with Mets blue and orange on Friday night was the best tribute of all.

He had a way of brightening up everything.

January 20, 2012

This should have been a fun Thursday night.  The Lakers and Heat are on.  We had Penguins-Rangers, no Rob Lowe tweets and the unintentional comedy of both Fausto Carmona, and pretty much every Republican candidate pretending to be someone else.
But I can’t shake the story that’s gotten lost in the always-frenetic news cycle.
Gary Carter is dying.
I can’t believe I have to type that.
Nor do I know why life-is-unfair moments continue to catch me off guard.  But this one truly has.
We’ve spent the last couple of months, celebrating, canonizing, debating, appreciating, bashing, and then appreciating all the bashing of a player who plays the game with an indomitable joy and a faith he feels compelled to share.  But as fascinating and must-see TV as the year of the Tebow has been. I enjoyed it more the first time I saw it three decades ago.  It was called Gary Carter.
He was the National League’s all-star catcher, after Johnny Bench and before Mike Piazza.  He was the centerpiece of the two of the decade’s great teams.  The early 80’s Expos and the mid/late 80’s Mets.
But he was different. It’s one thing for a rookie to get the nickname “Kid”. It’s another when a burly catcher in mid 30’s not only keeps it, but earns it every day.
Our collective national snark wasn’t as honed in the 80’s.  I mean, my God, just look at the hair.  How cynical could we possibly have been?
Bobby Bonilla famously told the New York media when he arrived twenty years ago that they couldn’t knock the smile off his face.  That had a Kim Kardashian marriage kind of chance.  And lasted about as long.
Carter seemed immune to it.  He seemed to have a Kenneth-the-30 Rock-page, aw-shucks immunity to it.  He chased foul balls he couldn’t possible reach, he dove into the stands and every Shea Stadium curtain call looked like Kevin Garnett winning a championship. And he never shied away from thanking the Lord on the post-game show, no matter how cringe-worthy.
With our conflict-seeking trained eyes now, we can probably see Keith Hernandez and the more too cool for school element of the dugout rolling their eyes at Carter. The same way Red Sox teammates would snipe off the record about Curt Schilling years later.
I remember a DL stint for Carter late in the ’86 season in which Tim McCarver and Steve Zabriskie had him up in the TV booth. He was so bottled up from not being able to play, I don’t think he stopped talking for like six full innings. It was Walton-esque. 
We all work with someone like that.  They’re just a little too enthusiastic, a little too rah-rah. Not one of the cool kids, and kind of an easy target.  But you miss them when they’re gone, because they made you work harder, or play harder, or just enjoy more being part of a team.
Gary Carter was that guy. 
He used to scream at his teammates, “You’re the man!”
When really, he was.
In the old days, when there was only one ESPN, one Game of the Week, and you did your fantasy league stats every Tuesday when USA Today printed the stats, baseball’s winter meetings were in mid-December, the week of my birthday.  So every year, as a Met fan, I’d get someone new for my birthday. At least that’s how I looked at with the limitless myopia of youth.
By 1984, Frank Cashen the Mets GM had been stockpiling assets for years, meticulously building the farm system to make the one big deal.  That December, he had enough to go shopping at the big boy store.  And the Expos, foreshadowing and pre-dating  the departure of Andre Dawson, Pedro Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero, were ready to deal their franchise catcher.
We loved Hubie Brooks, loved him, but I would have driven him to the airport myself.  Were I old enough to have a car…or a license.  Keith Hernandez had changed the culture in the Mets clubhouse, but Carter legitimized it.  The result, was baseball nirvana.  Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Lenny Dykstra, Wally Backman, Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell, as motley and wild a crew as has ever been assembled, now had a heart.
I get it, everyone hated the Mets.  The way they hated the Yankees of the late 70’s, the Celtics of the late 2000’s, the Broad Street Bully Flyers, the cast of Jersey Shore.
Jeff Pearlman famously wrote the story of the mid 80’s Mets, it was called “The Bad Guys Won.”  There should have been asterisk for the catcher.
He was a leader from the first day.  The walk-off home run in his first game as a Met against Neil Allen and the Cardinals.  I was there that day, finding out first-hand what happens when both an all-star catcher anchors your lineup, and you sit at Shea Stadium for three hours in mid20’s April wind-chill. The results of both are devastating.  He had, by the way, ruined Opening Day the year before, hitting a grand slam in a 10-0 Expos rout.  Now he was my birthday present.  He was on my side.
The stats, the hall of fame career?  They’re all on Baseball Reference. 
The 1-2-3 double plays, the purely genuine fist-pumps, riding those bad wheels into second on a double. I watched every minute of the Mets’ six hour game in Atlanta on July 4, 1985.  I watched it.  Gary Carter caught it…all 19 innings. 
When Mookie Wilson nearly lost his eye in spring training in 1987, when a rundown throw shattered his sunglasses, Carter was the first one to rush to his side.  “Aw geez, did it break the glass?  It did.”  He was devastated because his teammate, had gotten hurt.
These are the things I remember.
Before we had Wikipedia, and YouTube and every conceivable sports moment cataloged at our fingertips, we relied on our own childhood memories, and by not having to go to either to write these words, I realized today how much Gary Carter is a part of mine. And how much I appreciate it.
We seem to have great skill and grace when it comes to the posthumous homage. 
But I’m writing this tonight on the hopes he’ll see it.  On the hopes that rather than write an obituary, he could know how much one fan loved to watch him play, and will always remember not just 1986, and a World Series win one teenager who grew up watching Mets teams lose 95 games a year never even dared to dream, but the everyday love of the game that came through the television decades before HD.
But mostly on the hopes he can beat out one more base hit it doesn't seem like he can.
From me as a kid, to the actual Kid.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

10,000 Maniacs: These are the Twitter days

January 15, 2012 - 12:30am

So as it turns out, we hit this big Twitter milestone at 30,00o feet.

Which is kind of fitting as I’ve spent every imaginable holiday, birthday, anniversary, award show, election night and Family Guy marathon day six miles in the air.  In fact, the only thing I remember being on the ground for was the Millennium twelve years ago.

And that’s only because they thought all the planes were going to crash.  Y2K…those were the days.

But this is about 10K, not Y2K, as in the landmark 10,000 follower threshold they tell me is some kind Ron Burgandy big deal in Twitter world.

Here’s the thing.  It’s really not.  And before I get to why it’s not, and what is kind of a big deal, can I just say what no one else seems to?  That “follower” is kind of creepy.  A kind of creepy, ill-fitting term.  What am I, the King of Siam or something? 

Who came up with this?  What about subscriber?  What about member?  And what about what it really is…customer. 

I mean, if people that read our tweets are followers, that would make those who tweet leaders. And based on what I’ve seen around this neighborhood?  Yeah, not so much. If Twitter follower-ship was the measure of leadership, President Obama’s cabinet meetings would have would have Katie Perry and Shakira arguing about middle class tax cuts and Ashton Kutcher taking digital pictures of it with his Nikon.

Listen, I was pulled reluctantly into this world, as most men of certain age are when the impetuousness of youth is replaced with a lethal combination of skepticism, fear of the unknown and the stubborn refusal to accept that the way you’ve always done things, is not going to be the way you can do them in the future.

Evolve, or die.

Why my reticence?  Well, I figured 140 characters for me was like watching Kwame Brown try to squeeze into those short-shorts for the Lakers a few years ago.  An uncomfortably tight squeeze, and not very pretty to look at.

I mean, we’re 350 words in here and I haven’t even approached the point.  Haven’t even sidled up near it. 

I’m a broadcaster.  So anyone who uses one word when they could just as easily use ten just isn’t trying hard enough.

But let’s arrive at the point; I really am humbled by there being 10,000 of you.  For a variety of reasons. 

The strangest one being this, I know some of you, maybe a majority of you, have never actually seen or heard me do what it is, I really do.

See, I’m a play-by-play guy.  That’s what I do.  It’s what I’ve always done.  I can’t sing or dance, I can’t heal, I can’t litigate, I can’t pilot.  I call games.

But in that role as the voice of the Boston Celtics, and various in sundry free-lance assignments, no one has ever promoted me as being on Twitter.  You’ve never seen my name at the bottom of any screen with the little blue bird.  My handle, is that what we’ve decided to call it?  My handle doesn’t appear on the Celtics website, on our TV partner Comcast Sportsnet, now a proud part of the NBC Sports family.  I’m rarely on TV these days, I don’t host Sportscenter, or a daily talk show.

I have become, quite accidentally, a Louis Winthorp-ian sociological experiment in this purely democratic medium of Twitter.

If you’re there, it’s strictly on word-of-mouth, or word-of-tweet I guess, as it were.  You might be into the Celtics, the NBA, WWE, college hockey or just like a good LeBron, Tebow or Brett Favre joke once in a while.  You’re probably a fan of Bill Simmons, or Jim Ross, Michele Beadle, Mick Foley, Robert Flores, Joey Styles, Adrian Wojnarowski, Dave Lagana or any of my high-profile friends who type softly but carry a big twitter stick.

But you found me, the same way you’ve found all the other cool stuff out here that you enjoy and you make the decision to say, in a way that makes us deeply proud; “This person does not irritate me to a level that I can’t even stand to have their random thoughts delivered to my handheld personal device for free.”

It is quite the ego stroke.

But like a Clint Eastwood-grumpy-old-man character that eventually has to admit that the new thing he was afraid of is actually a welcome change and some kind of full-circle, third-act object lesson, I have to say, this is pretty cool.

All the other elements of being on the air, or being a “star” (and I’m talking about Gaga and Beiber here, not me.  Well, probably Beadle, too), have always been about creating an imaginary divide between celebrity and us “regular people”.  But the unintentionally subversive byproduct of Twitter, is that we’re all the same.  We look the same, we have the same character limit and the single best part…


I’m on the Celtics plane right now, if I wanted to ask Paul Pierce a question about, well, anything, I can get up, walk five feet and ask him.  But now, you can too.  And chances are he’ll see it, and maybe even answer.

Look, I’m not nor am I likely to ever be, if I may crib from my former work colleague Antoine Walker, a high-volume-tweeter. But I will do my best to answer ever tweet as quickly as I can.  It’s the least I can do.  Why?

Because what I’m saying, in something more than 140 characters, is that as far as I’m concerned, I…follow you.  And if I can inform, amuse, answer a question or tweet a picture of Max eating a snow cone during the second quarter, I’ll do my best.

And continue to strive to be the Egg McMuffin of Twitter.