By Bill Russell, Special to NBA.com
Posted Oct 25 2008 6:11PM
Can the Celtics repeat? I don't see why not. What you have to ask is, how many teams are going to be improved this season? A lot of teams improved on paper, but the games are played on the floor.
Red [Auerbach] used to always say, "You don't win a championship in the offseason," and he's right.
The one question that seems to consistently come up regarding the Celtics this season is: Can they win the championship without James Posey? The attitude to take when you lose one of your key contributors is to always do the best with the personnel you have. Don't review your roster and say, 'I wish I had this or I wish I had that.' The Celtics have to look at their current roster and say, 'this is the team we're going with' and it seems like they have.
And to answer the question, yes, the Celtics can repeat without Posey. I have all the team pictures of the championship teams that I was on.
I have the first championship team photo from 1957 and the last one from '69. I am the only guy in both pictures and during those 13 years, we only made one trade and that was Bailey Howell for Mel Counts. We had a complete turnover in that 13-year span. When you lose a player, you not only pick up the slack but the team system and attitude come into play in determining your overall success.
This was the case when Bob Cousy, one of the best point guards to ever play the game, retired in 1963 after we won our fourth title in a row. What happened the next year? We ended up winning the NBA championship again, this time with K.C. Jones at point, who is a totally different player than Cousy. I thought that was Red's greatest achievement as a coach. Red had to change without changing anything drastic. The team evolved real quickly into another team.
No doubt, teams will come harder against the Celtics because if they don't they'll get embarrassed. It's not so much that the Celtics will be a target because the other teams know that they have to play better rather than just being competitive. When we repeated all of those years, I never thought of us as being a target because we made the other team the target.
Will the Celtics become complacent? I suppose it's very possible. What you have to remember in sports especially, the key question is: What have you done for me lately?
I remember one year Red was so annoyed and it happened to me once too when I won my first championship as player-coach. I was in the locker room after the last game celebrating the championship and one of the reporters asked me, "Can you do it again next year?" I said, "I haven't even showered from this one."
Regardless of what happens this season, one thing won't change and that is, when they run out of that tunnel onto the Garden floor on Tuesday night, they will be announced to the crowd as the world champion Boston Celtics. I remember how I felt when our public address announcer, Weldon Hare, used to say that at the old Boston Garden.
It never ceased to send a tingle up my spine.
Bill Russell was the cornerstone of the Boston Celtics' dynasty of the 1960s, an uncanny shotblocker who revolutionized NBA defensive concepts. A five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a 12-time All-Star, the angular center amassed 21,620 career rebounds, an average of 22.5 per game and led the league in rebounding four times. His greatest accomplishment was bringing the storied Celtics 11 championships in his 13 seasons.
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