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David Aldridge

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Boston's starting lineup has helped make the team more accessible to the city's fans.
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Celtics helping change Boston's checkered racial history


Posted Jun 14 2010 1:03PM

BOSTON -- I have not always been comfortable here.

This city, so crucial to the American Revolution, did not seem, for decades, to be as hospitable to African-Americans who were seeking their freedom as well. If you're black and of a certain age, the images that Boston seemed to produce, generation after generation, were not comforting.

You remember the virulent reaction South Boston had to forced busing to achieve integration in the public schools in the 1960s and '70s. You remember the photograph of Ted Landsmark, a local African-American attorney who got caught in the middle of an anti-busing rally in 1976 and was assaulted by a white youth wielding an American flag like a bayonet.

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You remember Charles Stuart, a Boston-area fur salesman who claimed that his wife Carol, nine months pregnant, had been gunned down during an attempted mugging in 1989 by a black man in the Mission Hill neighborhood, and that that same black man had shot him in the stomach. (The baby died less than three weeks after being delivered via caesarian section.) Local police responded by stopping just about every person in the area who happened to be a black guy for the next few days, seemingly without regard to differing physical characteristics. It turned out that Charles Stuart had actually killed his wife as part of an insurance scam, and he jumped to his death into the Charles River about six weeks later when the police were closing in.

You remember the stories about what happened to Bill Russell, the greatest Celtic of them all, when he tried to move into a white neighborhood in Reading, a nearby suburb, in 1965. Vandals broke into his home, broke many of his trophies and defecated on his bed. You remember Dee Brown, the former slam-dunk champion, being surrounded by five police officers with guns drawn in 1990 and ordered to the ground after a bank manager had -- incorrectly -- identified Brown as someone who resembled a man who'd robbed a bank in Wellesley.

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For a few reasons, it was easy to root for the Knicks in the 1990 playoff series against the Celtics.
Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images

And so, I haven't always been comfortable here. That my work normally takes me from airport to hotel to arena in most cities still didn't provide solace. And so, that same year, 1990 -- before Dee Brown had five police officers draw their weapons on him -- I broke the cardinal rule of sports journalism. I rooted.

It was Game 5 of the first-round series between the Celtics and Knicks, a seeming mismatch between Boston, still sporting Larry Bird and Company, and the Knicks, who'd barely made the playoffs under Stu Jackson. Up until Game 5 the outcome was of no importance to me. But during that game, my press seat was on the baseline, directly in front of Celtics fans. And during that game, I heard, behind me, some of the most vile, hateful insults I'd ever heard directed at Patrick Ewing, New York's star center. Ewing had, famously, rejected playing in Boston, where he'd gone to high school, in order to play college basketball at Georgetown, and some of the locals, I guess, never forgave him for it.

So I rooted. Oh, how I rooted for Ewing, and Mark Jackson, and Mo Cheeks, who led the Knicks to an upset victory on the road to win the series. That it was quiet rooting didn't make it any more ethical, and it's not a memory that makes me especially proud. But that day, I wasn't a sportswriter for The Washington Post; I was a black man in Boston, and you had to choose sides, and I made my choice.

This is not to say all white people in Boston were racists. Far from it. My first good friend in the business was Steve Bulpett, the longtime Celtics writer for the Boston Herald, who could not have been more generous or nicer to me as he introduced me to people in and around the city -- who were also quite nice to me. The same went for Jackie MacMullen and Peter May at the Boston Globe, and Mike Arace, who worked for the Hartford Courant at the time. The Celtics' organization, up to and including Red Auerbach, never gave me a minute's pause or trouble and never has in two decades.

But the perception of the Celtics as a team embraced by white fans and shunned by blacks was embedded, deep in the marrow of many black folks.

"During my era, there was very seldom," black fans, recalled famed Celtic Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell. "And I didn't blame them. I wasn't a fan myself. 'Cause it was always portrayed white and black. So as a black person, a person of color, I felt that kind of pressure. Like, in most barber shops I went to, (people said) 'I don't like you.' Not because of who I was, but just because I was playing with the Celtics. And I think that definitely has changed now."

That's the great and good news. It has changed. Times have changed. We've all changed.

You look around TD Garden now, during these excellent Finals, and, just as in 2008, you see lots of black people, in the cheaper seats upstairs but also in the expensive lower bowl downstairs, wearing Celtics Green and cheering like mad alongside white friends and companions for the team of Auerbach, and Russell, and Bird, and McHale, which is now the team of Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, now one win away from their 18th NBA championship after Sunday's scintiliating victory over the Lakers.

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The Celtics' mostly all-white fan base of the 1980s has become seemingly more diverse .
Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images

"To be honest with you, I think the perception of Boston is a lot different when you live here," Garnett told me Saturday. "I understand it now. I don't think it's a white and black thing. Winning does help everything, I will say that. The Celtics are simply like this: if you are a Celtic, and you believe in us, then you're with us. Anybody outside of that, we're against. And that's what it is. It's nothing personal. It's nothing deliberate. I think a couple of cities, they would say it's kind of deliberate. But for most of it, it's not. It's just you're an outsider and you're not on the inside of the bubble."

It is anecdotal evidence to be sure; how can one count the number of people of a certain race in an 20,000-seat arena, and even if you could, how could you compare it fairly to the crowds of years ago? It's hard to imagine the Celtics keeping tab of such things, and their vice president of marketing, Sean Sullivan, was not available to comment. But for whatever reason, there seems to be a lot more color in the building now than there used to be.

"I wasn't a fan of the Celtics when Larry Bird played," said Lamar Capehart -- a lifelong Bostonian -- before Game 5 Sunday with Laurie O'Bryant, with whom he attends several games a year. Both are African-American.

"I was a Dr. J fan," said Capehart. "As soon as Paul Pierce came on the team they started putting more blacks on the team, and I became more of a fan."

What Capehart likely meant -- there has been no racial gerrymandering by Boston's front office in recent years -- is that the Celtics' stars now are all African-American: Pierce, Garnett and Allen. And that is different from the past, when there was always at least one great white star player on the team at the same time there was a black star. For Russell early, there was Bob Cousy; for Russell late, there was John Havlicek. Black fans, Capehart said, identify more with Boston now that the Celtics are dominated by black players.

"Obviously, it's a different look now," Maxwell said. "During the time when this team was playing, you think about the Russell Era, and it really being prejudiced during that time. But you think about after that, it was about Havlicek. It was about [Dave] Cowens. It was about Bird. It was about [Kevin] McHale. And so I think people viewed this team as still a white team in a white city ... we had black stars then. They just weren't identified. (Robert) Parish was a star, one of the top 50 of all time. I was an MVP. So we had black players then. But people identified it as a white team."

"More blacks in Boston feel they are a part of that now," said Capehart, pointing toward the Celtics' championship banners. "They can walk around and say, 'I'm a Celtics fan.' "

That view was shared by Brian Shaw, the Lakers assistant coach who was the Celtics' first-round pick in 1988 who played two-plus seasons in Boston.

"Look at the team; it's an all-black team," he said. "Who's the only non-black on the team? (Brian) Scalabrine? When you see your own out there it's just a lot easier."

Shaw did not experience any racial animosity while in Boston, but he thinks his status as a player had something to do with that.

"I think a lot of times, the celebrity that you carry being a Celtic makes it a little bit different experience than an average person, where they don't know who it is," Shaw said. "Now, coming back, I was just commenting to somebody how many times I've heard comments from people in the stands about me being a traitor, because I started with the Celtics, and how could I work for the enemy now, and how I should be true, bleed green and be true to the green. Money is green, too. And that's who's paying me."

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Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn plays with children during the unveiling of the Learn & Play Center at the Tobin Community Center.
Jesse D.Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Celtics have also been more visible in the black community. They're one of a few teams in the league that still has an active Stay in School program, with monthly assemblies at local schools that draw 500 to 600 students. A dedication of a Learn and Play Center at the Tobin Community Center in Roxbury last week during the Finals was one of many initiatives.

"They come to the community a lot," O'Bryant said. "They were at the Tobin, with the mayor. They're reading to the kids. You see them a lot in the community."

It does not mean that everything is great between the races in Boston; the crowd of any game in any city is a tiny, tiny snapshot, and teller of no great truths. It's just a feeling. But there have been changes, real changes.

Ted Landsmark is still in Boston. He is now president of the Boston Architectural College. In 2009, he wrote an op-ed for the Globe, arguing that it was time to end forced busing in the public schools, and pointing out that "the emotion has drained out of the busing argument ... 80 percent of Boston's residents did not live here in the 1970s."

The family of Carol Stuart, the woman murdered by her husband in 1989, set up a scholarship fund in her name for the kids of Mission Hill, the neighborhood in which she died, and which her husband had falsely claimed produced the murder. By 2006, the foundation had given more than $1.2 million in scholarships to college-bound students in Mission Hill.

Russell has made his peace with Boston. So has Brown. Things have changed. Things are better. It is not utopia and it is not finished -- the Celtics have just a handful of people of color among their fulltime staff. One of their most visible African-Americans, senior ticket executive Bobby Vines, died suddenly in late April of a heart attack.

But it is better here. The Celtics, in a small, small way, have helped with that.

"My perception was very similar to that when I played in Minnesota," Garnett said. "Coming here, it's different. You see it from the outside, but once you're on the inside, you belong. And you're embraced from the minute you get here. And if you're a student of the game and you understand the severity of the tradition here, all that comes into play with the responsibility of putting the green on, it's not a white or black thing here."

Dribbles

There is guardedly good news on Manute Bol, who has been hospitalized for several weeks in Virginia after suffering from kidney failure and a skin condition, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, that almost killed him. Bol had two more operations last week to remove both his gall bladder and a gallstone, and to stem some bleeding. As of late last week, his condition had stabilized and his life was not at risk.

"He's still in the hospital in Charlottesville and still has not completed his trip home. So he's had a heck of an ordeal," said the Rev. Tom Pritchard, the executive director of Sudan Sunrise, an organization that is trying to reconcile some of the longtime warring factions in Bol's native Sudan.

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Manute Bol's once-dire health situation seems to have taken a turn for the better.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Bol's kidneys, Pritchard said, are now working. But because the 7-foot-7 former center for the 76ers, Wizards, Warriors and Heat has been bedridden for a month, he's lost a lot of strength, and doctors haven't been able to get him up and walking because he's had so many operations.

Bol was in the Sudan for yet another months-long trip when he fell ill. He's been trying to build a primary school in his home city of Turalei, with an ultimate goal of building 41 schools in Sudan. The idea is that the schools will be open to all children, regardless of their religion or tribe. Pritchard said 250 members of Bol's Dinka tribe family have been murdered over the years, but Bol's schools will accept even those whose fellow sect members were involved in some of the killings.

He also supported a young Sudanese politician who wanted to make improvements.

"It's been a wonderful example of reconciliation," Pritchard said. "He wants to do this all over. It's something that Sudan desperately needs. It has some of the highest illiteracy in the world. He was in Sudan for the schools but he really stayed because of the election in April. The president of southern Sudan asked him please to stay. He is revered by the southern Sudanese ... when Manute got back to the states he said 'we did it.' He kind of felt putting his own life on the line was worth it, because he got the result he was looking for in the election."

Bol is still trying to raise $18,000 to put a roof on the school under construction in Turalei.

"Right now we have one building with three classrooms done, and the rainy season's upon us," Pritchard said. "It's not going to destroy it, but it's of no use during this rainy season, which is heartbreaking."

There is a Facebook page for those who'd like to wish Bol well in his recovery, and the link to Sudan Sunrise is here. It would be a strong gesture for all that Bol has done, both during his playing days and since, to help Sudan, if some of his former NBA teammates and current NBA players and officials dug into their vast pockets and paid off that $18K for the roof. That's per diem money, folks.

Top O' the World, Ma!

(Finals edition)

1) Boston (2-1): One win away from championship number 18. Incredible, after how they looked in early April.

2) L.A. Lakers (1-2): Eerily confident after losing Game 5, with two home games left.

3) Orlando: What is Matt Barnes worth on the open market? Really don't know.

4) Phoenix: To no one's surprise, Grant Hill picks up his $1.9 million option for next season.

5) Utah: Jazz going back to the old "music note" logo next season.

6) Cleveland: Waiting (on Izzo) is the hardest part.

7) Atlanta: Now, can the Hawks keep Joe Johnson in the fold?

8) San Antonio: Spurs' D-League coach, Quin Snyder, leaving for player development job with 76ers.

9) Chicago: Bulls may well sell the 17th pick overall to clear even more cap room.

10) Oklahoma City: GM Sam Presti denies New York Post report he's interviewed for Blazers' GM job.

11) Denver: Owner Stan Kroenke plans to keep Nuggets in his family as he pursues control of NFL's St. Louis Rams.

12) Portland: Per the Oregonian, Nate McMillan looking to add Bernie Bickerstaff to his staff as assistant.

13) Dallas: Dime Magazine rates Cuban the NBA's top owner. The worst? Sterling.

14) Milwaukee: I hear the Bucks would love for Luke Babbit to be there at 15. In the words of Dana Carvey channeling Bush 41, nah gah hahp.

15) Miami: D-Wade in attendance for Game 5 in Boston, sitting near Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and new coach Avery Johnson. Didn't notice any tampering, Riles.

16) Charlotte: Center Tyson Chandler, a source says, is indeed strongly considering opting out of his $12.6 million deal next season to become a free agent July 1, confirming Four-Letter Network report.

Nobody Asked Me, But ...

Could the Lakers win a title without Kobe Bryant?

Seems like a silly question after you watched how Bryant carried the Lakers offensively for almost the entire second half of Game 5 Sunday night against the Celtics. And thankfully for the Lakers, they don't have to answer that question for a while, after Bryant signed a three-year extension last April that keeps him with Los Angeles through the 2013-14 season, when he will be 35, and presumably looking hard at retirement; after that season Byrant will have put in 18 NBA campaigns. Until then, the Lakers will be a perennial favorite, with Bryant's talent, toughness and unrelenting desire to win shaping the marrow of his team.

But after?

Everyone retires. And so, far in the distance, currently shapeless in form, is where the Lakers go whenever Bryant calls it a career. And since general managers normally are thinking two or three years ahead, budgeting future salary caps and looking for the next group of players to form the next core of their squads, I asked Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak on Saturday how much thought he'd given to the post-Kobe landscape.

"Not much," he said, with a chuckle.

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Whenver Kobe leaves L.A., the Lakers will still have a formidable big man duo to work with.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

But the Lakers have something no other team in the league has: two talented seven-footers in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum as cornerstones. Not since the days of David Robinson and Tim Duncan in San Antonio has a team been so equipped to dominate the paint as L.A. with the soon-to-be 30-year-old Gasol and the 22-year-old Bynum, as has been evidenced ever since Gasol's arrival in 2008 and whenever Bynum has been able to stay healthy for extended periods.

In the middle of The Finals, it's hard to get anyone to look ahead. But there is no reason to expect the Lakers won't be able to extend their dominance in the Western Conference even after Bryant retires. Duncan, the hub of the Spurs, is 34 -- still an excellent player but not the force he once was. Phoenix's run to the West finals was fueled by 36-yeaer-old Steve Nash and 37-year-old Grant Hill. The Mavericks hope that rookie Rod Beaubois can develop quickly to become the heir apparent at point guard for 37-year-old Jason Kidd. The Rockets can only hope that Yao Ming can stay healthy.

Oklahoma City is coming on like a freight train, to be sure, and we haven't heard the last from Portland and Denver, maybe the Clippers. But nobody else has 14 feet of big man.

"I'm much more involved in the moment, versus looking toward the future," Bynum said last week. "And I know if I take my baby steps and let it run right, day by day, the future will be what it is. But I do understand at the same time that I am in a position to be here with Pau, and really have a nice, dominant Twin Tower effect over the outcome of games. And I do look forward to that. I think it will definitely be fun."

When Bynum and Gasol are on the court together, paint sorties by the opposition slow to a trickle. Glen Davis's effectiveness in this Finals series is directly tied to how long Bynum plays. At the other end, Bynum and Gasol already have a great rapport, easily able to work off of one another and each capable of deft interior passing. Bynum's footwork after a couple of years of working with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has improved noticeably.

"We'll see," Gasol said of a Pau-Drew 1-2 being able to get a ring someday. "You just never know. You can't really go that far ahead with anything, and especially in this business, and this sport. I want (Bynum) to stay healthy, from my perspective. He's a 22-year-old who's been through a couple tough injuries. His knees are suffering pretty much every single year. But he's still not really scared. He's just giving everything he's got. Let's see how that develops for him. But I wish we could be playing together and playing for championships five or six more years. That would be nice."

Bynum's durability is the great unknown. He's had an elbow. He's had an achilles. He's had multiple knee surgeries. He needs another one that he's putting off until after the Finals. But Kupchak does not believe that Bynum is injury-prone.

"Of the injuries he's had, he got hit from the side one time," Kupchak said. "And then the other time he fell backwards, awkwardly. To me they looked like two freak kind of injuries. This injury he's dealing with right now -- and I'm not a medical expert -- is not a serious injury. It's something he's going to have addressed, and he should be 100 percent by August. But it's something that you're going to monitor. He's still a young player still growing into his body. Hopefully, the injury thing, this is it. Hopefully this is the end of it."

Kupchak knows from injuries. His own career as a promising sixth man in the late 1970s and early '80s was derailed by back and knee problems.

"My injuries were more career threatening," Kupchak said. "My knee problem caused me to miss almost two years. I don't think he looks at anything career-threatening. For young players, it's hard. But [being out just] six weeks goes pretty quick."

Kupchak took a lot of heat for taking Bynum out of high school with the 10th pick in 2005, and for sticking with him through his first two seasons of development -- including some harsh criticism from one K.B. Bryant of Newport Beach, Calif., who famously wondered if it wouldn't be a good idea to send Bynum packing.

There are more than a few who think the Lakers should move Bynum for Chris Bosh in a sign-and-trade this summer. But Los Angeles made its impressions of Bynum clear by giving him a four-year, $58 million extension in 2008 that will keep him around through 2013.

"If he's the player we think he is, having a player like that to build around is comforting," Kupchak said, peering about as far into his crystal ball as he'll go. "Why can't Andrew play at this level for five, six years? You look at Pau, and he may not have the time frame that Andrew has, but he probably can play well another three or four years. We do feel we have some blocks in place that you can build around."

Everyone knows that this is Kobe's team for now, and for a while. But someday?

"We will have pieces here," Bynum said. "It is the Lakers. Everybody wants to play here. We'll be all right."

... And Nobody Asked You, Either

We know it won't be a point guard ... riiiiiight? From Luke Riley:

I was watching Game 2 of The Finals and made an observation. To preface, I am an unabashed fan of the Timberwolves since Isaiah Rider, and sometimes wish I could be more of a bandwagon man, but it must be written into my DNA code. Even crazier is the fact that I'm an Aussie fan! What I noticed during the game was Kevin Love and Kurt Rambis watching the game together. I have heard the rumours (which I observe, but generally dont buy into too much) that Love may be traded this offseason. This move makes no sense to me at all, and by the looks of the relationship between player and coach, won't happen. He and Jefferson compliment each other well. I actually buy into the whole rebuilding thing that they have going on and perhaps they will get it right this time. My question is thus: What is your opinion on who would be best for the Wolves to pick at No. 4 assuming the mock drafts are correct and it will go 1- Wall, 2 -Turner and 3 - Favors?

Not sure that Turner's going two, Luke, but for purposes of your argument let's say he is, and that Favors goes to Jersey at three. I am hearing that the Wolves really like Greg Monroe from Georgetown, which would make some sense if they are indeed going to move Love (or, for that matter, Al Jefferson; one of them surely will be going either on Draft night or soon after). Though it would not surprise me if they also take a long look at Wes Johnson, Turner is a system guy coming from the Princeton offense, which has a lot of similarities to the Triangle that Rambis brought from L.A.; Turner is a very willing passer from anywhere on the floor.

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Georgetown big man Greg Monroe could wind up with the Timberwolves as the No. 4 pick.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

If Joey Crawford blows his whistle a sixth time in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? From Stewart Meredith:

Love wiling away the work time hours reading your column(s). Always a great read, however I write regarding a point you raised which probably has about as much debatable relevance today as who caused the oil spill. That point being the disqualification rule. I understand the desire for anyone who shells out a wad of cash to see the elite NBA players do their thing. Of course it makes sense economically. There are quite a few other factors however that, to me warrant further analysis.

Firstly, the common trend for teams to 'rest' marquee players -- particularly at the end of a season where certain games are viewed as dead or pointless, must come under similar scrutiny. That's a bigger rip off than players who have been adjudged to have broken the rules six times in one game...

Another point worth consideration is that hardly ever do marquee players foul out, so when they do there's usually a pretty sound basis for it. Heck, even role players from the Rasheed Wallace school of ref love don't get fouled out enough to justify a mild ref bias -- let alone a total rule change.

Thirdly, changing a rule to basically mitigate the consequences of breaking the rules is a great idea - If you're talking speed cameras. When you're talking sport (and money) you can be sure that there will be a stampede to exploit whatever loophole the alternative will invariably will provide. Swapping a rule of certainty (6 fouls = you're off) will simply create more uncertainty and questionable outcomes in a game that is already one of thew hardest in the world to officiate, assuming one of the alternative (and in some cases, hilariously convoluted) ideas I read are adopted.

The problem, Stewart, is not that marquee players (or, any players) foul out a lot; it's that by getting in foul trouble, a team's entire strategy has to change. If Paul Pierce or Kobe Bryant picks up two fouls in the first four minutes of a game, it's likely that they'll come out, and they'll struggle for most of the game to find a rhythm. By changing the rule to allow players unlimited fouls -- but punishing their team if they use them after a sixth and subsequent fouls -- a team can weigh the pluses and minuses of keeping them on the court, but still have the option of using them. And while it's true that a team could employ a designated fouler who has little or no on-court value, that team would also run the risk of having a limited player on the court that could be exploited at one end of the court or the other by the opponent. Again, the coach would have to weigh the pluses and minuses.

The Weekly Correction. From Jerome Manigualt:

In your "Latest Headlines -- NBA News" piece on Monday you referred to the '79 Seattle Supersonics backcourt but made a mistake in identifying Gus Williams as "Gus Johnson". And lets not forget the third guard in that had just as much to do with the success of that Sonics team as well -- "Downtown" Fred Brown! Just thought I'd point that out to you. By the way, I bleed Celtic Green!

Duly noted, Jerome, and I know I knew that, not that it matters. I'm a recovering moron.

As always, send your Finals interrogaries, Draft illuminations and snark to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If you write it (first and last name, please), and we like it, we just might print it. All rights reserved -- by me!

Playoffs MVP Watch

(6/7/10-6/13/10)

1) Kobe Bryant (3 games: 33.3 ppg, 6 rpg, 3.3 apg, .423 FG, .920 FT): Kobe second-half points in Game 5: 28. Rest of team second-half points in Game 5: 19.

2) Paul Pierce (3 games: 20.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3 apg, .533 FG, .667 FT): Finally made his mark in Game 5.

3) Rajon Rondo (3 games: 13 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 6.3 apg, .514 FG, .167 FT): Ginormous tip-in and transition layup in the fourth quarter Sunday night when the Celtics were floundering offensively.

4) Pau Gasol (3 games: 15.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.3 bpg, .444 FG, .737 FT): Getting beaten up inside; is it slowing him down?

5) Ray Allen (3 games: 8.7 ppg, 4 rpg, 1.7 apg, .265 FG, 1,000 FT): Has struggled to find his shot since Game 2.

By the Numbers

3 -- First-round picks the Timberwolves have in the June 24 Draft -- fourth overall, 16th and 23rd.

56 -- Career Finals 3-pointers from Robert Horry, the most in league history, per the league. Michael Jordan is second with 42 and the Lakers' Derek Fisher is third with 40.

$305,244.67 -- Amount that Dennis Rodman's estranged wife claims that he owes in child support for two children, according to a TMZ.com account. Rodman's attorney told the website he didn't owe that much because his former spouse has dramatically inflated the amount of money he makes annually.

I'm Feelin ...

1) That was a pretty good big game performance Sunday night, Paul Pierce. But Kobe Bryant, who scored 23 straight points for the Lakers at one point, was even better in a losing effort.

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Kudos to the Nets for hiring Avery Johnson (right) as their new coach.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

2) I know. This is likely more about owners trying to save money than the start of a welcome trend. But I don't care. It's good to see Tom Thibodeau (18 years as an NBA assistant coach), Larry Drew (16 years) and 38-year-old Monty Williams get opportunities as head coaches. Anything to get new blood in the coaching pipeline is a welcome development.

3) But the Nets also made an excellent hire in Avery Johnson, whom I suspect will be a little less rough around the edges the second time around. Interesting that if New Jersey had won the Lottery, it probably would have drafted John Wall and traded Devin Harris, and probably wouldn't have gotten Johnson.

4) I think Game 6 on Tuesday is going to be epic stuff. But if the Lakers think they can just wait around for Game 7 Thursday, that will be the biggest mistake they make. As Jeff Van Gundy says over and over, you cannot give away playoff games. Ever. So I expect Boston to come out looking for the KO Tuesday night.

5) Thank God that Abby Sunderland, was found alive and well in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after distress signals from her boat were sent out on Thursday. Abby Sunderland was trying to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the earth alone.

6) Strasburg. Strasburg. Strasburg.

Not Feelin' ...

1) I think the Lakers will be asking themselves time and again as they fly across the country Monday morning why in God's name, down by five, didn't they foul Rajon Rondo, shooting 27 percent from the free-throw line in the Finals, when they had a chance in the final minute of Game 5. Instead, they fouled Ray Allen, he of the career .894 free-throw percentage. Swish, swish. Ballgame.

2) Just take a moment from the breathless speculation that LeBron is making every big decision now for the Cavaliers (he fired Mike Brown! He fired Danny Ferry!) and ask yourself this: why would he be pushing for Tom Izzo if he wants to win a championship now? No disrespect to Izzo; he's one of the few college coaches that could make the leap to the NBA rather seamlessly. But it's going to take time. Every new head coach has a learning curve. If LeBron was calling the shots, wouldn't he be demanding someone like Larry Brown or Phil Jackson -- a proven NBA coach who's won a championship? Both things can't be true. Either LeBron isn't running the show or he doesn't want to win right now. Which is it?

3) You wonder what Mike Woodson really thinks about his assistant, Larry Drew, succeeding him in Atlanta. You really do.

4) Pretty sure the Kings aren't going to take on the remaining four years and $50 million (including the trade kicker) of your contract, Brother Hedo.

5) Is Traveler on probation, too? Ten fewer bushels of oats per week?

6) And so, the death throes of semi-major college football begins, with the only seeming result to be mega-conferences that will ... still lead to no college football playoff.

Tweet of the Week

Wanna say congrats to the Chicago Blackhawks players and organization. Way to bring the championship to the city of Chicago.
-- Windy City native and current Suns guard Quentin Richardson (@QRich), Thursday, 12:16 p.m., the day after the Blackhawks ended a 49-year-drought and returned the Stanley Cup to Chicago. You see, New Jersey? Anything is possible!

They Said It

"I told Dr. Buss I didn't want to sit in a situation that happened with George Karl. I think that's putting a team under jeopardy and those are things that are my responsibility to do to make sure that there's nothing lingering here that I can find."
-- Lakers coach Phil Jackson, saying last week that he will undergo a battery of tests immediately after the Finals to determine if he's physically capable of coaching next season. Jackson had an emergency angioplasty to unclog an artery in his heart in 2003 that was 90 percent blocked, and has had two hip replacement operations in the last four years.

"You get a little bit older, you grow a little bit out of that, you don't want to be in all that flamboyant stuff. I don't walk around with diamonds on or jewelry on anymore. I get into my 40s, that's beyond me."
-- Gary Payton, telling the Las Vegas Sun that he's keeping a lower profile these days as he plans to transition into what he hopes is a new career as a coach, with the ultimate goal of coaching in the NBA.

"I can't tell him to go to New York. New York treated me bad...When I go to the Knicks games, do you know that they have somebody that follows me around to see what I say to the press?"
-- The suddenly quote-crazy Charles Oakley, telling a Miami radio station that he would tell LeBron James not to sign with the Knicks as a free agent.

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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