Q & A With Dennis Johnson
Dennis Johnson is now an Assistant Coach for the Los Angeles Clippers, but when many people see him one of the first things that comes to mind is "The Steal". Celtics.com caught up with "DJ" and asked him about one of the most famous plays in Boston sports history.
Celtics.com: Sunday is the anniversary of Larry Bird's steal versus the Pistons in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, which many people say is their favorite Celtics memory of all-time. Where does it rank for you?
Dennis Johnson: For me, it is easily the greatest play I was ever involved in, and I have been involved in some great ones. From a last second shot in L.A. to some key steals throughout my career, but that play ranks right up there at the top.
Celtics.com: We all say what went on out on the court. It appeared to be organized chaos. What was said in the huddle during the timeout right before the play?
DJ: I think the exact words that were said were 'we need to come up with a steal'. If we couldn't get a steal, then we needed a quick foul. If we couldn't do that, then we knew we were dead in the water. I think everyone was just so shocked and amazed after it happened, because you can see something happening in your mind, but then when it happens in front of you like it did, it is just an amazing thing.
Celtics.com: Things were not going well leading up to that play. KC Jones had lost his mother, Robert Parish had been ejected, and the Pistons looked like they would take a 3-1 advantage in the series. What was the team feeling like at that time?
DJ: I think we always believed that at home we were going to win. No matter what was happening. We always had that feeling that we had an advantage. We may not have always won, but with that building, that crowd, and that city, we always felt we could win any game at any moment. It did look awful bleak in this case, but then luck reared its ugly head.
Celtics.com: Its ugly head?
DJ: It was ugly only because of the way it happened. When Larry Bird caught the ball, you look at the tape and he is up on his toes trying to keep himself in-bounds! Then I just happened to make a cut to the rim. I didn't really have a lane, but I just went to the rim. Joe Dumars made a swipe at it, and then I thought I might have spun it too hard off the board. But it went in. So luck did rear its head, and I didn't care if it was ugly or beautiful.
Celtics.com: Many people focus on Bird's steal on that tape, but your shot was not as easy as it looked, was it?
DJ: It was just a reaction play. You see any kind of alley and you go to the basket. If I got a shot, great. But if I got fouled, then I am pretty confident that I am going to make those, too. I was kind of surprised when they didn't foul me.
Celtics.com: It has to feel good that the Celtics are back playing in late May again, isn't it?
DJ: Very much so. I catch a lot of heat for it out here in L.A., but it is very good to see. I have called and relayed that message to Jim (O'Brien), Dick Harter, Lester Conner and the team. I think it would be good for the league - and I am not counting out Sacramento or New Jersey because they are great teams - to see the old rivals back in the Finals. I wish the Celtics all the luck in the world.