- April 17: Inside the Numbers: Draft Lottery Q&A
- April 17: Celts Should Be Proud of Their Final Chapter
- April 16: That's What He Said - Wizards at Celtics
- April 15: Boston Celtics Thank Fans for Support
- April 14: That's What He Said - Celtics at 76ers
- April 12: That's What He Said - Celtics at Cavaliers
- April 11: That's What He Said - Bobcats at Celtics
- April 09: That's What He Said - Celtics at Hawks
- April 08: Rondo, Celtics Still Have Much To Play For
- April 07: Stevens Gives Updates on AB, Sully, Hump
- April 05: That's What He Said - Celtics at Pistons
- April 04: That's What He Said - 76ers at Celtics
- April 03: Celts Moving Forward After Disappointing L
- April 02: That's What He Said - Celtics at Wizards
- April 02: Bradley Remains Questionable with Achilles
- April 01: Rondo Teams with Gorman as Color Analyst
- March 31: That's What He Said - Celtics at Bulls
- March 31: That's What He Said - Bulls at Celtics
- March 29: Stevens Debates New Lineup "Every Minute"
- March 29: That's What He Said - Celtics at Raptors
- March 26: That's What He Said - Raptors at Celtics
- March 25: C's Taste Playoffs Through Home-and-Homes
- March 24: Don't Sleep on NBA's Madness in March
- March 22: Bradley's New Routine: Tip, Tape, Torch
- March 21: That's What He Said - Celtics at Nets
- March 21: C's Talk Tourney, Downplay Notion of Upsets
- March 21: Stevens: C's Must Improve To Cut Down Nets
- March 21: Celtics Sign Babb to Multi-Year Contract
- March 20: Rondo, Celtics Take Season Series from Heat
- March 18: Bayless Sizzles in 4th To Lead Comeback Bid
- March 18: That's What He Said - Celtics at Mavericks
- March 17: Pelicans Outlast Celtics in Wild OT Thriller
- March 16: That's What He Said - Celtics at Pelicans
- March 14: That's What He Said - Suns at Celtics
- March 13: SportVu's Take on Rondo's First Two Months
- March 12: That's What He Said - Knicks at Celtics
- March 11: That's What He Said - Celtics at Pacers
- March 11: Celtics Sign Babb to Second 10-day Contract
- March 10: That's What He Said - Pistons at Celtics
- March 08: Stevens Excited To Enjoy Madness as a Fan
- March 08: Bradley Could Return as Early as Friday
- March 08: That's What He Said - Nets at Celtics
- March 07: Vitor Faverani Medical Update
- March 06: National Anthem Open Call Auditions
- March 06: Celts Lose, but Olynyk Continues To Evolve
- March 06: That's What He Said - Warriors at Celtics
- March 04: Post-ACL Rondo is Shooting the Lights Out
- March 04: C's Lose Wallace; Olynyk, Bradley Improve
- March 04: Gerald Wallace Injury Update
- March 03: Winter Warmth: Green Heats up in February
- March 02: That's What He Said - Pacers at Celtics
- February 28: Celtics Slammed With Laundry List of Injuries
- February 28: Celtics Sign Babb to 10-Day Contract
- February 27: Perfect Pair? Bayless, Rondo Excel Together
- February 27: That's What He Said - Hawks at Celtics
- February 25: That's What He Said - Celtics at Jazz
- February 23: That's What He Said - Celtics at Kings
- February 22: That's What He Said - Celtics at Lakers
- February 20: Quiet Deadline is Nothing New for Ainge
- February 15: C's Rising Stars Surprise in Starting Role
He ended up wearing the hat on the air that very same night, which believe me, was not the plan.
You always remember the first time you saw certain things; things you just knew were going to have a place of semi-permanence in your world. Maybe the first time you saw Tiger Woods. Maybe the time you saw Michael Jackson at Motown 25, or a 21-year old Eddie Murphy steal an episode of SNL by blowing the doors off a 12:55 a.m. sketch. Sometimes your eyes and ears just know special when they see it and hear it.
The first time I saw Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith together on Inside The NBA, going through the highlites, I knew it would become the center of the league. It just had that feel, you knew it instantly. Sometimes something magical just clicks immediately, without explanation. Take for example, I don't know, a team constructed almost from scratch over the summer that wins 29 of its first 32 games, matching the best start in NBA history (see below).
TNT nailed it; the studio, the production of the game broadcasts and the personalities of the talent mixed perfectly with what the post-Jordan NBA was going to be.
I felt no shame during my three years in Minnesota about slipping references to the show into Timberwolves' telecasts. Because when they played those clips later that night on Inside, it brought the team I was working for, and the show I was working on, closer to that center, if just for a couple of seconds.
It was with that thought process, as TNT and Inside the NBA were live inside TD Banknorth Garden before Game 6 of the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals, that I grabbed Kenny "The Jet" Smith as a guest on our pre-game show, The Celtics Tonight, to talk about the series and the impact of Inside, then still its in post-infancy, toddler stage.
You know your team has arrived when TNT is carrying your game on its Thursday night double-dip of NBA action.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty
When it was over, I gave him a hat. Not just any hat, but a fishing hat. A fishing hat with the logo of our then-flagship radio station. Kenny's Gone Fishin' Photoshop segment, picturing him in full aquatic gear with the key players of a team that had just been eliminated from the postseason, had become a metaphoric staple of the show. The gift was both a tribute to the show and its impact, and also an attempt at a cheap plug on national television.
Of course, I hadn't anticipated him wearing it on the show three hours later, sending the Celtics off on their summer fishing trip, after dropping Game 6, and the series, on their home floor.
Seemed like a good idea at the time, though.
There are countless ways in which the world has changed for everyone connected to the Boston Celtics over the last six months. The winning streaks, the magazine covers, the talk show calls when they dare lose two straight, one winter removed from doing that nine times in a row. But tonight at the Garden, they step into another very big part of that world.
The center of NBA culture has been personified in different ways over the years. It's had a different stamp and a different feel for each generation. In the 60's, it was ABC, Chris Schenkel and Keith Jackson, beaming images of Elgin Baylor and Willis Reed from municipal auditoriums; games with the ABC Sports logo hanging over glorified card tables at courtside.
In the 70's and 80's, CBS was there throughout the NBA's explosion, from tape-delaying the NBA Finals through the Celtic-Laker fortnights that defined a basketball generation. If you're old enough, you can close your eyes and hear the theme music, bringing you back to a Sunday afternoon that almost invariably featured the Celtics battling Dr. J, Magic or Dominique.
The Michael Jordan era went hand-in-hand with the NBA on NBC: Rock fights, and real fights between the Knicks and Heat; the rise of Shaq, the fall of Detroit's Bad Boys and Michael's jumper over Bryon Russel in Salt Lake, the lasting image of the decade soundtracked by Bob Costas and Marv Albert.
Times change, culture changes, media changes. It's a 600-channel, internet, Y2K world. There is no shortage of ways to gather information of the NBA. We're a click of the mouse from Rajon Rondo's high-school stats, Lindsay Lohan's rap sheet and the instant written transcript of the latest Mitt Romney/John McCain slap fight.
Which always reminds me of one of my favorite on-air lines; "for those of you who want a written transcript of tonight's broadcast...learn to write faster."
I don't know, that's just funny to me.
But by definition, there still has to be a center of that world. A clearinghouse. An epicenter. And in today's NBA, it's the TNT Thursday night doubleheader.
It's what Monday Night Football used to be, what Sunday Night Football wants to be, and what Hockey Night in Canada still is.
It's the center of NBA culture, and the Celtics are once again a part of it.
One year ago tonight, the Celtics lost their 13th consecutive game. And they did it, while the crowd chanted "MVP" at an opponent. A Laker, no less: Kobe Bryant. The significance was that one year ago, Kobe and the Lakers were a part of that NBA TNT culture, and the Celtics were light years away.
Tonight, it's the Celtics back on the league's center stage, top hat and tails, with the league's brightest light shining on the team with its best record.
And that's a hat this franchise is very happy to wear again.
FOR THE GEEK SIDE OF YOUR BRAIN...
Here's a final look at the extraordinary start of this year's Celtics, and maybe some perspective on where it ranked in the 62-year history of the NBA. In those 62 years, there have been 1,178 team seasons in history. Only four, out of the 1,178, have ever started 29-3. Here's how those four rank in terms of scoring differential.
|1971-72||Los Angeles Lakers||29-3||+13.28|
That said, compare the average points per game scored in an NBA game in 1972 as opposed to 2008, and you can make a very good statistical case that this years Celtics team had, for what its worth, the best 32-game start in NBA history.
I have no idea how Mercury Morris feels about it.
** Five losses in the subsequent eleven games of course, and the C's have fallen back in the pack of best teams ever. For the record, here's what happened to the other three...
|1971-72||Los Angeles Lakers||39-3|
|1969-70||New York Knickerbockers||27-3|
|1990-91||Portland Trail Blazers||27-3|
** With New Orleans winning streak ending on January 30, everyone else in the NBA has lost 13 games before the Celtics lose their 9th. By how much are the Celtics lapping the field to this point? The 8th loss, in Orlando on January 27th, came a full 22 days after the Pistons became the next-to-last team to lose their 8th (at the hands of the Celtics no less).
|7th game||San Antonio Spurs||December 19 (C's 7th Loss January 23 - 35 days)|
|8th game||Detroit Pistons||January 5 (C's 8th Loss January 27 - 22 days)|
|9th game||Detroit Pistons||January 9|
|10th game||Detroit Pistons||January 13|
|11th game||Detroit Pistons||January 18|
|12th game||Detroit Pistons||January 19|
|13th game||New Orleans Hornets||January 30|
** And if that doesn't convince you how far ahead of the pack the Celtics still remain at this point, there remains this...
|Team||> 5-Point Losses|
|San Antonio Spurs||9|
|Los Angeles Lakers||10|
|New Orleans Hornets||11|
** Under the heading of resiliency, the 30-point win in Miami January 29th, following that 8th Celtics loss of the year, pushed the Celtics record to 7-1 following losses, with an obscene +17.25 scoring differential.