Boston Celtics: Legends Q&A

Manny Rubio/US PresswireDave Cowens at work during his playing days with the Celtics.
ESPN Boston wraps up its Q&A sessions with Celtics legends by chatting with Dave Cowens, who amassed over 13,000 points and 10,000 rebounds in his 11-year NBA career (10 of which were spent in Boston), and helped lead the Celtics to championships in 1974 and 1976. Cowens discussed his fondest memories from his playing days, Paul Pierce's place in Celtics history, and Doc Rivers' tenure as coach of the C's.

What's your favorite memory of your playing days?

"I think back to the first time I was involved with winning a championship against the Bucks in 1974. That's probably the highlight for me."

What it's like going up against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

"It was a hard day at the job (laughs)."

Favorite memory of Boston?

"Boston is, as we know now, the greatest sports city in the country. I think even back then, even though all the other teams weren't winning championships, because it has such a rich heritage of sports -- the marathon and John L. Sullivan and Olympians and everything else -- you still felt like you were in a place that was special."

Where would you rank Paul Pierce as one of the all-time greats?

"I can't give him a number because I can't think of all the different guys, but he's a great player. He's done everything that this franchise has asked him to do and more."

How would you assess Doc Rivers' tenure as a coach?

"Doc's a great guy, and he's smart. He's a tough guy. When he talks, [the players] listen. They know he's telling them the truth, and really, players respect that. They respect a guy that's got the knowledge and he tells them the truth. Because they know a lot about the game, too. They're not just learning it. They've been through five-, six-, seven-hundred games as a pro, as a college player, [and] high school player. So they've been around a lot of locker room talks and chalk talks and things like that. So, they understand. And he has a good way with the players, and I think the veterans really respect him, and they've got some strong character veterans and that just feeds down to the other guys that play on the team."

Can the C's still compete another year with an aging core?

[No hesitation]. "Oh yeah. Because [the other teams] are a year older, too, remember."

His thoughts on the Big Three staying in shape

"Well, those guys take care of themselves, you know? Basketball has become a profession where you're on the clock pretty much 11 months of the year for the most part. Once the season was over we were out doing our thing and nobody was bothering us for the most part. These guys stay in pretty good shape all year long."

Greg Payne is a student intern for ESPNBoston.com
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesDana Barros in action during his playing days in Boston.
All this week ESPN Boston will be chatting with Celtics legends, who will be discussing some of their favorite memories from their playing days, Paul Pierce’s place in Celtics history, the team’s aging core, and a slew of other topics. Today we check in with Dana Barros, who was born and raised in the Boston area and played for the Celtics for five seasons in the late 90's, before returning for a final game in green during the 2003-2004 season. Barros still holds an NBA record for most consecutive games with a 3-point field goal -- a streak that sits at 89 games and was extended to that mark during his time in Boston.

What’s your favorite memory from your playing days in Boston?

“I would say breaking the record for most 3-pointers for games in a row. I hold the record at 89 games, but I think I broke it at 59.”

Given that you’re from the area, can you convey just how much Boston has meant to you?

“[I was] born here, lived here my whole life, so, man, the city of Boston has just totally rallied around me. I owe probably hundreds of people. I owe them, because they looked out for me, took care of me, protected me, kept me out of trouble. So I just give thanks to the whole city of Mattapan. They really looked out for me.”

Where does Paul Pierce rank among all of the Celtic greats?

“Well I mean in this generation, I’d say he’s in the conversation with the [Cedric] Maxwells and the [1980’s] guys. I think he’s in there. I mean, he has the one championship, but the thing that Paul brings to the table, he set his own destiny. He created with those guys, their own path, so I think he’s right up there with those guys. He’s probably going to be the all-time leading scorer.”

Do you think the Celtics can be competitive this coming season given their continually aging core of players?

“I think right now, we’re on a precipice. They have to get young guys in here this year. But if they can get two or three young guys on the perimeter, they can make another run for a year or two, definitely.”

Greg Payne is a student intern for ESPNBoston.com
Dick Raphael/NBAE/Getty ImagesJoJo White in action during his playing days.
ESPN Boston continues its conversations with Celtics legends by checking in with JoJo White. A seven-time All-Star, White played nine full seasons for the Celtics, and helped lead the club to two championships in 1974 and 1976. White discussed reuniting with former teammates at a Shamrock Foundation fundraiser earlier this month, Paul Pierce’s place in Celtics history, and the growth of Rajon Rondo.

What’s it like to reunite with so many former teammates?

“Oh, I think it’s absolutely fantastic. To have former players be involved with the organization, especially at this day-in-time, I mean, sports has grown. But at the same time, it’s grown so fast that sometimes players miss some things that we were tutored in that made the game as great as it is. To have great players who were successful during their eras, to pass it on to those who are coming on, I think it’s phenomenal. And the Celtics have certainly been great for a lot of years.”

Where does Paul Pierce rank among all of the Celtic greats?

“He’s on the move. He can’t go down. He’s been down, he’s coming up. But he’s tasted it now. Going through it and all of a sudden you get to taste it. It’s like night and day. So once you taste it, all you want is more of it.”

What about Rondo? Could he ever be in that conversation with the greats one day?

“What has he done? He’s been on a winner. He’s learning how to win. He’s going through that process as we speak.”

What about when it’s his team once the Big Three have retired?

“We’ll wait and see.”

When’s the last time you saw a point guard as dynamic as Rondo play for this team?

“Well they come and go. Still, a lot of people say he’s running without a jump shot. It’s amazing all that he’s achieved and he doesn’t have one. Wait until he gets one.”

Does he need a jump shot? Or can he still be successful without it?

“That’s part of your arsenal that you need, ongoing. He’s finding out a lot of things as we go. As long as he stays a student of the game, he will continue to learn and be able to do it out on the floor. I expect a lot from Rondo because he’s an unbelievable talent. But you have to stay humble and continue to listen and continue to work and then you’ll see him continue to rise.”

Greg Payne is a student intern for ESPNBoston.com
Dick Raphael/NBAE/Getty ImagesCedric Maxwell drives to the basket in his playing days.
All this week ESPN Boston will be chatting with Celtics legends, who will be discussing some of their favorite memories from their playing days, Paul Pierce’s place in Celtics history, the team’s aging core, and a slew of other topics. Today we check in with Cedric Maxwell, who was named NBA Finals MVP in 1981 while helping the C’s take home their 14th championship in franchise history. Maxwell spent eight seasons in green, and had his number 31 retired by the team back in 2003.

What’s your favorite memory from your playing days?

“Probably 1984, beating the Lakers. That was the best.”

Was it your personal play that stood out or just winning in general?

“Just winning it. Beating somebody you really didn’t like. I think that was the best.”

You still reside in the area today. What’s stuck out most to you about Boston over the years?

“Watching the city grow. Becoming more ethnic-friendly I would say. I think that’s what I really like about the city. I’ve seen more diversity, I’ve seen how the city has grown, and I was one of those people that said I was never going to live here again, and I’ve been back here over 16 years.”

Where would you rank Paul Pierce among all of the Celtic greats?

“Probably about 34th [laughs]. Paul’s a great player, there’s no doubt about it. I don’t know where he would line up, because there [have been] so many great players with the Celtics. I mean, that is a Hall-of-Fame class that you look at. I always tease Paul, ‘You might start on this championship team, but you couldn’t have started for my championship team.’ So, I have a lot of fun with him, but absolutely, Paul is a great player.”

Can the C’s still compete this season with their core another year older?

“Amazing. Absolutely amazing. I’m astounded by just how well they have done to preserve themselves. Kevin’s still in amazing shape, Ray’s in amazing shape, Paul. So you’ve got three guys who are 35 plus, I guess, who are still top athletes, and that to me -- I think that really shows the character of what this team has been about.”

What are your thoughts on Doc Rivers as a coach and the ongoing respect he has earned from his veteran players?

“It just shows you his amazing shelf life. As you said, there are a lot of coaches who are screamers and yellers. Doc has become a personal friend, and you don’t see that a lot with coaches and players. Normally, it’s us against him. But Doc Rivers has made it about them, and he and everybody and the top players he has, have bought into that. And that’s made it easier for him to connect. He made a point early on of saying, ‘This is Kevin, Paul, and Ray’s team,’ and he gave them the ultimate respect. And in turn, they kicked it back on the other side and had the team do what they needed to do."

Greg Payne is a student intern for ESPNBoston.com
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesSatch Sanders entered the Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend.
All this week, ESPN Boston will be chatting with Celtics legends, who will be discussing some of their favorite memories from their playing days, Paul Pierce’s place in Celtics history, the team’s aging core, and a slew of other topics. Today, we check in with Tom “Satch” Sanders, who played all 13 years of his NBA career for Boston, winning eight championships along the way. Sanders was a member of the first all-black starting lineup in NBA history, and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor this past weekend.

What’s your favorite memory from your playing days?

“Favorite memory about playing in Boston... Just really making the team and being able to play for the Celtics, and going back to New York and having the success that we had, particularly against the Knickerbockers for a number of years, before they got themselves together. Since I grew up being a Knickerbocker fan, it was really neat.”

What’s your favorite memory from your time in Boston?

“Well hockey was what the city was about. So, I liked what the city represented in terms of -- the biggest thing that made it a nice place was all the colleges and a lot of young people came into the city. They get, what, 150,000 kids every year? I don’t know. With all the colleges and universities? So it made it a fun place to be in terms of activities. It was inexpensive. It wasn’t up to New York prices at those times. It was a different Boston. So, I liked it.”

Where does Paul Pierce rank among all of the Celtic greats?

“Well, certainly the stats speak for themselves. You’ve watched a real performer. He has to be among, easily, the top 10 players who’ve played for the Celtics. He may well be in the top five for that matter. It just depends on what era you’re looking at. It’s always best, as far as I’m concerned, to take it in 10 year spaces. So you look at it from [1950] to [1960], who were the particular players at that time, and you take a look at another 10 years and another generation, and so on. So clearly he’s up with the best of them. Everybody talks about rating players, well, you’re certainly not going to do the one, two, three thing, because clearly there’s only one player at the top and that’s [Bill] Russell. After that, others begin to line up.”

Can the Celtics still be competitive this coming season with their core players all another year older?

“Listen, you win because you’ve got at least nine, 10 guys that can play. That’s always the case. When you look at Dallas this year, they won because they had 10 guys that could play. No one thought that [J.J. Barea] was going to be that kind of a factor, but without him they wouldn’t have won. So you had your Jason Kidds and your [Dirk] Nowitzkis and you had the other guys, but without the contributions of [Tyson] Chandler, [Shawn] Marion and [Barea] -- and before he got hurt, the other center, [Brendan] Haywood -- it just would not have happened, period. So, you need all those guys, that blend. Here, the media’s getting all excited about talking about the age of the three guys, like you’re playing against all the competition, people themselves. Come on. They’re showing a lack of knowledge and feel for the game. We were too old in 1962. We were judged by the media to be too old and we couldn’t win anymore. We went on to win about six more. Not only do you have balance, do you have players, and do you have a good core, but do you have players that can come in and keep playing? If you don’t have that balance of nine, 10 players, guess what? If you go by the philosophy that the media seems to throw out there, then obviously [Dwyane] Wade, [Chris] Bosh, and LeBron [James] should have won the whole thing, right? But somehow, in the media, they make all this noise about what happened here, but somehow it doesn’t apply elsewhere. There’s a cut-off. That makes it hard to think a lot of people know what they’re talking about.”

What are your thoughts on being elected to the Hall of Fame?

“It’s a big deal. I’m glad it’s happening, and I’m glad it’s happening while I’m alive. That’s kind of important. A lot of guys in [the Hall of Fame] that I like and admire and played with and against, so it’s a good place to be.”

Greg Payne is a student intern for ESPNBoston.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
16.9 1.7 0.7 34.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsR. Rondo 9.8
StealsR. Rondo 1.3
BlocksB. Bass 0.9