At age 73, John Havlicek has so much to reflect on — a Hall of Fame career, eight NBA championships that bridged the Russell Celtics of the 1960s and the Heinsohn teams of the 1970s, and a storied career at Ohio State.
Havlicek has decided to auction off a portion of his cherished sports mementos, parting with some valuable awards over his two-decade tenure as one of basketball’s most popular figures.
Havlicek said he wanted to share some of these mementos and he is hardly selling his whole stash.
And scanning these accomplishments, Havlicek took time last week to reflect on his career, and his place in Celtics history and among all-time NBA greats.
“For 50 years it’s been sitting in my house,” Havlicek said. “And I figured that it would be a good time to share it with the public and allow them to see some of the things that I received because only bad things can happen to it if you don’t get rid of it. I just think it’s about time. It’s something that you think you’ve had it all those years and you’ve enjoyed it and your children have enjoyed it and I just thought it was time.
“The thing about it is, what do you do with it? I am not planning on dying or anything like that, but what do you do with it once you are out of this world? It’s time to give it to the fans.”
The April catalog auction is being offered by SCP Auctions.
Last Tuesday marked 35 years since Havlicek played his final game with the Celtics, and not surprisingly he scored 29 points in a 131-114 win over the Buffalo Braves, which was coincidentally their final game as the Buffalo franchise. Havlicek is 12th all time in NBA scoring and played his entire career without the 3-point shot. His 26,395 points are the most in Celtics history and he leads No. 2 Paul Pierce by 2,397 points. Pierce’s quest toward No. 1 has been aided by 1,821 career 3-point makes.
“It doesn’t seem that long ago,” Havlicek said of his career. “You could look at it and see why you’ve achieved certain things because of what you have done, but after awhile you just sort of have to let go of it. I still kept some things, so it’s not like I’ve given everything away.”
Havlicek makes his home in the West Palm Beach, Fla., area and follows the NBA closely, especially since he lives in Miami Heat territory. He is a big admirer of LeBron James.
“He doesn’t have a weakness and he’s the only person that I’ve ever seen that could guard five people,” Havlicek said. “After watching him, he certainly is capable of doing that. He definitely is the best player in the game today.”
Havlicek was in his prime during the Los Angeles Lakers’ 33-game winning streak of 1971-72. And while James commented that the Heat’s recent 27-game winning streak was more difficult because there are more NBA teams today and the talent that was siphoned off by the American Basketball Association 40 years ago, Havlicek said the Lakers’ streak remains the standard.
“I just care to look at the one record,” he said. “Just like Ty Cobb and Pete Rose and Joe DiMaggio. Back then the travel and things were much more different. Today they travel luxuriously and they stay in luxurious hotels, but back in the day you got up at 6 in the morning to take the first flight out and the travel was much more difficult.”
Pierce has always drawn Havlicek’s admiration for his old-school game and longevity. It would probably take Pierce two more seasons to break Havlicek’s team scoring record.
“He would have been a great player in any era,” Havlicek said of Pierce. “He’s one of the people that has a game that you can’t stop him. You can’t play him one-on-one because you need help. If he breaks my record, fine. Records are made to be broken. If he doesn’t, he still had a great career. I’ll think nothing less of him because he’s a great player and he could have fit into any era.
“He’s probably the best one-on-one Celtic player of all time because the game evolved different. The 3-point shot changed the game because therefore he had a different situation than what I had, or Sam Jones, or any of those other players.”
The 3-point shot also makes Havlicek reflect a bit. Current players are inflating their scoring totals with it, but in Havlicek’s era that was simply a long 2-pointer, no extra credit.
“It would have changed it and I would have more points, that’s for sure,” he said. “It would have been fun to speculate on how many more you would have had. Sometimes I like the 3-point shot and sometimes I don’t like it. I thought [mid-range shooting] was one of the strong points of my game because I couldn’t go in and dunk, but I had a little floater 15 feet in, and that’s one of the shots I’m proud of.”
The tangible rewards from his labor have lost some significance. Havlicek’s memories hold more meaning. His stories, his accomplishments, and his knowledge will never become expendable.
Heat guard is healthier
Perhaps the scariest aspect of the Heat as they prepare to enter the postseason to defend their NBA title is that Dwyane Wade is approaching full health.
Wade required left knee surgery before last season’s playoffs and hobbled through Miami’s title run, and then underwent a procedure in July.
Wade missed six games because of a bone bruise in his right knee before returning in Friday night’s win over the Celtics. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has rested all of his Big Three and even more key Heat players after their 27-game winning streak was snapped by the Bulls two weeks ago.
The communication between Spoelstra and Wade is free-flowing, as the two walk the careful line of keeping the 31-year-old Wade fresh but in rhythm.
“This is a very open discussion not only with Dwyane but our training staff,” Spoelstra said. “And this is much different than last year. He got hit in the knee [this year]. Structurally, he’s as healthy as he’s been in years.”
Wade’s health has been a growing issue throughout his career. No player has taken harder tumbles to the hardwood over the past 10 years than Wade, who came into the NBA from Marquette with a fearless, reckless style, always driving to the basket, which has resulted in a series of injuries.
Wade has played in 67 of Miami’s 79 games, averaging 21.2 points, 5 rebounds, and 5.1 assists in a more physically rewarding season than the last.
“It’s time that I get back on the court; my knee is getting better,” Wade said. “Talking to the doctors, it can’t get any worse. So it’s only going to get better through the course of time.
“Our communication has always been good. I think right now in the regular season there’s an understanding of where we are. When I decided to take time to try to get my knee right, Coach was all for it.’’
Wade said his current knee woes are nothing in comparison to the agony he endured when he required arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
“It was totally different,’’ he said. “This time I just have some bone bruises.’’
key to success
The Cleveland Cavaliers are enduring a trying season. There was a high level of hope that the organization would take a major step forward with potential superstar point guard Kyrie Irving, improving second-year forward Tristan Thompson, rookie Dion Waiters, and a healthy Anderson Varejao.
Well, it hasn’t worked out. Varejao was sidelined for the season in December after having a knee procedure and then suffering a blood clot on his lung.
Irving missed time with a bad shoulder, and the Cavaliers have been throwing out makeshift lineups and sustained a 10-game losing streak before beating the Celtics in Boston April 5.
The franchise has been placed in the hands of the 21-year-old Irving, who has been magnificent at times in his second season, reaching the All-Star Game, but shoulder and finger injuries caused him to miss 19 games.
Now, the future of coach Byron Scott is in question, and so is the bright outlook for the franchise. Having young talent doesn’t necessarily equate to playoff appearances. While Cleveland could be one of the league’s emerging teams in coming years, the Cavaliers have to stay healthy and hungry.
Irving said he will assume the responsibility of ensuring his cohorts stay focused.
“Part of growing with new teammates and everybody coming to a new organization, different pieces leaving, different pieces coming in, we’re just trying to adjust as much as possible,” he said. “We’re trying to find a rhythm as a team and find our identity, and whether it was the middle of the season or whether it’s winding down, we’re still trying to find it. We’re going to be with a couple of these guys next year and changes happen, that’s inevitable. We’ve just got to adjust.”
Irving is one of the league’s top point guards despite the injuries and limited experience. He is the central figure of the Cavaliers’ post-LeBron James rebuilding plan and his presence may attract free agents. But if the Cavaliers remain stuck in the draft lottery, the lure to Cleveland may not be as attractive.
Next year could be key to the organization’s future.
What happens during the summer is unknown. Will Scott be back? Will Varejao be traded? What will the franchise do with the estimated $25 million in salary cap space when Baron Davis, Luke Walton, and Daniel Gibson all come off the books? Will they wait for LeBron to become available?
Irving said he can’t concern himself with those matters. He has to encourage his teammates to take the next step.
“It’s a challenge for myself,” he said. “Just let that drive trickle off to my teammates. It’s a personal challenge. Where do you see yourself in a matter of years? Guys can say whatever about potential but a lot of people have seen a lot of guys with high potential and haven’t panned out. It’s kind of a two-way street now.”
When asked to evaluate the season, Scott had to point to injuries as the major reason why the Cavaliers aren’t competing for the playoffs.
“I can’t give you a big picture yet because I don’t really know,” he said. “We haven’t had all our pieces this season so we don’t know where we are. I do know that our younger guys have gotten better. Tristan Thompson has gotten much better than he was last year. Tyler Zeller is going through what most rookies go through in this league the first year and he’s getting better.
“We know what Kyrie is. We know Dion was really starting to play well and he gets hurt, and missing [Varejao] all season long, so we really can’t assess exactly where we are as a basketball team because we haven’t had really a full year to come to that determination, but I still think and feel we’re on the right track. Our young guys are starting to develop and play better and it’s just a matter of us staying healthy one of these years and seeing if we can put it all together.”
End of line
It appears this season may be the last for 76ers coach Doug Collins, who has one year remaining on his contract and apparently wants more control of personnel decisions after this debacle of a season, during which the team waited for Andrew Bynum to reach full health after giving up Nicola Vucevic, Andre Iguodala, and Maurice Harkless for him.
Collins is 61 and appeared mentally beaten down by the 76ers’ dramatic decline after being considered a lock to make the playoffs.
Also consider that Collins’s son, Chris, just accepted his first head coaching job at Northwestern and perhaps the elder Collins would like to get away from the grind to observe his son’s start in the Big Ten.
The Hornets dodged a major bullet when potential franchise center Anthony Davis was diagnosed with a sprained medial collateral ligament and bone bruise in his left knee after an awkward fall during a loss at Sacramento. Davis’s injury means neither of the Hornets’ lottery picks will finish the season healthy (Austin Rivers has missed the last month with a broken hand), but both are expected to be healthy for next season. Now comes the issue of what to do with disgruntled guard Eric Gordon, who is under contract for three more years but has clashed with coach Monty Williams this season and still isn’t 100 percent after knee surgery . . . A definite Most Improved Player candidate is Milwaukee’s Larry Sanders, who was considered a bust through his first two seasons, starting just 12 games and averaging 3.6 points and 3.1 rebounds last season. After the Bucks decided to move on from Andrew Bogut and determined rookie John Henson was better off the bench, Sanders was inserted as the starting center and flourished, averaging 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.8 blocked shots. Sanders, who has dominated the paint in Milwaukee’s four matchups with the Celtics, has drawn the praise of Boston coach Doc Rivers for his unselfishness.
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.