NEW YORK — Former Celtics great Jo Jo White and ex-Celtics coach Bill Fitch are among a group of 12 finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Also, Celtics legend Tom Heinsohn, who was enshrined as a player in 1986, has been named to the Hall as a coach by the Veterans Committee.
White and Fitch are both first-time finalists. White was a seven-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion with Boston. He was the NBA Finals MVP in 1976 and averaged 17.2 points and 4.9 assists over 12 seasons. Fitch coached the Celtics from 1979-83 and led the team to the 1981 NBA championship. He still holds the highest winning percentage (.738) in franchise history.
Heinsohn will be just the fourth person to be inducted as both a player and a coach. He compiled a 427-263 record as a coach and guided the Celtics to NBA titles in 1974 and 1976.
The Class of 2015 will be announced at the Final Four in Indianapolis on April 6. The other finalists announced Saturday included former players Dikembe Mutombo, Kevin Johnson, Spencer Haywood, Tim Hardaway and Lisa Leslie; coaches John Calipari, Bo Ryan, Leta Andrews, and Robert Hughes; and referee Dick Bavetta.
Hawks on Celtics
The Celtics entered the All-Star break with some momentum Wednesday night, as Evan Turner’s floater with 0.2 seconds left sent them to an 89-88 win over the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks.
Boston clawed back from an 18-point deficit to grab that victory over an Atlanta team that had won 20 of its last 22 games. Here at All-Star Weekend, several Hawks said they were impressed by the Celtics’ development.
“I think they’re growing,” Atlanta forward Paul Millsap said. “The most important thing about them is they play hard. They’re well-coached. I feel like, especially with a young team like that, guys tend not to come out and play hard every game. But the Celtics are a little bit different. If they’re down 20 or up 20, they find a way to continue to compete. They’re a very competitive group of guys.”
Hawks guard Kyle Korver said that the Celtics’ potential is evident.
“They’ve got some interesting pieces and they play hard and they have a great coach,” Korver said. “They’re really well-coached. They know what they’re supposed to do. I think like with any young team, they’re trying to find consistency. But you see it in spurts. You know there’s a lot of room for growth there.”
Saturday night’s slam-dunk contest was not quite a star-studded event, as it included three second-year players and a rookie. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Zach LaVine, Victor Oladipo, and Mason Plumlee are all up-and-coming players, but none are current All-Stars.
Former All-Star Dominique Wilkins, for one, would like to see some added glitz in the event.
“I personally would like to see more of the big players get involved in it,” Wilkins said. “Do it at least once. But for whatever reason, they feel like they don’t want to get in it anymore. It kind of takes away from the dunk contest.”
Wilkins was a two-time dunk contest champion and competed against the likes of Julius Erving and Michael Jordan.
“I just think guys back then wanted to compete more,” he said. “We wanted to show who the best was. I don’t think that’s the case anymore.”
The No. 1-ranked Kentucky basketball team improved to 25-0 with a win over South Carolina on Saturday, tying the best start in school history. New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, who led the Wildcats to the 2012 national title, said he has been impressed by this team’s run and believes it could win another title.
But Anthony, who would win if your Kentucky team faced this one?
“Oh, I mean, we’d destroy them,” Davis said. “No question.”
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at email@example.com.