Bill Russell and KC Jones forged a bond before they ever played for the Celtics. Here is Bill's account of their interaction at USF and how KC was preparing to coach way before he took over the Celtics.
KC Jones took up where Guidice (Bill's Freshman Coach) left off. When I was assigned a room with him in a USF dormitory, I had no way of knowing that we'd become lifelong friends. At first I didn't think we'd be friendly at all, because KC didn't speak a word to me for a sold month. Not a word. He'd slap my bunk on the way out of the room in the mornings, and he'd nod at the salt or sugar during the silent meals we ate in the school cafeteria. That was the extent of our communication, until one day when he suddenly started talking like a normal person. Nothing in particular had happened; he just started talking. It was as if somebody had forgotten to plug him in before then. To my relief, I found that he'd just been shy, even more than I was. Once he got used to me we became inseparable. At a Jesuit university, we were in an alien world, so we leaned on each other. At first I did most of the leaning; KC was a year older and had a slightly better scholarship, so he looked after me. He seemed to spend his money more freely on me than he did on himself. He bought me shoes, meals, movie tickets and books. KC was usually silent except when basketball was being discussed. The barest mention of the game would throw him into a Socratic dialogue that would go on for as long as anyone would carry his half of the conversation. Since I was always around, the conversations would ramble on for hours. We decided that basketball is basically a game of geometry - of lines, points, and distances - and that the horizontal distances are more important than the vertical ones. If I were playing against someone a foot shorter, the vertical distances could be important, but in competitive basketball most of the critical distances are horizontal, along the floor at eye level Height is not as important as it may seem, even in rebounding. Early in my career at USF, watching rebounds closely, I was surprised to discover that three quarters of them were grabbed at or below the level of the basket - a height all college players can reach easily. (This is also true in the pro game.) Generally, the determining distances in those rebounds were horizontal ones. KC and I spent hours exploring the geometry of basketball, often losing track of the time. Neither of us needed a blackboard to see the play the other was describing. Every hypothetical seemed real. It was as if I was back on the Greyhound assembling pictures of moves in my mind, except that KC liked to talk about what combinations of players could do. I had been daydreaming about solo moves, but he liked to work out strategies. KC has an original basketball mind, and he taught me how to scheme to make things happen on the court, particularly on defense. In those days almost every player and coach thought of defense as pure reaction: that is, you reacted to the player you were guarding. If he moved to the left, you moved with him, shadowing him. Whatever he did, you reacted to guard the basket. KC thought differently. He tried to figure out ways to take the ball away from the opponent. He was always figuring out ways to make the opponent take the shot he wanted him to take when he wanted him to take it, from the place he wanted the man to shoot. Often during games he would pretend to stumble into my man while letting the player he was guarding have a free drive to the basket with the ball, knowing that I could block the shot and take the ball away. Or he'd let a man have an outside shot from just beyond the perimeter of his effectiveness, and instead of harassing the player would take off down the court, figuring that I'd get the rebound and throw him a long pass for an easy basket. He and I dreamed up dozens of plays like these and fed into our equations what we knew about the weaknesses of our opponents. On both offense and defense, our plans included two or three alternatives if the primary strategy failed to work. We liked to think ahead, and before long KC's way of thinking erased my solo images. Whenever I got the ball near the basket, I tried to have two or three moves in mind in advance. They didn't always work, but at least they were there. I found that such planning cut down on my mental hesitation on the floor and generally reduced the number of times I messed up teamwork. I began to daydream about sequences of moves instead of individual ones. Gradually, KC and I created a little basketball world of our own. Other players were lost in our conversatins because we used so much shorthand that no one could follow what we were saying. Most of the players weren't interested in strategy anyway. Basketball talk was mostly an ego exercise in which they flapped the breeze and pumped themselves up over their last performance or in preparation for the next one. The prevailing strategy was that you went out, took your shots and waited to see what happened. It was not considered a game for thinkers. KC and I were thought to be freaks because of our dialogues on strategy, which were fun for us but dull to everyone else. I used to get a kick out of a remark by Einstein, who said that his most difficult thinking was enjoyable, like a daydream. We were inspired, rocket scientists in sneakers. After a game, only KC and I would appreciate certain things that had happened out on the court - at least that's the way it felt. We shared an extra fascination for the game because of the mental tinkering we did with it in our bull sessions. For example, KC was instantly aware of what I thought was the best single play I ever made in college. We were playing Stanford in the San Francisco Cow Palace, and one of their players stole the ball at half court for a breakaway layup. He was so far ahead of us that nobody on our team bothered to chase him except me. As he went loping down the right side of the court, I left the center position near our basket and ran after him as fast as I could. The guy's lead was so big that he wasn't hurrying. When I reached half court I was flying, but I took one long stride off to the left to change my angle, then went straight for the bucket. When the guy went up for his layup in the lane, I too went up from the top of the key. I was flying. He lofted the ball up so lazily that I was able to slap it into the backboard before it started down. The ball bounced back to KC trailing the play. Probably nobody in that Cow Palace crowd knew anything about how that play developed. They didn't see where I came from, and they saw only the end of the play. But to KC and me, I the sweetness of the play was the giant step I took to the left as I was building up speed. Without that step the play would have failed, because I'd have fouled the guy by landing on him after the shot. The step to the left gave me just enough angle coming across to miss him and land to the right of him without a foul. KC was the only guy in the Cow Palace who noticed that step and knew what it meant. I noticed similar things about his game and they were the starting points of our daydreams.
Here is more from Second Wind Memoirs of an Opinionated Man by Bill Russell on Bill's discovery of his basketball prowess at the ripe old age of eighteen. We continue with Bill's education on the California All Stars trip that he went on just after high school.
One other strange thing happened before our team returned to California. During a game a teammate leaned over to me and said, "Hey, you can jump." What he meant, of course, was that I could really jump. U;d begun to notice the same thing. Whenever a clump of the taller players went up off the floor for a "carom," there'd be an instant when I found myself up there alone. And if I didn't get the ball, there'd also be an instance when I was left there after all the other players had taken off up the court. I can remember being up in the air, watching an opponent land and take his first step away from me, thinking to myself, "Hurry up floor. Come back to me." In cartoons the roadrunner can spin his legs like an eggbeater and take off while still in the air, but it doesn't work that way for basketball players. You have to wait until you land, which is the only frustration that comes with jumping high. Otherwise it is one of the purest pleasures I know for an athlete. People in all kinds of cultures are known to "jump for joy" in moments of supreme happiness. Jumping is an internationally recognized expression of joy, and basketball is a sport organized around jumping. Most of the time the people jump spontaneously after something makes them happy. They turn their pleasure into energy and burn that energy by leaving the earth for a second or two. In basketball, the jumping comes first. It's possible for a player to jump because he is happy, but it's more likely that he's happy because he's jumping. I have heard players complain about almost every detail of the game - the rules, the size or color of the ball, the shape or temperature of the dressing room - but I've never heard anyone complain bout the fact that the game requires jumping. Naturally some of the enthusiasm drains as the player becomes older and tired. You learn to economize by not jumping unnecessarily and not jumping unnecessarily hihg; you appreciate easy rebounds. But there is always some of the original joy of soaring off the floor, even for an old pro who may feel it only once a game when he grabs a rebound as high in the air as he can go. On that tour I was in the first glow both of jumping and of discovering new moves. They reinforced each other: I jumped higher because the moves in my mind were beginning to work on the court, and some of the moves worked better because I was jumping so high. I was learning to jump with a purpose, but I still jumped for the fun of it, the way I had ever since I was a kid. Belatedly, I was going through the frisky period of most high school players. They jump with they don't need to, to show off, elaborate jumps, with their elbows flared out like wings. They may see a rebound coming to them chest high while they are flat footed, but they jump as high as they can anyway. On their way back to the floor after a particularly high leap, they bend their legs more than they need to, just to prolong the sensation. They slap the floor with their shoes when they land, making as much noise as possible, because a loud slap is a sign of a long trip in the air. Two slaps sound lounder than one, so they land one foot at a time. The high jumpers talk with their feet. I made a double slap landing when I got back to California after the trip. At home with Mister Charlie, I piled so many stories on him that he had to slow me down. He could tell there'd been a big change. "I can play now," I told him, and he understood what I meant. Mister Charlie was even more enthusiastic about my report than I thought he would be. He was especially happy because he knew something I didn't, and when I found out what it was, the news felt as good as the second foot smacking the floor loudly. He told me that a stranger had been calling while I was off on the tour, and that he wanted to talk to me about going to college. It was the most exciting thing I could have hoped to hear. Both Mister Charlie and I had given up on the idea of college because of the expense, and now, for no apparent reason, the dream was lighting up again. We each got carried away for a few minutes, until Mister Charlie said we had to be realistic. We weren't even sure that it would all work out. All we could do was hope and wait, and in the meantime we had to pretend nothing had happened. I knew he was right, but it was all I could do not to spend all my time daydreaming about college. A few days later I applied for a job as an apprentice sheet metal worker at the San Francisco Naval Shipyards. I don't know why I chose sheet metal, except that all the other job categories on the Civil Service application sounded even drearier. Soon I was hauling heavy objects around the shipyard, waiting for that stranger to call. Hal DeJulio was the classic alumni booster, the kind of man who stays close to his alma mater throughout his life and who gets together with his fellow alumni to protest effectively against coaches who don't win. He was in the insurance business, but he liked to spend most of his spare time around young athletes. As a former basketball player for the University of San Francisco, he knew many of the old athletes around California, and they kept in touch. DeJulio loved to watch basketball games, he'd show up unnoticed in the stands at various high school games, scanning the floor for someone who might help USF. When he found a prospect he'd report back to the college coach, hoping to discover and sponsor a player who would become a star. Even then, all universities had networks of volunteer alumni scouts, and USF had a tiny network, so DeJulio tried to make up for it by working extra hard. It was a miracle that DeJulio had ever noticed me. Shortly before I left McClymonds we had a big game against Oakland High, led by an All Star player named Truman Bruce. DeJulio came to watch Bruce, and also take a look at the three All Stars on our team. I was not one of them. No one was aware of the scout's presence at the game, least of all me. As it turned out, I played my best game for McClymonds that night, scoring fourteen points. This was hardly a spectacular point production, but it was the most I ever scored in high school. Later, DeJulio told me he was impressed that I'd scored eight points in a row at the end of the first half and six points at the end of the game. He thought I was a game winner, and he liked the way I played defense against Truman Bruce. I jumped higher than he did and ran down the court faster. De Julio approved of the way I hustled. Like most alumni scouts, he had the temperament of a rooster. He liked scrappers, and I was one. DeJulio didn't tell Mister Charlie his name or what school he represented, so when he finally did call I had no idea who he was. He asked me whether I was interested in going to USF. "What's USF?" I asked. "The University," he said. He seemed irritated that I didn't know what USF was, even though it was just across the Bay from Oakland. I had never heard of USF. "You mean San Francisco State?" I asked. "No," he said. "The University of San Francisco." "Oh," I said. After that awkward beginning we had a comic conversation, though it didn't seem funny at the time. DeJulio kept trying to pump me up by telling me what a great game I'd played against Oakland High a couple of months earlier. While he was chattering away about it, I was trying to interrupt him to say that he hadn't seen anything. I wanted to tell him about what had happened to me on the tour, but I didn't even know how to begin. Finally he said that he thought he could arrange for me to work out with the USF basketball team and show my stuff to the coach, Phil Woolpert. I said that I'd be glad to come. A few days later I had what amounted to a college audition. I was nervious. On top of that, I couldn't find the practice gym in San Francisco for hours, which made me late. In fact, I couldn't even find the University. At that time, USF didn't have a gym of its own, so the team practiced in a nearby high school. When I finally got there, I was in a daze from frustration and nervousness. Which was probably good, because it numbed me. I don't remember anything about that workout except that I ran and jumped without the ball alot. By the time it was over, I'd gotten up a good sweat and worn away my frustration. Coach Woolpert thanked me for coming over and said that I'd be hearing from him soon. He was noncommittal. As I was leaving he told me to take the entrance examinations just in case he could arrange a scholarship for me. Every day I carried steel at the shipyard, every night I played playground basketball for several hours, and day and night I waited.
Marquis Daniels was finally introduced as the newest Celtic today at a press conference that began over 90 minutes late while they hammered out the remaining details on his contract. Daniels will wear #7 this season.
Apparently Daniels wasn't plan B or C but the player that Danny has had his eye on for quite some time. From Celtics.com:
Executive Director of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge told reporters that Daniels is a guy he's been tracking since "his first summer league game," and noted that Head Coach Doc Rivers is also a long-time fan of Daniels' game. Along those lines, Daniels said the idea of him first joining the Celtics came up early this summer when he ran into Doc Rivers in Orlando, where both make their homes in the offseason.
The key word of the day was "versatility" as when Danny Ainge was asked what Daniels brought to the team, that was his one word answer.
"We're really excited about having him on our team. He brings a great deal of versatility to our team," Ainge said. "[He] brings experience and character to our team. He can handle the ball, score, defend multiple positions. I can see him playing with big lineups, being a backup point, and I could also see him playing small forward in small ball.
" It was obvious that NBA dress codes don't cover press conferences as Daniels showed up in a bright yellow shirt with a fox on the front. (see above) He is starting out saying all the right things and the fact that he chose winning over money is something we rarely see these days when players want to get all they can get regardless of winning. Here are a couple of quotes from Quisy from today's coverage.
"It was very long, pretty much all summer. My agent kept telling me, 'Don't worry about it'," Daniels said, when asked why this deal dragged on seemingly all summer long. "I had other situations where I could have made more money but I wanted to be a part of a winning franchise."
"I just want to come in and help. You want me to play the 1, 2, or 3, whatever it is. I'll just come in to help," Daniels said. As for the moves made by Cleveland and others, and they relate to the Celtics hopes of another NBA title, Daniels said, "A lot of [teams] made moves, but I like our chances right now."
And a very encouraging quote from Danny Ainge to close:
And while training camp officially starts at the end of September, much like the summer of 2007, guys are already congregating in Waltham and getting ready for that very title run Daniels is suggesting. Ainge reported that Wallace has been in "at 8 am the last couple of days" and mentioned Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Glen Davis, J.R. Giddens and Lester Hudson as being regulars in Waltham as of late.
"They're starting to creep in next week after Labor Day," Ainge said.
Rashard Lewis has been tweeting about the Magic players being together for a mini camp to get a jump on chemistry for weeks now. It is good to see that the Celtics are taking this season just as seriously and working out together already also.
You can also get a first hand report from the festivities from Jim Toscano over on CelticsBlog. Here is a really great quote from his recap of the presser:
Just down the stairs and around the corner from the press conference is the basketball court where the team practices. On the walls surrounding the court are eighteen banners, that's right- eighteen. Hanging right next to the one that reads "Boston Celtics 2008 World Champions" is one more banner. It's the same size and has that same Celtic Green trim as the rest of them. The difference? It's blank.
It's up to this Celtics team to fill in that banner. Here's to seeing the nineteenth banner in here next year.
Going into the 2007-08 season they had a spotlight on the empty space next to Banner 17 which motivated the players toward filling that space. This season they are using the same thought with a blank banner instead of the spotlight. Let's hope it has the same result as the spotlight did. Good stuff!!!
After Bill's initial success at visualizing himself making a move, he grew even more excited about the game and his newly found talent for it.
On the All Star tour through the Northwest, I suddenly knew that I could do on the basketball court what I had not been able to do with painting. I got the details right, and repeatedly they fell into place. Whenever I pulled off one of McKelvey's moves I'd try to review what I'd done while running back up the court. I could see the play I'd just made, and if there were an extra jerk in my arm or a faulty twist in my body, I'd try to correct it the next time. The important thing was that I could see what was wrong and what was right, and that my body responded to what I saw. For the rest of the trip I was nearly possessed by basketball. I was having so much fun that I was sorry to see each day end, and I wanted the nights to race by so that the next day could start. The long rides on the bus never bothered me. I talked basketball incessantly, and when I wasn't talking I was sitting there with my eyes closed, watching plays in my head. I was in my own private basketball laboratory, making mental blueprints for myself. It was effortless; the movies I saw in my head seemed to have their own projector, and whenever I closed my eyes it would run. I had fantasies too, of course, such as visions of soaring high enough to dunk the ball with my feet, but most of what I saw was within the realm of possibility. With only a little mental discipline I could keep myself focused on plays I had actually seen, and so many of them were new that I never felt bored. If I had a play in my mind but muffed it on the court, I'd go over it repeatedly in my head, searching for details I'd missed. I'd goofed because I'd overlooked a critical detail in my mind, so I'd go back to check my model. If this didn't work, I'd have to wait until I saw McKelvey or one of the other players make the move again, and then compare what I saw with the model in my head. It was like working a phony jig saw puzzle: one piece in the completed picture was slightly imperfect, and I had to find out which one it was. Many a night on the Greyhound I dozed off right in the middle of my detective work. Whenever I did find myself running out onto the court, it was like the movies, except that the sounds were so much brighter: the squeaking shoes, the thumping rhythm of basketballs bouncing, the breathing, shouts and grunts of the players, the whistles of the officials. Once I got used to these sounds I could concentrate on my movies. Usually I'd have two or three new moves in mind to try out each day, and I'd want to make adjustments in several of the old ones. I'd practice them during the warmups. Most players spend warmups limbering up with their favorite shot. I spent mine working on moves, one at a time. It was always exciting to try one for the first time. In a split second, while walking away from the bucket with a practice ball, I'd think of a move and run it through my mind. Then I'd try it once, twice, three times. Usually I'd make adjustments after each try, but occasionally I'd get it right on the first go, and to me that was like being able to slap a Michelangelo right on the canvas. I'd say to myself, "I've got it! That's another one." Then I'd try another. During warm-ups I seemed aloof from my teammates, but I was really paying tribute to them by practicing their techniques. Although Bill Treu played forward, he handled the ball like a guard, and it didn't take me long to figure out that some of his moves were not suited to a player of my size. I couldn't dribble through crowds the way he did, or twist my way to the bucket at high speeds. I was too tall for so much dribbling; the ball would be stolen or I'd throw it away. On the bus at night I'd still watch Treu go through his paces in my mind, but it was fruitless for me to insert myself in his place. It was frustrating to think that some of the images I had assembled were useless, so finally, more or less as a lark, I started imagining myself in plays with Treu. He'd be spinning in for a lay-up and I'd be shadowing him on defense. Since I knew his move so well, I'd imagine myself as his mirror image, I'd take a step backward for every step he took forward, and so forth. It was as if we were dancing, with Treu leading. When I saw him go up to lay the ball in the basket, I'd see myself go up and block the shot. I enjoyed the two man show in my mind, so I expanded it. I sketched out scenes of Treu and me fast breaking together. Any way he bent, I'd bend with him. The first time I pulled one of these defensive moves on Treu in practice, I was ecstatic. Not because I liked to match Treu's standard of play, nor because I had a premonition that defense would become my calling card in basketball. I was happy because those defensive moves were the first that I'd invented on my own and then made real. I didn't copy them, I invented them. They grew out of my imagination, and so I saw them as my own. The very idea that I could innovate in basketball thrilled me. It came so soon after I discovered that I could copy offensive moves and thereby make progress. A few weeks earlier I had not even been able to walk on the floor smoothly. Actually, I hadn't really wanted the ball to be passed to me because I didn't know what to do with it. What I'd really liked about the game were running, jumping, grabbing rebounds - just being out there. Now, as our tour rolled through the snow to a string of small cities in Canada, I was not only learing the game but was also adding to it. Every day turned into an adventure, and I wondered why the game had only started coming to me now, when I had only a few weeks left in competitive basketball. I blocked a lot of shots on that tour, mainly because it was fun to carry out some of the designs I had made up to use against Bill Treu. Nobody, including myself, thought of the blocked shot as much of a defensive weapon; in fact, nobody thought much about defense at all. We were in a different era of basketball, when people thought of defense as a time to rest when you didn't have the ball. A blocked shot provoked only yawns or criticism. There had been a time when blocked shots were a potent weapon, and the early seven footers in the game camped under the basket to bat shots away from the rim. But this had brought on the goaltending rule against touching a shot in its downward flight. After that, players tended to forget about blocking shots because they didn't want to give the opposing team an automatic two points. It was too risky. Players who tried to block had to leave their feet and were likely to foul or be left behind as the shooter scooted around them. For all this risk the blocker could hope only to knock the ball out of bounds. The idea of blocking a shot and keeping the ball inbounds was unheard of, as was the more difficult move of tipping the blocked shot directly to a defensive teammate. In our minds a blocked shot had about the same impact as calling time out; it stopped the clock and gave the ball out of bounds to the team that already had possession. Like the jump shot and defense in general, blocked shots would take some time to work their way into favor with the basketball coaches. But even in those days they were fun to watch and to do, and on the Northwest tour we were playing for fun. An acrobatic block might draw and ooh or an aah or even a handshake from your teammetes. (This was before the palm slap. Black players never slapped each other on the ass back then, and we were shocked when we saw the white ones doing it.) IU blocked so many shots after a couple of weeks on the tour that my teammates began referring to them as Russell moves, which pleased me. They were acknowledging that I had a trademark they admired, and this was the first sign that my basketball personality would be built around defense.
Ray Allen is playing golf today in the Deutsche Bank ProAm. He posted this amazing picture of two legends in their sports on Twitter.
I am liking Shelden Williams more and more from reading his Tweets. Most of them are about family life with Candace and their baby, who he calls lil momma. He is now packing for his move to Boston. He attends all of Candace's games with their baby and Candace plans to be at all of Shelden's games to return the favor. It will get a little dicey for her on opening night when her brother will be playing for the Cavs against her husband playing on the Celtics. Seems like a really great guy who loves his family and who is ready to make an impression on Boston fans on the court.
The Celtics have signed Marquis Daniels finally. Danny couldn't find a third team to take on Tony Allen's 2.5 million dollar contract, even though it is expiring. He may have more luck closer to the trade deadline. I have been less impressed by Quisy's tweets that contain mostly street slang. But, if he can contribute on the floor, who cares what his tweets are like. He will be wearing #7 for the Celtics which was most recently vacated by Mikki Moore, who signed with the Warriors this week. There will be a press conference tomorrow (Friday 9/4) to introduce him. He did turn down more money elsewhere to come to Boston for a chance to win a ring. He will be motivated to win for that reason and that is a good thing.
The Celtics now have a very deep bench. The starting five of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins continues to be one of the best in the league. And add to that a deep bench with the additions of Rasheed Wallace, Marquis Daniels, and Sheldon Williams and the return of Big Baby, Eddie House, Tony Allen, and Brian Scalabrine, along with the development of Bill Walker and JR Giddens. All we need now is a veteran back up PG and I don't see anyone who is as strong from 1-15.
From EuroLeague Basketball comes this tidbit for those anxious for news of last year's second round pick:
Another team to watch is Turkey, which has found the right chemistry with a battery of young, talented big men used to playing together. Fenerbahce Ulker centers Semih Erden, Omer Asik and Oguz Savas are ready to prove their value with head coach Bogdan Tanjevic knowing everything about them. Ersan Ilyasova will see most minutes at power forward alongside Turkey’s superstar swingman Hedo Turkoglu. Playmakers Kerem Tunceri and Ender Arslan of Efes Pilsen are ready to share the point guard duties, while Tanjevic has a lot of options at the wings. Tanjevic can play big with Ilyasova and Turkoglu outside or opt for elite defensive players like Sinan Guler or Omer Onan, full of intensity at both ends. Turkey could become the most pleasant surprise at EuroBasket 2009 with two nightmare mismatches like Turkoglu and Ilyasova - an added value for a very competitive team.
The Celtics still have the rights to Semih Erden who continues to improve his game playing for the Turkish team Fenerbahce Ulker. He may end up being one of Danny's shrewd moves when he is ready to make the jump to the NBA.
There are discussions on how many wins the Celtics will have this season on both CelticsBlog and Celtics Hub. I think 57 wins is very conservative. I mean, without KG for the last half of the season and with Mikki Moore as a back up center, they won 62 games last season. I have to believe that this team with the additions of Sheed, Daniels and Williams will be as good as the 2008 champion team, if not better. I'm going with another 66 win season because I think they will at least be as good as the 2008 team. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
This part of the series on Second Wind Memoirs of an Opinionated Man by Bill Russell picks up where Part 4 left off. Bill discovers his talent for basketball for the first time at the age of 18 while on the California All Stars trip.
I was like a sponge on the whole trip, soaking up whatever I could learn from the other players. For the first time the game obsessed me. Whenever I was on the sidelines, in practice or in a game, I studied the moves of my teammates. Bill Treu in particular fascinated me. He was a Mormon, clean scrubbed, honest, friendly and our best player. In one game he scored fifty three points. Treu was the first player I'd ever seen who relied on ball handling. Most of the kids I'd known at McClymonds would take the ball and race at breakneck speed directly to the point at which they's take their jump shot or pass. Treu hardly ever went anywhere in a straight line; he was always cutting and weaving. His head and his eyes would scissor back and forth in a constant fake as he hesitated, switched h ands and changed direction in order to get open. He was the first player I'd ever seen who could spin repeatedly while dribbling and still control the ball - the way Earl Monroe would later play in the pros. On the bus I would talk with Treu for hours on end about how he'd developed each fake and spin. He loved talking about his moves, which were is proudest possessions. I looked for Treu to become a great player later at Brigham nUniversity, but I understand that the Mormon Church sent him on a two year mission overseas, after which he stayed out of competitive sports. Eural McKelvey, the only black player on the team other than myself, tried to make a science out of rebounding. He was the first player I ever heard talk about such refinements as which way the ball was likely to bounce from shots taken at certain spots on the court. He wanted to know everything, and he was always thinking. Also, he ran swiftly and gracefully, and threw up an accurate jump shot. Like Bill Treu, McKelvey talked to me endlessly about basketball. I kept peppering him with questions, and from the questions and from the way I was playing he knew that I was learning from him. Some players hoard their ideas like trade secrets, but Treu and McKelvey seemed to like helping other players. In Coach Swegle's bubbly atmosphere their unselfishness spread to the whole team. McKelvey has remained a friend every since. When Mister Charlie retired from the foundry at the age of sixty five, he started working in a fruit canning plant a few weeks every summer just to keep in shape. McKelvey, who is a foreman of the plant, kids Mister Charlie about pulling his share of the load, but he looks after him as if he were his own father. Within a week after the All Star tour began, something happened that opened my eyes and chilled my spine. I was sitting on the bench, watching Treu and McKelvey the way I always did. Every time one of them would make one of the moves I liked, I'd close my eyes just afterward and try to see the play in my mind. In other words, I'd try to create an instant replay on the inside of my eyelids. Usually I'd catch only part of a particular move the first time I tried this, I'd miss the head work or the way the ball was carried or maybe the sequence of steps. But the next time I saw the move I'd catch a little more of it, so that soon I could call up a complete picture of, say Bill Treu's spinning right handed layup from the left side of the basket. On this particular night I was working on replays of many plays including McKelvey's way of taking an offensive rebound and moving quickly to the hoop. It's a fairly simple play for any big man in basketball, but I didn't execute it well and McKelvey did. Since I had an accurate version of his technique in my head, I started playing with the image right there on the bench, running back the picture several times and each time inserting a part of me for McKelvey. Finally I saw myself making the whole move, and I ran this over and over too. When I went into the game, I grabbed and offensive rebound and put it in the basket just the way McKelvey did. It seemed natural, almost as if I were just stpping into a film and following the signs. When the imitation worked and the ball went in, I could barely contain myself. I was so elated I thought I'd float right out of the gym. Every time I'd tried to copy moves in the past, I'd dribbled the ball off my arm or committed some other goof. Now for the first time I had transferred something from my head to my body. It seemed so easy. My first dose of athletic confidence was coming to me when I was eighteen years old. The technique itself was not new to me. When I had spent so much of my free time in the Oakland Public Library, after my mother died, I'd check out reproductions of painting and take them home with me - prints of DaVinci and Michelangelo rolled up in a scroll and tucked under my arm to keep other kids from seeing what they were. I got enough kidding just for going to the library; if the guys in my neighborhood had discovered what was under my arm, they'd have teased me into the San Francisco Bay. Safely at home, I would unroll the prints and study them. Almost always I selected paintings of faces and scenes. I don't know where I'd gotten the ides, but I also thought if I could memorize paintings of magnificent buildings, it would help me become an architect. I wanted to conceive of a building in my mind and then make it a reality. Those paintings held me spellbound. I would study a Michelangelo for hours, trying to memorize each little detail, working on one section of the painting at a time. It took me weeks before I was satisfied that I could close my eyes and re-create anything resembling what I saw in the reproduction. Then I would psyche myself up for the acid test: drawing the painting from memory. I'd put the print away and start sketching, but the result always frustrated me. When I'd finished, the outline and the general shapes would resemble the painting closely, but the details would be cockeyed and jarring. It always looked as if Michelangelo had sent his work into the nursery for completion. Finally I decided that I had no gift. This failure - plus the fact that not a single student at McClymonds expected to go to college - sent my dream of being an architect into limbo.
Next part will continue Bill's discovery of the game of basketball and his talent for it.
Here is part 1 of the California All Stars trip where Bill Russell found his game. This first part has some fascinating stuff about the game of basketball at that time.
By modern standards the California All Star tour was anything but elegant. We traveled by regularly scheduled Greyhound bus. When we finished a game in one town the team would tramp down to the bus station to buy tickets to the next. We would sit in the staion for hours if necessary because we always left when the bus was ready. That's the way we traveled for thousands of miles - up through Oregon to Seattle, on up to British Columbia through towns like Victoria, Nanaimo, Blaine, New Westminster, Birnaby, Pentiction and Trail, and then back down through Spokane to Idaho. Mostly we played against high school teams, but also there were Western Washington College in Bellingham, Washington, and the University of British Columbia. Sometimes we would get farmed out to host families in a city so that we could stay tow or three days and get in some practice, but usually we'd go right back to the station. I remember being stunned by sights like the Cascade Mountains and my fist glimpse of a Canadian Mountie. Of course there was a lot of horseplay on the bus, and I got so little sleep that my eyes swelled up as big as tires. I loved every minute of it. The coach was a man named Brick Swegle, who had invented the tour. He took his wife along, and they ran the show in tandem. I remember them as a pair. They'd both stand up in front of the bus. He'd say one sentence and she the next, alternating like actors in a rehearsal. Then the two of them would sit down up front and start passing a bottle back and forth, probably hoping that a snort or two would help drown out the noise. But after a drinks the Swegles would start making their own noise in loud arguements. We would quiet down in the back so that we could hear what they were saying, and when they simmered down, our volume would swell back to normal. The ordinary bus passengers in the middle rows got quite a show. In Canada, rebounds were called caroms, and in many of the towns the game was played on a casaba court. The very philosophy of the game in those days would be unrecognizable to most people now. The idea was never to lave your feet except when jumping for a rebound. If you had the ball on offense, the idea was to dribble, fake and move past the man guarding you so that you had to clear a path to the basket for a moment. Then you would try to drive in for a lay up. If your path was blocked, you would shoot a set shot if you had time; if not, you would pass. The jump shot - which has become the staple of modern basketball - was relatively new then, and many coaches were dedicated to stamping it out, they thought it was a hot dog move that should be confined to the playgrounds where it originated. Once you went up, said the coaches, you were helpless, because if anything hampered your shot in the air, more than likely you would come down with the ball and have to turn it over to the other team. The standard line in coaching was: "If you have to jump to shoot, you didn't have a shot in the first place." Some coaches would bench a player automatically for taking a jump shot, and I witnessed a couple of strict disciplinarians who actually threw players off their teams for this offense. On defense it was considered even worse to leave your feet. Nine times out of ten, coaches would say, when you went up for a fake the guy with the ball would just run around you for a layup. The idea was for the defensive player to keep himself between his man and the basket at all times. Prevent layups, keep control, stay on your feet. By jumping you were simply telegraphing to your opponent that you could be faked into the air. Defenses had not begun to adjust to the jump shot. According to the classical style of basketball back then, the game was built around the layup and the set shot. At McClymonds we preferred free form playground basketball, including the jump shot. We never jumped on defense, but we loved to go up in the air on offense. It was more fun - and it worked. Our success caused great anguish among conservative coaches, who feared that the lazy and undisciplined aspects of "Negro basketball" would bring nothing but evil to the game. Like George Powles at McClymonds, Brick Swegle was not the average coach. He was a maverick. I never know what he did every year other than run the All Star tour, but my hunch is that he had a lot of fun at whatever it was. On the tour he allowed us to do just about anything we wanted on the court. He'd make substitutions, call time outs and encourage us, and together with his wife he'd handle the logistics of travel, but out on the floor we were pretty much on our own. So we played "Negro basketball," though there were only two black players on the team. It was a holiday for our white players who loved jump shots like everybody else but had been anchored to the floor by their coaches. We ran and jumped on that tour, and we wore out most teams. In some cities the opposing coaches told Mr Swegle that our tactics were not cricket. He'd always shrug his shoulders and say that his boys were having fun. We were also winning. In one game the opposing coach got cocky when he saw us open up with jump shot. "Let 'em have that shot!" he yelled at his players. He shared the established view that the jump shot could not work because it was performed off balance, whereas the set shot was sturdy, balanced and repeatable, like a free throw. Sooner or later, he figured, this awkward new shot would ruin us. His players were also under orders not to jump on defense, so we shot short jump shots all day, while our opponents just stood there. All through the game the coach defiantly told his players to let us have the jump shot, and we won 144-41.
Part 2 of Bill's trip tomorrow and how he went from a mediocre high school player at the start of the trip to the player who would become a legend.
This video was on Basketball Dunk Videos website. I've been reading a lot about Doc's son Austin, who is a senior in high school this year. He has committed to Florida, but Doc has convinced him to look at other schools as well. This kid can really play. Take a look for yourself:
Here is a story from Bill Russell's Second Wind about how he discovered basketball.
It was only by the sheerest luck that I developed an outlet for my confidence. There is a gray area between magic and luck, and my basketball career started off somewhere in the gray area. Looking back, I can see a whole string of unlikely events that had to occur. I can also remember moments when new skills seemed to drop out of the sky, and I felt as if I had a new eye or had tapped a new compartment in my brain. First there was George Powles. The white teachers at McClymonds tended to be the most bitter of a bitter lot, stuck there in an all black school. Powles was white, and he was also stuck with the junior varsity basketball team. At our first practice he told us he didn't know the first thing about basketball. The principal of the school had just stopped him in the hall a few days earler and informed him that he was the new coach of our team. Powles was a baseball coach by trade, but he said that he would learn with us and try to be fair. He did both. Among the teachers, Powles was generally unpopular for his pro-student attitude. He had the kind of idealism that could cause trouble if it infected students, and he was criticized as one who curried favor with kids by doing things they liked. That's exactly what he did for me, and I'll always be grateful to him. At the end of our tryout period I was clearly the worst of the candidates for the Jayvee team. I could run and jump, all right, but if there was a basketball within twenty feet of me, I went to pieces. There were sixteen of us. Powles was provided with fifteen game uniforms, but he told us he didn't want to cut anybody else. As the sixteenth man on the team, I was to share the last uniform with a boy named Roland Campbell. When he wore the uniform, I sat up in the stands. Every game we switched. Powles couldn't have been kinder to me. He even gave me two dollars to join the local Boys Club so I could gain some experience, and I burned up enough energy on those courts to light the city of Oakland. Powles knew less about basketball strategy than I knew about Emily Post, but he had a keen sense of psychology that helped us win. He used to pace up and down in front of us to lecture us on the race question. "We might as well face it, boys," he would say gravely. "You are a Negro team playing against a lot of white teams. If you fight in a game, they'll call it a riot. If the white team fights, they'll call it a scuffle. That's all there is to it. We can't help it. So I won't have any fighting on this team. If you want to beat somebody up, just beat them with the basketball." That's what we did. Powles was honest and straightforward, and he made sense. Nobody on our team forgot what he said, and we never fought. Often our white opponents started shoving hard if they fell behind, hoping to provoke a fight, but we'd just whip them harder on the court. One of us might say to a white player, "Hey, man, we can't have no rioting out here!" and then we'd all laugh. The coach taught us that in order to do anything well, you have to be something of a gentleman, and since we were black, he'd say, we had to be perfect gentlemen. Coach Powles moved up to the varsity for my last two years at McClymonds, and so did I. Our team was excellent, but I was mediocre at best. I was the kind of player who tried so hard that everybody wanted to give me the most improved award - except that I didn't improve much. I was an easily forgettable high school player. McClymonds was part of the Oakland Athletic League, which had only six teams. At the end of the season the newspaper published a First All League Team, a Second All League Team, a Third All League Team, and a long list of Honorable Mentions thta included just about everybody, except for me. I never made any of those lists. When I finished at McClymonds, luck struck again, in the form of the California High School All Stars. For the previous four years of so, a local basketball lover had gathered together a team of players and taken them on a tour of the Pacific Northwest, challenging local teams. The Oakland Jaycees and the Mohawk Athletic Club, of which I'd never heard, put up the money so the team could go barnstorming off to the North for about a month. Circumstances conspired to put me on this team, even though I was not of all star quality right there in Oakland, much less in all of California. First of all, the tour took place in January, right in the middle of both the basketball season and the normal scholastic year. It was designed exclusively for graduating splitters - students whose school year ran from January to January. This factor alone ruled out most of the good players. Secondly, the man who ran the tour was trying to build up the program, and he badly wanted to have a player from McClymonds, which had the best team in Northern California that year. I was the only graduating splitter on the McClymonds team, so I was picked. My more talented teammates at McClymonds kidded "All Star Russell" about being selected as their representative, but I didn't care. I was happier than if I'd found a thousand dollars under my pillow. The tour would give me the three wishes I would have put to any genie who came along: a chance to play basketball every day, a trip out of Oakland, and a way to avoid the burden of facing the real world and looking for a job. So in January of 1952 I said good bye to Mr Charlie and took off for the bus station. Getting to go on the tour was luck. What would happen along the way was magic.
Next up, the story from Bill about the magic on the trip that turned a mediocre high school basketball player into one who would become a legend.
The biggest news is that Marquis Daniels is finally going to be a Celtic for real. The Herald is reporting that Daniels is expected to sign for the biannual exception tomorrow. It has been a long wait since mid July when the deal was first announced. Apparently Danny couldn't find any teams interested in Tony Allen or his 2.5 million dollar contract. He should be more valuable along with his expiring contract closer to the trade deadline. Now, all we need is a back up PG and this team will be one of the deepest in the league. There has to be a veteran PG out there willing to sign for the veteran's minimum and a very good chance to win a ring.
A former Celtic was in the news as Mikki Moore signed with Golden State. I really liked Moore and he had a great attitude and was a good teammate, but he just wasn't what the Celtics needed last season. I wish him luck with the Warriors.
The Examiner has a great article on Joe Abunassar, who runs a training facility in Vegas for various NBA Stars including several Celtics. Among the players training there this offseason are Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Big Baby Davis. Here is what he has to say about what these 3 Celtics are working on:
For Paul…Paul pretty much works with us when he’s in town. Guys with that kind of experience, Paul is just trying to get himself in the best shape that he can for a long season, which does require not getting into too good a shape right now because you don’t want to peak too early. Paul and Kevin are in a way different place. I have Chauncey Billups, I have Tayshaun Prince. These guys know what their strengths and their weaknesses are, and they know how to get themselves ready. For Kevin, he’s just trying to get himself ready. For Paul and Kevin, we’re not reinventing anything. Just keeping their bodies healthy is a major deal, making sure they’re strong in the right places so they are ready for the season and playoffs.
For Big Baby, he’s just finding his game, so he’s trying to stay fit, stay lean, and he gets to play against guys like Rudy Gay and Al Harrington, and pick up parts of their game. He’s going one day at a time, and he’s returning here and he’ll get a lot more work in before he goes back to Boston.
Ball Don't Lie rated the best uniforms of the past 10 years. Not surprising, the Celtics classic unis took top place. Those uniforms are very clean looking and very classy. My favorite alternates are the ones with the gold lettering but I really like all the versions. I'm not too crazy about the Cavs wine and gold ones that Dwyer ranks third. They look too gaudy to me.
It is just over a month now till training camp. We have made it through the dog days of the off season and it's time to get excited about this upcoming season. Danny has addressed every weak spot on the team other than back up point guard and I believe that he will take care of that by training camp also. I can't wait. I am getting very excited. If this team can stay healthy, we are in for a very special season.