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On 25th anniversary, looking back at Larry Bird’s famous steal vs. Pistons 05.25.12 at 10:37 am ET
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Saturday marks the 25th anniversary of not only one of the greatest plays in Boston sports history, but one of the most memorable moments in NBA history.

In Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference finals at the Boston Garden against the Pistons, Celtics forward Larry Bird added on to his legend, turning an almost sure defeat in a pivotal game into a stunning victory in the matter of seconds.

With the C’s trailing by a point in the closing seconds, Bird drove the lane and had his shot blocked by Dennis Rodman. With the ball heading out of bounds, Celtics guard Jerry Sichting tried to save it, but it was knocked off his body and the Pistons received possession, setting up the theatrics. With five seconds left, Isiah Thomas hurriedly tried to inbound the ball and lobbed a pass to Bill Laimbeer, who was standing on the baseline near the Celtics basket.

What Thomas didn’t see was Bird, who timed the pass perfectly and flew in from his position at the top of the key to steal the ball, a remarkable play that gave the Celtics sudden life with the final seconds winding down.

“Isiah’s pass just hung up there,” Bird recalled in a 2009 ESPN story about the play. “It seemed to take forever to get to Laimbeer. [After stealing the pass], I was thinking about shooting, but the ball was going the other way and so was my momentum.”

Narrowly avoiding falling out of bounds, Bird found Dennis Johnson streaking down the lane and sent him the pass. Johnson grabbed it and without hesitation laid the ball off the backboard and in as the Celtics took an improbable 108-107 lead with one second left.

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Transcript of Danny Ainge on D&C: Big Three still can lead Celtics to championship 06.24.11 at 10:41 am ET
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Danny Ainge (AP)

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge checked in with the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning, the day after he selected two Purdue players in the NBA draft.

The C’s first-round pick was 6-foot-10 JaJuan Johnson, and Ainge sounded cautiously optimistic that Johnson can help the Celtics immediately.

“I think he can contribute,” Ainge said. “I always hate to put too many expectations on guys before the draft and after the draft. I think that sometimes we get all excited and get carried away on the draft. Historically, there’s just not that many guys that come in on a good team, on championship-caliber teams, that are able to contribute. Well have three or four young guys on our roster this year, and one or two of them might contribute day in and day out. The others will have to find their spots through injuries and opportunities in other ways.

“Size is hard to find. I think that his size gives him a little bit of an advantage. And his experience in college — he was an All-Big Ten player, and he’s nearly 6-foot-10 and he’s long. There’s just not that many of those guys out there, so the competition is much thinner.”

Following a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Obviously, you’re happy with your guy. How long did you target this particular guy, JaJuan Johnson?

We started following JaJuan closely last year, trying to see if he should come out to the draft. He was counseled to back to school. We liked him some last year, but we did follow him closely this year.

I think the only minus, really, is just he’s very thin. But he’s multi-skilled. He can shoot, handle the ball, pass, block shots, rebound. He just needs to put a little weight on.

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Doc on DJ: ‘People forget how good he was’ 04.04.10 at 1:59 pm ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers, like many fans, was extremely happy on Saturday to hear word that Dennis Johnson was finally being inducted into the basketball hall of fame in Springfield this fall. The official announcement is expected to come out of Indianapolis on Monday during the Final Four.

Rivers just wishes that DJ were around to receive the accolades and get his chance to say thank you. Johnson died of heart failure in Feb. 2007.

“In some ways, it’s a little late,” Rivers said. “It would have been better for this to happen when DJ was alive. It would have been great for him to give the speech. That’s the only bad part of this.”

In many ways, the best thing to have ever happened to Dennis Johnson was his trade from Phoenix to Boston following the 1982-83 season for Rick Robey.

In his first year in Boston in ’83-84, Johnson helped contain Philadelphia’s Andrew Toney in the regular season and Magic Johnson in the playoffs as the Celtics returned to glory in a seven-game NBA Finals win.

But, as Celtics coach Doc Rivers correctly pointed out, while he may not have been well known by fans before coming to Boston in the mid-80s, he certainly had built quite the reputation. He led Seattle to its first and only title in 1979 and was voted NBA Finals MVP.

“I think, unfortunately, for DJ is people forget how good he was in Seattle,” Rivers said of Johnson. “They dismiss that part of his career for some reason. Somehow, they forget he won titles on two different teams and was a key player on both.”

After the ’79 title season, Johnson averaged 19.0 points and 4.1 assists, appeared in his second All-Star Game and was named to the All-Defensive first team and All-NBA second team.

However, the Sonics lost in the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers, who had Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Johnson later called that playoff exit one of the worst disappointments of his professional career.

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Report: DJ voted to Hall of Fame 04.03.10 at 3:47 pm ET
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Point guard Dennis Johnson has been elected to the basketball Hall of Fame, according to a report in the Boston Globe. Sources tell the paper that Johnson will be inducted in the latest class this fall in Springfield, Mass.

The official announcement is expected on Monday. Johnson led three teams to NBA championships, including the 1984 and 1986 Celtics. Johnson also led the Seattle SuperSonics to their only championship in 1979, earning NBA Finals MVP.

Johnson, drafted 29th overall in 1976 by Seattle, began his professional career as a shooting guard. After a short stint with the Phoenix Suns, he became the starting point guard for the Celtics and led the team to the NBA title in 1984, his first season in Boston.

‘DJ” was voted to five All-Star teams, one All-NBA first and one second team, and nine consecutive All-Defensive first and second Teams.

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Today in Celtics History: Bird Three-peat 05.28.09 at 12:08 am ET
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On May 28, 1986, Larry Bird won his third straight NBA MVP Award. He also won the NBA Finals MVP en route to the Celtics 16th world championship over the Houston Rockets. Bird joined Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to receive the award in three consecutive seasons. Since then four players (Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash) have won back-to-back titles, but no one has accomplished the three-peat.

See how this season’s MVP stacked up to Bird’s award-winning performance: (All stats per regular season game; advantage in bold)

Larry Bird (1986)
Boston Celtics: 67-15 (won NBA Finals)
Points: 25.8
Rebounds: 9.8
Assists: 6.8
FG: 49.6%
3PG: 42.3%
FT: 89.6%
Steals: 2.0
Blocks: 0.6

LeBron James (2009)
Cleveland Cavaliers: 66-16 (down 3-1 in Eastern Conference Finals)
Points: 28.4
Rebounds: 7.6
Assists: 7.2
FG: 48.9%
3PG: 34.4%
FT: 78.0%
Steals: 1.7
Blocks: 1.1

Edge: Bird, 6-3

On the same date in 1978 former Celtics guard, the late Dennis Johnson, blocked seven shots in Game 3 of the NBA Finals as a member of the Seattle SuperSonics. No other guard has ever blocked as many shots in an NBA Finals game.

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Doc: DJ ‘absolutely’ deserves HOF 04.06.09 at 4:34 pm ET
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It came as a surprise to exactly no one that Michael Jordan was a first ballot inductee to the Basketball Hall of Fame in the voting announced Monday morning at the Final Four in Detroit. And names like John Stockton, Utah coach Jerry Sloan, David Robinson and women’s coach C. Vivian Stringer were hardly stunning either.

“That’s awesome,” Celtics coach and former NBA all-star guard Doc Rivers said following his team’s practice on Monday.

“I had a lot to do with that. I guarded Michael, I guarded Stockton, they looked a lot better. I can tell you that. Clearly, first ballot all of them. It’s terrific. Michael may be the greatest player, definitely of our generation, and maybe of all time. Stockton may be the greatest point guard in some arguments,” Rivers said.

But the late Dennis Johnson did not make it.

“That surprises me, I thought he would make it,” Rivers said. “Well, I’m disappointed in that part. I absolutely think he deserves it.”

And a look at the numbers Johnson put up over his 14-year career detail Rivers’ argument. He played in exactly 1,100 games, averaging 14.1 points and 5.0 assists. His numbers were even better in the playoffs. He averaged 17.3 points and 5.6 assists in 180 games, while playing on three NBA championship teams.

Everyone recalls how DJ was brought to Boston in the 1983-84 season, in part, to answer Philadelphia’s Andrew Toney and Maurice Cheeks, and give the Celtics a powerful backcourt influence and provide great defense on Magic Johnson. The Celtics won titles in 1984 and 1986.

But ask Rivers, and he will tell you voters forget what DJ did in Seattle, like leading his team to the 1979 NBA title, earning Finals MVP honors.

“I really believe this, they (voters) only look at him just with the Celtics,” Rivers said. “They forget how great he was with the Sonics. He was unbelievable. He came to the Celtics and they asked him to do what we ask Ray Allen to do, what we ask Paul (Pierce) to do and that is play a role and I actually think he’s being penalized for it.”

NBA.com has a complete bio of Dennis Johnson, who passed away on Feb. 22, 2007 in Austin, TX of a heart attack while coaching the Austin Toros of the NBDL.

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