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"I learned a few things from this game," said Heinsohn. "One of them was the book on Derline."
Three nights later the Celtics were down in Oakland trying to regroup against the leaders of the Pacific Division whom Boston might meet in the playoffs. The Warriors had had some trouble, losing 13 of 19 games over one stretch. They are another mostly young club, plus Rick Barry, and just before the Celtics arrived in town they had gotten back in stride, winning three of their last four.
Before the game, the Celtics still felt the defeat by Seattle and were restless. "A game like that brings you back to reality," said Paul Silas, the latest to play as Boston's sixth man. "In Seattle we got smoked. A game like that is good for us. It shows that we aren't the greatest team ever. Each time we lose a game we can't wait to play the next one. And usually we blow somebody out."
Historically, Boston's sixth man is the team's second-best forward. Frank Ramsey was the first of the line in the mid-1950s. He was followed in the role by John Havlicek. Then came Don Nelson, and now Silas.
"The sixth man has to be so stable a player that he can either instantly pick up a tempo or reverse it," says Heinsohn. "He has to be able to go in and have an immediate dynamic impact. With Ramsey and Havlicek it was easy to see. They went in as shooters. Ramsey would go in and get off five shots in 20 seconds. Nelson would do a job on the board and hit a few hoops. Now Silas takes over with his defense and his rebounds. It's a tough thing. The sixth man has to have the unique ability to be in a ball game while he is sitting on the bench."
For Silas, the assignment was hard to take at first. He came from Phoenix in 1972, in exchange for the rights to Charlie Scott, and the 6'7", 215-pound forward had not only been a starter but an all-star as well. And now he was going to be a substitute?
"The thought of moving to that weather in Boston didn't thrill me, either," says Silas. "And I had heard about the Celtic traditions, the Celtic pride. To be truthful, I thought it was a lot of nonsense. But when I arrived it was amazing. It's almost like a collegiate atmosphere in a pro world—an atmosphere of total sacrifice for the good of the team, on and off the court. It's a way of life. You just fall into it."
Through last Saturday Boston led the Atlantic Division with a record of 41 and 18, second-best in the NBA. Yet not one Celtic is among the top five in rebounds, assists or steals. And you have to go far down the list of scorers before you'll find Havlicek, the Celtics' top point maker. Everybody scores, everybody rebounds, everybody steals, everybody has assists.
"Everybody has a role," says Silas. "Mine is to come in off the bench and rebound and play defense. You sacrifice personal glory for the team. Winning is what it is all about and whatever sacrifice it takes, a Celtic is willing. Some teams count on one or two men. We always count on eight or nine or 10 to get the job done. And when that many are coming at you it is tough to handle."
"The first thing you learn as a Celtic is that you're not going to play very much," says Paul Westphal, the third-year guard out of USC. He was Boston's No. 1 draft pick in 1972 and is one of six first-round draft choices among Boston's top eight players. Add Heinsohn, who was drafted No. 1 out of Holy Cross in 1956, and you have a pretty good measure of the genius of general manager and former coach Red Auerbach over the past 2� decades.