All Kuberski does during games is fill a few lanes on the fast break and kick a few rear ends until Silas comes smoking off the bench. His real value to the team is that, above all, he is a Celtic. Watching Kuberski in practice one day, Jo Jo White mentioned this to Scott. "There's nothing wrong with Steve," he said. "Thing is, he can't play anywhere else. He's just a Celtic."
And now, so is Scott. During its long run Charlie's rant has provided some neat NBA theater. He is 6'6" and unusually quick and has unlimited talent. But he also has been branded a chronic corn-plainer, a malcontent. " Scott's your basic score-35-but-lose-by-12 gunner," is how a detractor once put it. During four years in Phoenix, Scott averaged 23.5 points per game, but could not lead the Suns out of the desert.
When Red Auerbach traded for this enigma last summer, there was speculation that the old boy had finally choked on his cigar. Scott, it was said, would not fit in at Boston, would not adapt his game, would not accept coaching.
But he has. A habitual sprinter, Scott has adjusted his style to the intricate weaving of the Boston fast break. He has labored hard on defense, while scoring almost 19 points per game. Most important, he has made an effort not to force his unchained psyche on his new team. "There are so many dominant personalities on the Celtics that no one man can overdominate," says Havlicek. "Charlie realized he would have to be the one to change, not us." The Boston veterans would accept no less.
Heinsohn and Auerbach have had nothing but kind words for their new star, even though Scott is well on his way to an unprecedented triple crown of fouling. He has the most personals, technicals and disqualifications in the NBA. "It's his money," shrugs Heinsohn, a noted screamer who has been left at the gate in the technical-foul sweepstakes.
And Scott, part con and all charm, returns the kind words. "I've never been happier," he says. "Anyone who wants to win can adjust to anything. When a player dreams of being a pro, he dreams of being a Celtic."
That attitude undoubtedly helped Boston pad its lead in the East. Then came the All-Star break and with it the annual Celtic "blahs." When Boston left on its Western trip it had the same number of losses (14) as Golden State, putting the teams in a virtual tie in the race for the best regular-season record. Then the Celts lost three of four games. In a defeat at Houston, Cowens reinjured his hand by accommodating a burly fan who had made the mistake of a lifetime by taking a swipe at the redhead. Cowens punched the man's lights out. During a humiliating 124-99 loss at Seattle, an erratic White hit Cowens in the head with one pass and the center of the hanging scoreboard with another.
Only when they got to Los Angeles did the Celts look like themselves. Against the Lakers they broke fast and finished the same way. Cowens dominated Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, outscoring him 27-20 and outrebounding him 24-7, and Silas came out of a slump to contribute 19 points and 13 rebounds as Boston won 125-113. "We didn't beat a good team," said Cowens. "We need a deuce to finish this trip."
White was asked if the Celtics were ready for Golden State. "You mean, are they ready for us?" he snapped. "The Warriors know that when we're on our game, they're in for some misery."
In Oakland there was plenty of that for both sides. Even in defeat the Celtics looked as though they had rediscovered what Heinsohn calls "a communion of spirit." Silas, the most eloquent of all animal rebounders, had defined that feeling earlier. "You don't dwell on the games you lose, but on how you lose them," he had said. "Last year the Warriors knew in their hearts and souls they could beat Washington, just as Washington knew it could beat us. We don't want anybody to feel that way again."