"I said, 'Did you hear me in the meeting when I said 5:30?' "
"Yes sir," said Bird in a schoolboy tone. "We all heard you. I don't know about Eddie, but we all heard you."
With the trading deadline fast approaching, NBA news was a hot topic during the 15-minute bus ride to the arena.
"I was talking to my agent, and he heard a deal on his speakerphone," said Michael Smith. "Milwaukee sent Ricky Pierce to Seattle for Dale Ellis."
"I can't believe that," said Bird.
"What? The trade?" said Smith. "I can't believe it, either."
"No," said Bird, "I can't believe your agent has a speakerphone."
Though they were in enemy territory, the Celtics were obviously more prepared for the Lakers than they had been without Bird two weeks earlier in Boston Garden, where they lost 104-87. McHale was still out of action, but Bird took such a real joy in playing the Lakers that the feeling seemed to be contagious. Everyone was up. Steve Bulpett, the Celtics reporter for The Boston Herald, recalled a moment a few years earlier when Bird, dressing alone in The Forum locker room, suddenly sang, almost to himself, "We're playin' the Lakers, we're playin' the Lakers."
Bird's rivalry with Magic Johnson had lost some of its appeal to the fans, but Bird seemed to appreciate it, or at least enjoy it, more than ever. Early in his career, the competition with Magic and the Lakers had been so intense that Bird was never really able to step back and consider what their joint effect had been on the game. He tired of the subject quickly. But time had provided perspective, and when he was asked about Magic before this game, he warmed to the subject.
"I've never seen nobody as good as him," said Bird. "And there'll probably be nobody down the road as good as him. There's other guys who will come along who can score and rebound. But there probably won't be anybody who can control a game like he does.