Sunday, March 22, 2020

A look back at Celtics end of career All-Star acquisitions

The late great Red Auerbach was known for acquiring All-Star players who were nearing the end of their careers.

Similar to the likes of one of the best big man in NBA history in Shaquille O'Neal, who ended his 19-year career with the Celtics back in 2011, four seasons after the iconic coach and then president of basketball operations Auerbach passed away.

O'Neal was picked up by the Celtics in the summer of 2010 on a 2-year, vet-minimum contract totaling $2.8 million. An assortment on injuries limited the 15-Time All-Star to 37 games, in which he averaged 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per-game. Boston traded center Kendrick Perkins in February, partially in the hope that O'Neal would overcome a hip injury and return to form. That never happened and Shaq retired from the NBA at the conclusion of the season.

Here are some of the most-notable additions that the wily legend Auerbach brought to Boston back in his day.

Dave Bing

The 6-foot-3 Bing played most of his career with the Detroit Pistons and totaled seven All-Star appearances. He played his final NBA season in 1977-78 with the Celtics, averaging 13.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists per-game. After retiring from the NBA, Dave transformed himself into a successful business owner, political activist - and finally was elected mayor of the city of Detroit, as Bing was a class act all the way.

Wayne Embry

It was Bill Russell who talked the burly Embry out of retirement to back him up at the center spot for the 1966-67 and 1967-68 seasons. When the Celtics faced the Philadelphia 76ers, "Wayne The Wall" (as Johnny Most called him) often guarded Wilt Chamberlain when Russell needed a breather. Embry picked up his only championship ring with Boston in 1968 and did play one more season in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Willie Naulls

The late Willie Naulls played his final three seasons with the Celtics, helping the team to three consecutive championships in 1964, 1965 and 1966. Naulls played a vital role for Boston during his brief time. In 1964, he joined K.C and Sam Jones, Satch Sanders and Bill Russell in what became the first all-black starting-five in the NBA.

Dominique Wilkins

Wilkins didn't end his NBA career in Boston, but he did spend one season, which was his 14th with the Celtics after stints with the Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Clippers, he was one campaign removed from being an All-Star. He posted numbers of 17.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 31.5 minutes of action per game with Boston. He then went on to San Antonio and Orlando before retiring from the league.

Artis Gilmore

The 7-foot-2 Gilmore played in both the ABA and NBA. He was a five-time ABA All-Star and 6-time NBA All-Star prior to coming to Boston for the 1987-88 season. He led the NBA in field goal percentage four seasons in a row, and notched his career-high with 67-percent from the field in the 1980-81 season. His floor time and stats with the Celtics never matched those from earlier in his career.

Bill Walton

Revered as one of the best big man of all-time, Walton was already a champion with the Portland Trail Blazers (1976-77) when he arrived to Boston in the summer of 1985 via a trade for the very popular and former 1981 NBA Finals MVP Cedric Maxwell. The two-time All-Star had battled foot injuries almost his entire 10-year career, but Auerbach took a shot and it paid off, as Walton not only won Sixth Man of the Year that season, but was a key contributor throughout the Celtics postseason run and beating the Rockets in the 1986 Finals. That 1985-86 roster is still looked upon as one of the greatest championship teams ever assembled. Walton would retire the following year after another Finals run that fell short of back to back titles.

Pete Maravich

The late "Pistol Pete" played for the Hawks and Jazz before finishing his NBA career with the Celtics. The league scoring champ (1977) and 5-Time All-Star played a significant role for Boston in the 1979-80 season which also saw Larry Bird as a rookie. The 3-point shot became a statistic in the latter portion of Maravich's NBA career, whereupon he hit 10-of-15 3-pointers for a career average of 67-percent beyond the arc. Plagued with injuries, Maravich retired after his only season in Boston.

Both Red Auerbach and Bill Russell often took a shot at squeezing another productive season or two out of talented players finishing up their stints in the NBA. It didn't always work as planned, but Celtics fans did get to see former opponents dressed in green and performing on the old Boston Garden parquet.

Tom Lane

Photo used courtesy of The Associated Press

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