May 6, 2021

Steve Bulpett on the State of the Boston Celtics and Stories of C's Past

Steve Bulpett on the State of the Boston Celtics and Stories of C's Past

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Today on Missing the Point:  We sit down with The Dean of Boston Celtics and NBA Beat Writers Steve Bulpett

 We'll discuss the current state of the Boston Celtics. what's gone wrong over the last few seasons and some of his favorite stories from covering the NBA for over 35 years, including traveling and being more personable with players and management, with the team and story of a three-point contest with Larry Bird. 

Follow Steve Bulpett on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/SteveBHoop

Hosts: Michael Marcangelo, Rayshawn Buchanan, Dave Clarke
Guest: Steve Bulpett
Producer: Craig D'Alessandro

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Transcript

Craig D'Alessandro:

On this episode of missing the point we sit down with longtime Boston Celtics and NBA beat writer Steve Bulpett, we'll discuss the current state of the Boston Celtics. what's gone wrong over the last few seasons and some of his favorite stories from covering the NBA for over 35 years. This is missing the point, Episode 58. But it's all relative.

Michael Marcangelo:

Welcome into missing the point I'm your host Michael Mark Angelo as always joined by DK sizzle Dave Clark and Hollywood while a ratio on Buchanan and on today's episode, we have a very special guest. He has covered the Boston Celtics for over 35 years in addition to being the Dean of NBA beat writers in continuous service with the team. He's also covered the Celtics as a Home and Away beat writer longer than anyone in franchise history. The native of Lin and swamp Scott is a graduate of the University of Dayton where he pursued dreams of playing basketball and becoming a lawyer. For the context of this interview, we're so glad it did not go that way. In recent years, he has received the AP SE national top 10 honors in feature writing, as both a beat writer and columnist, please welcome to the show. Steve Bulpett, Steve, thank you for taking the time. How are you doing tonight?

Steve Bulpett:

I'm fine. Good to speak with you guys. Yeah,

Michael Marcangelo:

I mean, awesome to have you here. And obviously, you know, we're in the midst of one of the weirdest Celtic seasons in recent memory.

Steve Bulpett:

Don't Gotta Tell me

Michael Marcangelo:

So now we have to tell you what all we really want to talk to you about this. So I'll just open it up right now. 34-31 7th in the Eastern Conference, how big of an underperformance is this for this Celtics team?

Steve Bulpett:

Well, I think with their injuries and their COVID issues this year, she's been a lot of ways it's headed for a majorly asterisk. But having said that, that the way that the times they have come out and just not played with the requisite energy that you need to the times where they have gone away what they know is best for them have been I you know, I know it's been difficult for the coaching staff to watch. And I'm sure for you guys as well, because it's you know, it'll drive you crazy, I'm sure.

Dave Clarke:

Do you think that the contrast Steve like of Jayson Tatum season, it like has that elevated watching them for you at all because, like, I feel like the period pre All Star break where we were all just basically miserable watching the product that they were putting out. Like now post all star break, Jayson's done yet another leap? You know, I feel like he does at the same time, but at the same time every year, he's dropping 60 points in these big comebacks we probably shouldn't have needed to come back in that game in the first place. But do you think that you know, having covered the Celtics for so long, you may be a little bit better than us can be less reactionary. When you're looking at it? Can you go? Well, that was the big Jayson Tatum season though. That was when Jayson became you know, a top 10 NBA player, or do we just think it's like, oh, I don't know. It's all the surrounding pieces aren't good enough?

Steve Bulpett:

Well, if you look at the Celtics, This to me is the basic ultimate Celtics trivia question. The Celtics have never had a player who's led the league in scoring ever. They've had six players who've led it playing for other teams, but they've never had it. So So the point is Celtic basketball isn't about, you know, sure one guy who offers 60 he's that good Larry's done it. There are other guys who could have done it, but they make their living off the playing team basketball. Now, I've always said that there wasn't a day in Bill Russell's life. I've written this, that Wilt Chamberlain wasn't a better individually talented player, in terms of if you were going to have a basketball decathlon Wilt's, your guy. But Bill Russell understood the object of the game in a way that perhaps will never deny love. Well, it was a great guy. But bill understood the object of the game. And that's why the Celtics won. So you know, guys would subjugate, maybe, what they could all go to what they could do individually, for the greater good. And it it seems to have worked pretty well, judging by the laundry hanging from the ceiling in the garden. Yeah,

Rayshawn Buchanan:

I mean, we'll keep keeping up with the theme of you know, being team oriented. I mean, obviously, that's where Brad Stevens has preached. Now on the show people that listen to us, I call Brad Stevens horseshoes because he just almost gets the job done. And I'm personally I'm sick of him, honestly. You know, so, you know, the question I want to ask, you know, do you think that Brad, do you think Brad has lost lost the room because, I mean, he's coming in preaching, you know, move ball movement, but they don't do what he says at all. So do you find that he's lost the room?

Steve Bulpett:

Well, they do it enough, but they don't know. They don't do it enough. If you're telling the guys what to do, and what you're telling them to do, works funnel Wait for the team, but for them as well. Okay, like, you know what's, if you're a talented player, the Celtics, what's better for you taking the ball and going at one or two or three guys, and controlling the trying to score through, you know, through two players or break a double team or moving the ball around and catching it, we're all you have to do is finish. So not only good for the team, but good for you. And it makes the team successful, yet you're still not doing it? Should you be looking at the coach? Or should we be looking at the guys who are being shown that what you're being asked to do is best for the team? And you're still not able to do it, consistently? Yeah, I mean, I, you know, I'll go back. And I've talked to people that were involved back in, if you had you had Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen together in 2007 2008. If you'd had those three guys together, eight years prior to that, do you have the same result you've had in 2008? You know,

Dave Clarke:

definitely not.

Rayshawn Buchanan:

So not not not not right away. I don't think I mean, you know, individually, adults, all three of those guys had made the conference finals, you know, Ray did it in Milwaukee KG did it in Minnesota, obviously, but it was once they had good surrounding pieces around them. So, you know, I guess that goes back to Danny Ainge, Right? So, you know, is he doing enough to put the surrounding pieces because my thing is you can't have the guys when you're trying to compete, but then also trying to build the team up, you know, from what the young guy so let's just like, you know, have Danny done a good good enough job with orchestrating this, this team together?

Steve Bulpett:

Well, it's always in everything is, is in context in in the mix. So a couple of years ago, when you had that team was Kyrie, was for whatever else you want to say about him. He is an incredibly talented,

Rayshawn Buchanan:

absolute absolute.

Steve Bulpett:

But you had that team sweep, the Pacers go into Milwaukee and smoke the Bucks in game one. And all of a sudden it goes away because they turn into hero ball. And guys stopped doing what they know is good, not only for the team, but for themselves. You know, if you getting back, I don't want to leave the coach thing right now. And right now with that unanswered maybe if you got a guy that your is your coach, and he and there's a lot of guys in the league that that are coaching for themselves, and making them try to make themselves look good. But you got a guy in Stevens, who knows what he's doing, Who's... in it, and this is what I get? For sure from the eye test. But also when I'm talking privately to other coaches in the league, and they'll tell you what's up and who's real and who's fake. Among the coaches. These guys respect Brad a lot. So you've got a guy that knows what he's doing. Right? And that also isn't a guy like Bill Fitch was who drove guys crazy. This is a guy who wears... Well, he does get on the guys privately. He doesn't throw them under the bus publicly. If you're a talented player, and you can't play for something like that, you know, someone like that, then maybe you've got some work to do on yourself. So, you know, I wouldn't let I'm not letting players off the hook on this one at all. You know, when you have Jaylen Brown coming out after a game and saying, you know what this is on us, we've got to come out with better urgency. You know, I mean, giving a rah rah speech isn't going to work in the NBA. Okay, you got to have a coach who wears well over time. And I can give you a bunch of examples of God. I mean, Phil Jackson would put the guys out there and he would sit back and say, okay, and they'd be, they'd be times where they'd be screwing up. And a close friend of mine who's passed away. Frank Hamlin was is an assistant, Phil sure we call it timeout. And Phil would just sit back and said, No, they've got themselves into them get two cells out of it.

Rayshawn Buchanan:

Yeah, and I love that philosophers. I love that., Clearly it worked.

Steve Bulpett:

Yeah, but yet you had but you got people that are saying that, that Brad's not on these guys enough. yet. He is there, like get up the floor, get up the floor. You know, you lose Brad Stevens, what do you bring in next and doesn't have the kind of shelf life A guy like Brad Stevens who has perspective? And yes, basketball is hugely important to them. But he also understands where basketball fits in life. So he's given these guys room, especially last year and into this year as well, this season as well, when we all know that there were things more important than basketball going on, as if they're not all the time. But he was very much, you know, under not just understanding he was with that whole issue, not just tolerant of it, which would be really bad he was with that issue.

Dave Clarke:

Yeah, those into your point. You know, the leader on that team, the guys that are currently the leaders on that team, they were there at the very start of this Brad Stevens project. So, if they've just decided that they're not buying in all of a sudden, I mean, I think I agree with you, I think that's going to be on them. Right? Because it's like that they've seen this work. You know, they saw it work when they were younger. And when you play Brad Stevens basketball, it's a successful brand of basketball. You know, I know we we get on him on the show all the time about, you know, maybe we get to the Eastern Conference Finals, we go to game seven, we lose against these Conference Finals, we go to game seven, we lose. But we went to the Eastern Conference Finals, I went to game seven with teams that shouldn't have been there, you know,

Steve Bulpett:

look at that. And I wrote this tweet about, especially at the start of this year. You look back at it. I had two questions coming into the season. Number one, could the team get away from Hero ball? that that would strike it particularly an opportune time? The game seven at home Conference Finals against Cleveland? Okay, that's your game. It's, that is your game to have. I'm not I the Cavaliers knew subconsciously that they were going to get smoked. Yet you had guys. And it doesn't mean that they're bad people. And that, you know, so what I'm saying the hero ball thing, most of the time with the Celtics. It's a case of guys saying, things are going back, I'm going to take responsibility, I'm going to go make a play. And you drive into one guy, which becomes into two into three. It's a bad shot, it's a turn over. You're trying to do the right thing. But you're taking the team away from what works. You're taking the team away from its game. So you know, that year they lose to Cleveland. To me, that was huge. because trust me, having spoken to people on the Warriors, they much were much happier facing Cleveland than they were the Celtics that year.

Dave Clarke:

Yeah, cuz all they had to worry about was LeBron.

Steve Bulpett:

Yeah, well, I mean, that was, you know, yeah, that team was ready. But and then you had, again, that we mentioned the year where you had your best collection of talent. You know, they go into Milwaukee. And the game plan is we're going to move the ball, but we're going to beat the hell out of Giannis, and have other people beat us. Game twos happens. And they get a couple quick fouls called No, you got to keep on playing physical basketball. They went away from it after that game. I remember in the press room, and I think I wrote this that hey, don't worry about it, just one game. Because Kyrie got up and said, Look, we made mistakes. I know what the mistakes were, they're not going to happen again. Yet things just devolved from there. And then, you know, then you go into next year, and it's, you know, it just got worse. You had those guys, you know, you had talent, and it didn't work. It didn't fit for whatever many reasons, perhaps ...

Dave Clarke:

do you think it's the youth? They the youth? Is the is the biggest factor in their mentality? Or do you think that they're mentally weak? Like, , from your experience,

Steve Bulpett:

it's guys, you know, wanting to do the right thing, but not realizing that taking initiative isn't always the right thing. You know it because it's taking you away from the game plan. So you know, now you're playing one on whatever basketball instead of five on whatever, and it's, yeah, I remember saying I've said this over the years to win a bunch of basketball people. I wish the game were more complicated. So we could sound more intelligent, thinking simple, you know, move the ball, past cut, you know, move side to side. So that was I started to say I was one of my biggest questions this year was number one. Can they get away from Hero ball and stick to what works? Particularly in crunch time situations? When you talk about the guys, that ain't just put around them? Yeah, I mean, there are some moves he's made over the years, you know, that are head scratchers. Certainly. He's He's also gotten some guys low down in the draft as well. But if you've got guys that are on the wing, spreading the floor, like they're supposed to offensively, and they don't see the ball for three or four possessions, I mean, not even a touch, and all of a sudden they get it. How are they supposed to be in rhythm? How are they supposed to look good. You know, when there's so much over the last few weeks at those times of stretches, where they've played fast, even in the half court play fast. Ball finds energy, everyone gets to touch, everyone is a part of it, the cutting, even if you don't score on a possession where you've moved the ball side to side, where guys have cut, there's a value to that possession because you've taken something out of your opponent, your opponent doesn't have as quick a hop in it step coming back the other direction. So

Dave Clarke:

a healthy Kemba seems to facilitate that a lot more than any other player to and we haven't really been able to see that in a consistent basis.

Steve Bulpett:

Yeah, I mean, he's, you know, do not discount knee injury coming back from the surgery, the Quick Start to the quicker than expected start to the season. Because they were figuring it's going to start in January and then you know Kemba who doesn't admit stuff? Excuse me like this, how do you ever but he said, You know, he admitted that coming back from the injury, he was feeling okay. But he was sometimes subconsciously concerned about if I make this move, is it going to screw me up? Am I gonna hurt something? And that's another threshold you have to cross that's you've got you've got to break down your adhesions after surgery and I know too much about this stuff. Yeah, so

Rayshawn Buchanan:

sort of why man,

Steve Bulpett:

don't just tell somebody recites I had some scar tissue check out on my shoulder. I just wish I could look back on a successful athletic career. But you have to deal with the the adhesions, the literal scar tissue, and then there's the emotional scar tissue that's a river you have to cross as well. But when you see this team playing fast Tell me what's not to like about what it looks what it's like visually for fans and in terms of its success possibilities and your you know, your optimism perhaps do you look at things differently if they were doing it more consistently

Dave Clarke:

yeah and full arenas might go a long way in improving the energy of that team to I feel like it's gonna be weird when you haven't played in front of an empty gym for you know a lot of these guys for years and years like even if it's a waste I

Steve Bulpett:

still I don't buy that you don't apologize. I don't buy that. I think I tweeted it one time you know what's motivating the scoreboard right? Yeah, facts?

Dave Clarke:

Well, I guess they you know, they do say that they phase everybody out, they don't even notice. Well,

Steve Bulpett:

if you if you guys played ball, I mean, I guarantee that you know, be playing in summertime, I think it's screwed up now and you're playing AAU and you're playing indoors in gyms and you're getting your run in we played outdoors and we used to drive from here down in New York to play you played where if you lost you set for you don't know how long so there was a keep the court mentality when you play it certain places around here. And certainly in New York, on game point, you hit a jump shot, or if you drove you were gonna bleed internally. But I'm guaranteeing you all if you guys were playing in your neighborhoods, even when it was keep the court you all know someone who wasn't the best player above your group, but who always seem to wind up on the winning team. You know, I've got guys in my head that are you know, buddies of mine. And there's that mentality so motivation is you know, when you're getting sand kicking your face by San Antonio does shouldn't really take you that long to fight back. No, no. And when you fight back you can fight back individually or even to fight back together with what works

Rayshawn Buchanan:

I think with them it's an expectation anyway like whenever the expectations that you offer them, why did they just play free like whenever they're expected to win or expected to you know, to go on this long run or all their home for four or five games and you should win all five and it's like, oh, well, they went to went three and they were pleased with that. But it's like I just like whenever they're the expectations that heaped on them. That's when they wilt under the pressure. So that's me as frustrating as a fan. So watch, I do want to go back to the hairball thing for a second I do believe that Marcus Smart is the catalyst behind you know the bubble and improving because I feel like there's times when he is being that playmaker the name much better, but then he also has moments in fury and fury is all fans when he's shooting jumpers that he should have been shooting once again, everything's Not going to happen like it did in game I wanted to do the game one or two against Toronto when he hit the five threes in the fourth quarter. That's the that's like that was out of this world. That's not going to happen all the time. So you know, just you know how important is Marcus Smart to this other success going?

Steve Bulpett:

I think I think I've come to grips with the fact that we're always going to be kind of walking the line with Marcus because I mean, he had a recent game where he had a bunch of points and a few a bunch of shots in the fourth quarter but that's Marcus, he plays I've never seen a guy that was he Well, he's one of the most different on and off the court people I've encountered over my career covering basketball but you for what you get out of him. The deal is worth it. I mean, I know I tweeted this out around trade deadline you know as much as people around the Celtics have and have mixed emotions with him. There are teams that really really wanted to have a Marcus Smart on their team a guy you know, he's comparable to a Draymond Green. And I remember last year talking to Draymond after there after the Warriors practice and doing a column on that and now great Draymond agree that Yeah, Marcus he sees a lot of himself in Marcus. So you know, look at the it, Draymond with the Warriors Get some bad technicals, you know, some plays that you wish you didn't do. But, you know, it's sometimes it's part of the price you pay. You know, would you hope that Marcus would be more judicious the times with with his shot selection? Sure. But you can say it for a lot of guys in that team culture.

Michael Marcangelo:

Yeah, back to your point before about how you know, the some of the onus on this has to be on the players that we always tend to point to coaches, I guess, for you like what happens next? So what is the remedy the situation because I believe that Brad gets the most out of his teams. We saw that early on, he's gotten teams that have lesser talent to the Eastern Conference Finals, it feels like with the talent that he has now. That's been their that their ceiling. So would they move from the coach first, or from the player first? Or do we just give it more time?

Steve Bulpett:

Well, first of all, for the rest of this year, obviously, they're they're just kind of hoping that they can get some health together for a stretch. I think that's how they will look at this year. But yeah, you know, you've got to make a, there's going to be a big issue with the Fournier in the offseason, free agent. So that's something they've got across, I don't see them making a move with the coach, I see them maybe looking at how the mix works. But again, when you look at what this team wants to be its core, its basic rotation. How much has it gotten to play together this year? You know, what you've seen out of Evan Fournier over the last three halves. You know, does that change? Your outlook does that, you know, does that change the view of the floor? For Jaylen Brown or a Jayson Tatum does what Aaron Neesmith is doing now this guy was he came in is like, Man, this guy's a shooter. But when you don't have your confidence, you're not playing as much. You know, it's hard. So if you get this Aaron Neesmith for a whole season, does that change? How you look at the roster? You know, do you get a healthy from the get go? Kemba Walker, do you get you get a Robert Williams, from the start knowing that he's a major piece who's going to either start or play significant minutes, no matter? What kind of guide is at change your view of how this roster is constructed? Yeah, they'll look to make moves, I'm sure. But you know, have you seen what you have? You've seen what's this team really is, in its best composition yet, for any good stretch of time.

Dave Clarke:

And Brad starts with defense, right? So I feel like you know, defensively you need to play with the other guys in your team. And like, especially in the kind of defensive, something's play when they switch on everybody. Like you have to get that timing worked out, you have to play with other guys. And there's been a lot of like, a lot of the guys on this team haven't even been there for that long. You know, you look at it, Tristan Thompson, like I personally would rather see Robert Williams play more minutes than Tristan Thompson. But you need you still need Tristan Thompson to be playing, like you said with all those guys to be able to make the kind of Tristan Thompson impact that he's supposed to be making, you know, off the bench.

Steve Bulpett:

Yeah, I agree. And you and also I think, defensively, they've got to do a better job of the phrase, guard your yard. I want to see them get into the ball more early. You know, let's go back, Reggie Lewis was not a quote unquote, great lockdown defender. But what Reggie would do was, he would be aggressive with you, you make a move at you, so that you had to do something, he wasn't going to be a sitting duck, you had to do something to beat him out. I would like to see the Celtics, when the balls over half court pressure more than you can do you know, then you can help out afterwards. But sometimes it seems like they help too early and get into rotation and give up wide open shots. Or when that shot is missed, you know, someone's on accounted for. So they get the opponent gets an offensive rebound. You know, so guard your guy pressure, force him to do something. offense is always going to should always have the advantage over defense because the offensive guy knows what he's going to do before the defensive guy knows what the offensive guy is going to do. But if you're aggressive, then you can, you know, force a guy some way you want to force them, or at least force them to, you know, think consciously to potentially make a mistake I would love to in when the Celtics come back in games, that's what they're doing. And it's not always not traffic, because a trap is a defensive weakness because you're leaving someone open. Your guy, I'm guiding you, I'm up on you. Okay, you might beat me, but I'm going to be there. And if you're going to get it's going to take you longer to get into your offense. And you know, good things can happen out of that I'd rather see them be a lot more aggressive defensively, man on man, one on one at the point of attack or prior to the point of attack.

Dave Clarke:

And then you've been in the other teams face for four quarters and they're sticky, you know, so by the end, I feel like A lot of teams, you still have a lot of motivation, a lot of gas against us in the fourth quarter. And I feel like that's come back to bite us in the ass a lot this season. And I feel like we're, like you said for in their face from earlier in the game player.

Steve Bulpett:

I think Brad should make it a rule that you're not allowed to brush your teeth on the day of the game. Yeah, yeah, you go home shower after shoot around.

Michael Marcangelo:

So it sounds like you know, if this team can get healthy, right, and if they are that maybe didn't get healthy at the right time this year. Are you convinced that they can make a deep playoff run? Or do you think it you know, maybe a second round?

Steve Bulpett:

I mean, going by what we've seen, it's I don't I think it's impossible to have any great confidence in this team. Right? You can only you know, you mentioned went to college and be a lawyer, which I you have to go by what evidence, you know, is on the record here, you know, but, you know, you look at the teams in the east, you know, it's funny, the Sixers are doing fantastic this year, and people are gonna, and I like Doc, you know, I've known doc for, you know, since I started covering Red Bull, he was back before cell phones, but he was the first opposing player whose home phone number I had. But I don't you know, I'm not sure that's all done. I think that's Joel Embiid saying, Okay, I' going to be in shape. And I' going to kick ass this year Because you look at the storie that were out about him befor when the head team personne over there putting healthy foo in his refrigerator, and the choked to replenish it the nex week, and that same food woul be there and it'd be empty pizz boxes route is place. You know so Joel Embiid decides, I thi k this season, I'd like to be a beast. Yeah, right there, th

Dave Clarke:

iteration of them.

Steve Bulpett:

Yeah. And you look at the, you know, getting back to the whole Brad thing. And people are, I've heard I've heard people saying, you know, Brad, can coach a team of upstarts. But when it gets to real talent, you need to have like a Doc Rivers. But you look at what happened with the Clippers, and all the talent they had with doc. And that kind of blew up big time. You know, so, you know, I don't think there are absolutes

Dave Clarke:

we do still match up so well against all these teams nice on paper, you know, maybe the exception of Brooklyn is I feel like is what you're saying right? It's like I'm still not that scared of the 76 years I know that like Joel Embiid is having a beastmod season but we always beat the in the playoffs. I just lik going by the history you know

Steve Bulpett:

if you if you go into that and the old Celtic way was you know, you've got a guy like that. He's gonna get his points you've got him as best you can. You make sure other people don't go crazy. You don't leave shooters to help you know on Joel Embiid. You know, that' where a guy like Trista Thompson, he to come in wit Tristan has the Aron Bayne philosophy of defense. You ma score but it's going to hurt

Dave Clarke:

Right? Yeah, cuz Robert Williams can card Joel Embiid he's

Steve Bulpett:

he can he can help. He's not eight. Yeah, he's gonna get bodied inside. But if he just plays them, Moses feet, when Joel Embiid goes up for shot. You know, Rob limbs ca still block it

Dave Clarke:

Yeah, he can bug anything. I mean, I the fact that he's six foot nine is mind boggling to me plays like a seven foot two guy. It's wild.

Steve Bulpett:

Yeah. I mean, and but, you know, if you guard their shooters, and you let you force, excuse me, Ben Simmons to make decisions. And I think that plays to Boston's advantage. But look, you know, again, I think everything is context, if Brooklyn is healthy, and they have their heads together, then no one beats him in East. Okay. And if one says, Well, you know, he should have gone out and gotten James Harden. I have no confidence that what James Harden showed in Brooklyn, he would show here, because when you look at how he played in Houston, you know, those great numbers, great stuff, but did it elevate his team. And, you know, when he chose to play defense, he was really good at it. But, you know, a guy that would come in this year, and there are stories, going years back with him there about how he would undercut people in power around the team. So

Dave Clarke:

Kevin McHale specifically I think, in Boston, we all reacted to their relationship with a kind of a negative turn, you know, because it's our guy.

Steve Bulpett:

Well, but I mean, you know, dude, but you look at what the bottom line effect on that team was, did that team maximize its talent, you know, so and then when he came in this year, you know, I don't want to play here, etc. comes in, in whatever shape he was in kind of distanced himself from the team. But then he goes to Brooklyn. It's a situation you want, and he played great. I mean, he's an incredibly talented player. I mean, you know, No one's gonna take that away from him. So but you have to ask yourself, what would have happened here? It's not just like, you know, a computer chip where you plug it in, it's gonna work a certain way. Right? No, it's got a, you know, the is the environment based on his teammates based on how he sees himself with that, you know, is it gonna fit and so, you know, maybe more power to him. They put that team together. Well, you know, Kyrie might get gm of the Year for that if they play with it. And I and Shawn marks is a great guy and very good basketball man to running the club but that carries decision to grab Kevin Durant and go there. If they win. That will be the critical move that made that team because you know, anyway, yeah, I would think the Celtics would have trouble with all those teams. And do not sleep on the Bucks.

Michael Marcangelo:

Yeah,

Steve Bulpett:

getting drew holiday in the position where Eric Bledsoe used to play is a huge upgrade. Yeah, especially in the playoffs. If Kris Middleton is hitting shots, I think I I think Giannis is a given. I think Drew Holliday is a baller and a just a solid guide player wise, in addition to his great talent, count on kind of guy, they did hurt them last year losing a guy like Malcolm Brogdon because he's a guy that could count on to but if Kris Middleton is hitting the shots that are going to be available, and he can you know, and you've got Brook Lopez, who you have to guard that could be a team that you have to be very concerned about but

Rayshawn Buchanan:

that doesn't feel like they're five deep though like that. Is there a good team on a regular season and that's teams are led by coach bud always do on a regular season. Like that's something we've seen that but to me, I just feel like they're fine being like, like you just mentioned, you know, losing Brogdon was huge. I agree holiday over bustle. I mean, just he couldn't play one game and I would have been upgraded over over Eric Bledsoe. Eric Bledsoe is not the guy he was as he left Phoenix. I mean, I still don't I still don't buy in the walk. I don't think there's enough depth there too. When I say you're just gonna get here, that's fine. But I just don't know who else like say if one of those other three other two guys are not on? Will it be enough for him to win that now? It wasn't it was on on Sunday, when he played Brooklyn and you know, y'all have 49. And then Middleton had, you know, in a 20 is an annual holiday had around 20. But is that going to happen on a consistent basis? Because they're going to have to in order to get to the at least to the finals.

Steve Bulpett:

But then again, it being a guy like Joe Harris on Brooklyn is is the guy who count on more than guys on Milwaukee, perhaps. But yeah, I think again, it's going to come down to whether that team plays its game. And you know, a couple years ago, the Celtics, you know what we saw them do to the Bucks in game one, and then never go back to it.worse?

Rayshawn Buchanan:

Absolutely. Well, so speaking of that, so I know we just talked about that series, but I don't think you were covering the team when when this happened. But what was bookfull series loss was worse, the team that lost at 83, they got swept or the one that happened a couple years ago in the 2018 2019 season.

Steve Bulpett:

I was like five years old and 1980. That team was it had run its course with billfish. Casey Jones was the perfect coach afterwards. Because in 84, the next year, I'll make a strong argument that the Celtics weren't that the Celtics were the better team than the Lakers in 84. But they just out tough them that year. And but you had guys, you know, I remember talking to I was working for another newspaper, the Salem Evening News and went to media day training camp started training camp in a three. And I remember talking to Robert Parrish aside, asking about what's difference going to be. And his quote was, and I apologize for this really weak as parish impersonation. But he said, Well, maybe this year, everything we do won't be wrong. And those guys were like, you know, that's pretty good.

Rayshawn Buchanan:

That was good.

Steve Bulpett:

But you know, what they did afterwards, you know, what they did with the Casey was like, a good basketball man. And he but he was the perfect guy for that team. They were like, just let us go, let us play, you know, and after bill Fitch, who was good for that group, perhaps getting them together when they were younger, but it you know, at a certain point when someone's yelling at you, which is one of the things you talk about what you know, Brad does get on his guys, but you're talking about a shelf life. If some guy is just you know, it's why a lot of college coaches don't do well in the NBA because they're hammering and hammering and they have to, to keep you know, keep the hammer down in college. It's a limited season, and you don't have guys over For periods of years Rick Pitino did really well in Kentucky because guys didn't have to in three years to get sick of them. You know they were in they were often into the pros

Dave Clarke:

especially in today's NBA right I feel like there's a lot of that, you know, the current crop of NBA players are probably going to have a little bit shorter patience for you know a guy, especially Brad Stevens his age, you know, like Brad Pitt is in no position to like be yelling at Jayson Tatum and Jaylen brown and you're right he's it's smart of them not to just be like hammering them every 10 seconds because they're that is really when they're going to quit on him.

Steve Bulpett:

But here's the interesting thing too. It's again comes back to context. You got Gregg Popovich. He is coaching in Pomona, Pitzer sure that you've got them on your TV package. You watch them play all the time he comes on, he's an assistant with with the Spurs becomes the head coach with the Spurs. Pop is a certain way, but he's consistent. And you could do. He's yelling at Tim Duncan. If Tim Duncan decides, I don't want this guy, yummy. I'm enough of this crap. We've haven't heard of Gregg Popovich. He's gone. He's the wind. He's vapor. He says, great. Quick, I need a couple more cliches. Come on, help me.

Dave Clarke:

He's one of the birds.

Steve Bulpett:

But yeah. Tim Duncan says, Okay, yeah, yell at me. I'm taking that. What happens then is, players come to that team and say, damn, he's yelling at Tim Duncan and Tim Duncan's taking it. If you can yell at Tim Duncan, he can yell at me. And all of a sudden, Gregg Popovich becomes one of the winning winningest coaches in NBA history. So by that relationship, you know, that Twister relationship right there, there is a difference between a guy that's going to be in the Basketball Hall of Fame is one of the all time great NBA coaches and a guy who's not

Michael Marcangelo:

free move on to to what would be a plane series or a playing game against Charlotte. If he's ended today. I wanted to ask you because I think Ray just hit on a really good point. We had Dan Shaughnessy on a couple weeks ago, and he said that the 83 team was it was the was the most talented under achieving team along with this is there. I wanted to pick your brain about that. Because I think in our lifetime, aside from the, you know, the 2007 2008 Celtics that won at all, there's never been a team with this much talent with this much. I would say pressure. And as you know, as far as regular season standards go, they just haven't met up haven't lived up to it. So is there a comparable team that since you've been in town and covering them?

Steve Bulpett:

Well, I would say that the team that lost to the Bucks in the second round, mean, you had a group there again, that was you know, that was a team that scared the warriors. And that's based on, you know, numerous conversations with their upper management and with Steve Kerr and some of their players, they were, you know, concerned about a team that could switch all kinds of positions, and guard them like that and could play you know, the Celtics probably played them better than just about anybody else in the league. And they were concerned about that. So I would say that kind of team that kind of talent. Yeah, you know, that 83 team, this year's team. Yeah, they drive me crazy when, and again, I'm not a Celtics person. I'm a basketball person. So I've always kind of looked at myself right or wrong. And just, you know, I think I tweeted out the other day, you know, losing a game isn't a sin. not playing hard enough to win is and you know, when you don't get it together, but then I don't mean to be a too easy a grater. But you got to look at, you know, you know when the ball is being passed well, past the other day in Charlotte in the back court was a brain fart

Dave Clarke:

and the ad set excusable.

Steve Bulpett:

Has this team gotten Ben together enough to get its get its crit together, but yeah, some of the ways that they've lost, I could easily see why Dan would say that.

Michael Marcangelo:

So you just mentioned Charlotte. Now if the season ended today, the Celtics as a seven seed would be part of the plan tournament, which that means that the seven and eight seat only have to win one game out of those two to advance to the actual playoffs. We would play Charlotte right now, are we convinced that they would win that game and move into the top eight or is it going to be a toss up because I as I'm looking at this here, Charlotte, they're not world beaters, but they're good and they play hard. Right? So what what is your confidence level you had a one game winner go home series against against the Charlotte Hornets.

Steve Bulpett:

I ain't bet this place on it. Not even the lighthouse over there now. And not even the turntable over there, which I think technically, owning a turntable makes you eligible for Medicare. Here's the good news. If you're a Celtic follower, the Celtics have it within themselves to play and certainly, if they play their game, and Charlotte plays its game to the max in each case, Boston wins that game. Okay, if you know my against my look, generally in a seven game series in the NBA, the better team wins. It ain't that way in hockey. Alright, and a seven neighborhood goalie can screw you all up. It's not that way in football in one game, New York Giants twice against the Patriots, but the better team doesn't always win in those games. But in basketball, seven games, pretty much, but you've had the Celtics last year. I thought the better team, right? Sorry. They just weren't. They really, you know, they played their game better. But as much as I love Jay Butler, they were games in that series where he wasn't quite there all the time, you know? Yep, exactly. So that was their series. You know. So these, these are teams that are in their way they can be. Now when you get up to the first three teams. Now we get some questions. Okay. Now, if you're playing if you're playing your game, do you have a puncher's chance? If you're healthy? Yep. No, you're not playing back to back. So you should have Kemba. And I think what Evan Fournier is doing, playing through the COVID issues that he continues to have, you know, potentially embarrassing himself, which most players wouldn't do, I think speaks volumes for his character. And, you know, so that's a guy you want around, so yeah, I mean, give me a healthy you take a healthy Celtics team. You know, let's see them play. But are they going to win those games? You know, tell me where their heads go back to my question, one, from the start of the season. You know, when things get difficult, is Jayson Tatum or Jaylen brown gonna say, give me the ball, I'm gonna go make a play. And then it turns into, like, you know, one on three and a bad shot. And he might even make it Is that good? They are that good. But isn't what you need. And again, he's trying to do the right thing. But it's, you know, is it the best thing to do?

Michael Marcangelo:

So before we, before we wrap up, I do want to ask two questions. One is a favor the other is it just a question I'm curious about? So my favor? Could you please, please, just for our listeners, because I've heard this on a couple of the podcasts you've done over the last couple of years, your Larry Bird, three point contest story. In 86. Can you just shed some light on that? Because I think it's a great one.

Steve Bulpett:

Oh, I saw it. You know, guys are not just their talent, a big part of it is competitiveness. like Michael Jordan was an incredible player, but he became Michael Jordan, you know, to the max degree, because of the competitor, he was or is. And that's what led him into some gambling issues. You know, that was Michael, the actual bird was, you know, love to compete, and it gets to the keep the court mentality thing we're talking about. So within the first three point contest is at six in Dallas. He wins. He's the walks in the locker room and says, I'm just looking to see who's going to finish second again, right? Yeah. psych them all out. They're gone. And then from there, we film exclu commercial back then. So certainly the guys that the group that was at the all star, you know, we were on the same flight, flew to San Francisco. And then I favorite this flight from San Francisco to Sacramento, which I think was like, I don't know, 20 minutes in the air. We dusted a few crops on the way. So you had some good tomatoes that year because of that flight out of Sacramento. So anyway, you get there, and they're staying at this Red Lion Inn. Not a high rise. One of those ones, we've got like a lobby thing and like tentacles with rooms, you're familiar with it. ungodly who decided that this was a good idea. Anyway, so the team would get it get to the next city on it. Monday, it was kind of the traditional thing. After all stock for a bunch of years. they'd start a West Coast chip on Tuesday, so the team would fly to the next city on Monday. Have a practice Monday night, and then play the rest of that road trip with always, pretty much always that Sunday night following Sunday, an afternoon game against the Lakers in the forum, national TV. Okay, you get to Sacramento, the team is around five or six o'clock or so. And they're getting them to get on the bus. And Larry is standing there with his like, dimestore memo book, no small tiny notebook. And he's taken down everybody he's bet on the team, which is pretty much everybody. I don't know 5, 10 dollars. I don't even know how much money it was. Very not a whole lot. And he's just standing there. Where's the money? Come on. Come on. I'm three point can you sell by no means free parking, free parking. You know, where's your money? It's like where it's in my like Dennis Johnson. Larry tomorrow. Tell him it's like a half an hour away. You know, it's you know, mile away from it. Go get it they can leave without you to hate me. Oh, wait for you go get your money get it out. Let's go. You said a little bit with a three point King. I'm a three point King. He's checking guys off, you know? So it's Yeah, so tell me that guy and he's look larry bird is much better athletes and people have made them out to me over the years, you know the guy could play and not you know was an athlete too, you know physically gifted all those things. But he was a freakin competitor he just you know, some guys want again when some guys have to win, you know and speaking to the current thing, I had a coach when Marcus before he got to the Celtics was playing on some national team thing. And I believe was Billy Donovan was telling me the story that when they would be having drills practices, you know, guys would be okay, when they started keeping score to drill. No one's beat Marcus.No. gotta win this. So yeah, that's that's Larry. You know,

Michael Marcangelo:

I do love that story. Then. Last thing, it's off the cuff best basketball memory in the old bar and the old Boston Garden.

Steve Bulpett:

Well, sorry, this isn't gonna be what you want to hear. But it's played there in high school.

Dave Clarke:

Ah, that's awesome.

Michael Marcangelo:

That's actually what I had written down here. Yeah,

Steve Bulpett:

really?

Michael Marcangelo:

You know? No, I'm just kidding. No, I'm kidding. I

Steve Bulpett:

must get the hook removed from can you get this? Oh, yeah. And by me, not say what High School I've gotten lucky was at swampscott High School. We were playing a game against Winthrop. And back then there wasn't you weren't allowed to dunk in games or in Prague or in layup lines. You weren't allowed dunking was illegal. And there were Northeastern conference referees working the game. Guys who had refereed games of mine since I was like playing pocketing ball. And I'm Greek used to play the doily pretty carthon it's like a squeak see while thing so but these are guys that nonetheless. So get the ball near half court where the referees are and it's like, Hey, can you turn to the side for a second? You know, give me a second. They knew what I wanted to do with it. Okay, well, say turned around. I went in and ducked. And that's all I can say. I talked at the garden.

Dave Clarke:

That's amazing.

Steve Bulpett:

So yeah, but in terms of what you know something you might give a shit about the bird steal of Isaiah that game, but also something else that that stuck with me. that taught me a lot about basketball. Was I wasn't at the Boston Herald yet. But after game one of the 85 finals, the Memorial Day Massacre, yeah. Okay. Celtics smoke the Lakers by 34 148 114. Yeah, and the this is the year after the Lakers, the more talented team had lost to Boston. And the Lakers were a tight ass team. I remember talking to jack nicholson in the Bruins locker room, because I've gone in there to get my shoulder worked on after practice. He was in there waiting for the media to leave. So if you go into Laker practice, and he said this was all off the record, I think we're the statue limitations right now and you just said and you got to picture the the jack voice. This is the day after magic get the baby hook to really give the Lakers the big, big lift there. And he said yeah, the Celtics they drive the Lakers mental But anyway, so he was all happy. But so But getting back to this game here. The Lakers were a tight ass team in Kareem. Love the guy, as a person, incredible player does not nearly get his do in the all time great conversation. But these guys were all defensive. You know, working these guys were like, they got smoked in game one. And I saw Magic Johnson who? I'm not saying I'll be right. But I will make an argument for him as the best of all time. I at least want to have him in the discussion. Because of you know, what he would do? Not only on the court. Okay. He wanted as a point guard. He wanted playing center in that game, right? Yeah, I guess. So, magic comes out. And you can just see it, that he's waited a bit. And he's going to come out here so we can get the guys are finished talking to everyone else. And the media is all going to go around magic. This isn't. This is before the days of the podium. This is in the locker room, push. Okay, and they're around magic. And he just stood there and answered every question and took the pressure off his entire team. Like, Hey, would you be unhappy if we lost by to one game? Don't worry, I'm not worried about this team. He gave us guys conference. He's the kind of guy that when he knew Byron Scott had a really difficult defensive assignment. He would make sure Byron got a couple layups just to keep him in the back and forth in his matchup. You know, I mean, he understood that and he, you know, and for all the talk about Pat Ryan He's a great coach, which certainly you can't deny. Back then he will go to practices. I remember sitting in the forum in the stands watching Laker practice, and they're working on something and rally goes, Okay, let's move on to this. And magic goes, No, no, let's run that one again. When you've got a guy like that, doing that for you, your life is a coach. Pretty good.

Michael Marcangelo:

Yeah. Yeah,absolutely. Well, Steve, thank you so much for taking the time to join us. today. Before we go, I want to give you the chance to tell all the listeners out there where they can find you. And any projects that you've been up to or that you're going to be up to?

Steve Bulpett:

Well, right now you can find me on Twitter, @SteveBhoop. And frankly, the last bunch of for last quite a while here. I've been really a couple things we're waiting on. And I'm at a point where the next move I make is going to be one that really that fits. I want it to be the one that fits. So that's why I'm not in something more traditional. But yeah, that's Other than that, you can see me doing about four miles a day. I've actually gotten healthy after 35 years on the road. Talking to joy, I've lost almost 40 pounds.

Rayshawn Buchanan:

Yeah, that's what's up, man.

Steve Bulpett:

Yeah, so I was talking to Joey Crawford, former referee and we came to the agreement that the NBA the life is it's it's, it's hell on you. And we agreed that it's NBA is a pre existing comorbidity

Dave Clarke:

to that fair?

Michael Marcangelo:

Well, Steve, thank you so much for taking the time. I love the entire discussion. I really love the chance to ask you about that Larry Bird story because I think the more that this generation and future generations can just hear about his compete and just his mindset is awesome. So thank you so much, so much for taking the time.

Steve Bulpett:

I love that you're having fun be well, stay safe.

Michael Marcangelo:

Thank you. Yeah, you thank you so much. Pretty for Gk sizzle ratio. Um, you can this is Michael Mark Angela saying thank you so much for listening to missing the point and we'll talk to you later.

Steve Bulpett

Beat Writer

Steve Bulpett covered the Boston Celtics for the Boston Herald for over 30 Years. In addition to being the dean of NBA beat writers in continuous service with a team, he's also followed the Celtics as a home and away beat longer than anyone in franchise history. The native of Lynn and Swampscott is a graduate of the University of Dayton, where he pursued dreams of playing basketball and becoming a lawyer. Reality intervened on the court, but he found a way to stay involved in the game. He left UD with an intramural hoop championship (teammates with sportscaster Dan Patrick) and a journalism degree. In recent years, Steve has received APSE national Top 10 honors in feature writing and as both a beat writer and columnist.