Monday, February 26, 2007

Dennis Johnson, One Last Thought

DJ deserved every word and more of the tributes he received last week. That it took his sorrowful premature death to remind the world he was a Hall of Fame caliber player is a horrible, irremediable injustice.

At this late date, there's only one observation about Johnson's career I'd like to add. His status as the Celtics' only truly superior man-up defender was crucial to their success in more ways than his ability to cope with Magic.

Johnson's legitimate man defense was the disguise allowing Larry Bird to play a zone roverback between Johnson and the back line of Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. This maximized Bird's astonishing hand-eye co-ordination and court sense while minimizing his need to move what weren't exactly quick feet.

Without DJ's defensive glue, the Celts would've set records for illegal defense calls that'd never be touched. Not only would they n-e-v-e-r have beaten the Lakers in a best of seven, they'd never have gotten out of the Eastern Conference again, leaving 1981 as their only title.


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