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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Paul Westphal: Celtic Sub Shined Brightly as a Sun

Paul Westphal spent three seasons as a reserve for the Boston Celtics before they traded him to Phoenix for All-Star Charlie Scott in 1975. Westphal quickly emerged as one of the NBA's top guards, making the All-Star team for five straight seasons and earning a spot on the All-NBA team four times. That deal helped both teams make it to the 1976 NBA Finals, where the Celtics triumphed in six games to capture their second title of the post-Bill Russell era. Westphal's quick thinking almost helped the Suns to win the pivotal game five; the Suns seemed to be in a hopeless situation near the end of the second overtime, down one point with one second left and no timeouts but Westphal suggested to Coach John Macleod that they call a timeout anyway. Under the rules at that time, the Celtics would be awarded one technical free throw but the Suns could then advance the ball to midcourt, giving them a better chance to hit a shot--which is exactly what happened. That story has been recounted many times, including in my profile of Macleod, but I always wondered how Westphal had the poise and awareness to think of that tactic during such a pressure-packed situation. I asked him that exact question and you can learn the answer--and the complete story of his great career--by reading my article about him:

Paul Westphal: Celtic Sub Shined Brightly as a Sun

Here are a couple bonus quotes from the Suns' All-NBA guard:

***"My favorite player was Elgin Baylor. A lot of people thought that it was Jerry West because I grew up in L.A. watching those guys. I loved Jerry West, too, and I look more like Jerry West but I tried to play like Elgin Baylor. I wish they had better film that they could show from back then. He had amazing body control. He really learned the art of what Chick Hearn called 'hanging in the air.' He could go up and contort his body and change the arc of his shot, change the release point, and really make some spectacular plays."

***"I think that John Havlicek probably was the best two way player that I recall from my era. I played against Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain at the end of their careers and I played against Michael Jordan (in a scrimmage between NBA stars and the 1984 Olympic team) at the beginning of his career--and I played against Oscar Robertson--but the guy who was in his prime who I thought was the best all around player was John Havlicek. I thought that Norm Van Lier was the toughest guy who ever guarded me. There were a lot of players who were tough for me to guard but I think that because of his quickness I had the least chance to have any success at all against Nate Archibald."

posted by David Friedman @ 2:37 PM


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