Russell statue to be installed in City Hall Plaza

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Russell statue to be installed in City Hall Plaza

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
BOSTON Even with his playing days decades behind him, the honors continue to pour in for Boston Celtics great Bill Russell who will be honored with a statue in City Hall Plaza, it was announced on Monday.

Russell has talked about how great an honor it would be to be immortalized in such a manner.

But when it comes to individual recognition, Russell gave up on that pursuit many years ago.

As a junior at the University of San Francisco, nobody dominated the game at that time like Russell. He was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four which he capped off with 26 points and 27 rebounds - a record that still stands today - in the championship game, a 77-63 win over Lasalle. He was a 20-point, 20-rebound guy on the number one defense in the nation.

So at a postseason banquet honoring Northern California's best basketball players, writers at the time picked another center for player of the Year whose credentials weren't nearly as impressive.

From that point on, individual accolades had little value to the big man whose play redefined the game in ways no one saw coming.

"All I try to do is win every game," Russell said recently. "I didn't win them all, but I tried. So when I finished, if you say 'pick the best player,' it's always a matter of opinion. But if you win eight straight championships or 11 championships ... that's not a matter of opinion, that's a fact."

And the facts are clear.

In this town, championship runs are nice - but championship rings are the true measuring stick of success.

And by that, no one did it better than Russell, an 11-time NBA champion.

While there's no definitive date for the Rusell statue to be erected, the design will be revealed in the spring of 2012. There are three artists competing for the right to design the statue: Fern Cunningham, Ann Hirsch and Antonio Tobias Mendez.

While there has been talk about a Russell statue for some time, it didn't really seem to pick up steam until February.

In February, Russell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. At the time, there were no plans for a Russell statue in place, but President Barack Obama pushed the idea forward.

I hope that one day in the streets of Boston, children will look up at a statue built not only to Bill Russell the player, but Bill Russell the man, Obama said.

The president's words resonated throughout Celtics Nation, as well as with city officials for a man described by Mayor Thomas M. Menino as "the greatest sports champion of our time and a tremendous advocate for human rights and education."

Stephen Pagliuca, managing partner and co-owner of the Boston Celtics, has also played a pivotal role in helping elevate a tribute to Russell from being just a concept into something more concrete.

"Bill Russell has continued to excel off the court in delivering support to our young people through mentoring programs," said Pagliuca who is also president of the Shamrock Foundation. "The site that Bill Russell and the Bill Russell Legacy Project selected for Bill's statue is perfect for all Bostonians to visit and recognize him for all his accomplishments."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

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Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

WALTHAM, Mass. –  As the fourth quarter rolls around, you will occasionally catch Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas looking down at his wrist, a gesture to remind anyone watching what time it is – Thomas time.

There are those who elevate their play in the fourth quarter of games, and then there’s Thomas who continues to smoothly navigate his way in unchartered fourth quarter scoring territory.

The Celtics begin the second half of the season Wednesday night against the New York Knicks, and there sits Thomas atop all players in the NBA when it comes to fourth-quarter scoring.

But that’s not all.

He’s not only dropping more points than any other NBA player in the most important quarter of them all, but he’s doing so at an unprecedented level of 10.1 fourth-quarter points per game.

Since NBA.com/stats began tracking fourth quarter scoring with the 1997-1998 season, no player has averaged more than 9.5 fourth-quarter points (LeBron James, 2006) in a season.

What makes Thomas’ fourth quarter heroics so impressive is that everyone in the building – fans, coaches, opponents – knows that’s when he’s looking to be most impactful for the Celtics and yet he still can’t be stopped.

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford acknowledged how tough it is to limit Thomas despite knowing he’s looking to take over games in the fourth.

“It’s hard because the blitz game is impossible because they don’t roll,” said Clifford whose Hornets were beaten 108-98 by Boston on Monday. “If you watch the teams that try to blitz them, you’re going to give up basically lay-ups. We had things in to get the ball out of his hands but the way they played and the stuff that they usually go to late, they didn’t get to. He (Thomas) made some terrific plays; he’s a terrific offensive player.”

Despite what he does in the fourth and his overall scoring average of 28.2 points which is ranked among the league’s leaders, there are still lots of doubters as to how good Thomas.

Regardless of how you view his play, he has consistently played at a level this season that places him among the game’s best players.

And at the rate he’s scoring in the fourth quarter, he’s establishing himself as one of the great closers in the game.

Consider the list of players in the past decade who led the league in points scored in the fourth quarter.

  • 2016: James Harden (7.7)
  • 2015: Russell Westbrook (7.1)
  • 2014: Kevin Durant (7.9)
  • 2013: Kevin Durant (8.4)
  • 2012: Kevin Durant (7.3)
  • 2011: Amare Stoudemire (7.1)
  • 2010: LeBron James (8.0)
  • 2009: LeBron James (7.7)
  • 2008: LeBron James (9.1)
  • 2007: Dwyane Wade (8.2)

You have All-stars, All-NBA First Teamers, league MVPs as well as a few future Hall of Famers.

As good as those players were in their respective seasons, when the game mattered most – the fourth quarter – Thomas numbers (for now at least) stand head and shoulders above them all.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens gives Thomas a lot of credit for being such a consistent scorer, particularly in the fourth quarter.

But as good as Thomas is, he’s not out there getting all these baskets on his own, either.

“It says a lot about the fact that he’s got a lot of skilled guys around him that are hard to leave,” Stevens said. “When you’re playing Kelly (Olynyk) and Jonas (Jerebko) together with him, there’s a lot of space on the floor to operate. When those guys are at the four (power forward) and five (center), when you’re playing guys like Al Horford who can space the floor or Avery (Bradley) or Jae (Crowder), you know, those types of guys … at the end of the day I think that it’s a combination of a lot of things.”

And for opponents, a lot of problems.

“He’s been playing well,” Hornets guard Kemba Walker said of Thomas. “He’s been playing better than anyone in our league. He’s playing with great confidence and making the plays for his team to win games. He’s been great.”