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

Blakely's five thoughts from the Green and White Scrimmage

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Blakely's five thoughts from the Green and White Scrimmage

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BOSTON – As has been customary with the Celtics in recent years, their open practice on Friday night featured a pair of 10-minute scrimmages pitting the “Green” team of starters against the “White” team of reserves.
 
The White team, which apparently has been kicking the Green team’s butt for a good chunk of camp, emerged with a 33-26 win. And the Green team had to rally to win the second scrimmage, 24-18.

Similar to summer league, you can’t read too much into what happened and what didn’t happen on Friday night.
 
That said, there were a number of clear and undeniable positives for the Celtics to take from the game and hopefully build upon them going forward.
 
 
5. Al Horford's leadership established
 
The first player’s voice that the 6,000-plus fans at the TD Garden heard from was Al Horford and don’t think for a minute that was just happenstance.
 
For all the scoring and rebounding and defending that the Celtics will look for Horford to do, it is his ability to lead this team that separates him from most of his NBA brethren.
 
The fact that he’s a four-time All-Star speaks to what he has done in this league as a player. But even more telling is that was the fact that he’s been to the playoffs every year he has been in the NBA. And during that span of nine years, he has been pivotal in leading Atlanta beyond the first round – a primary goal for him and the Celtics this season – five times.
 
 
4. Celtics defense could be an elite unit this season
 
The Celtics were a top-10 defensive team last season, and have every reason to believe that they’ll be even better now. Boston has a trio of Pit Bull-like defenders on the perimeter in Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and All-NBA first team defender Avery Bradley. Throw in Jae Crowder’s defensive versatility at the wing along with a pair of upper echelon rim-protectors in Amir Johnson and Al Horford and the Celtics no longer are a team that can put a couple good defenders on the floor at one time. They actually have the depth now to go with a ‘Big’ all-defensive team or a ‘small ball’ all-defensive team which provides the kind of versatility that should result in Boston being a top-3 defensive team this season.
 
 
3. Marcus Smart poised for breakout season
 
Smart seemed about as comfortable as we’ve seen him on Friday, showcasing his range as a shooter while still being able to get after it defensively. Based on what he has done in terms of improving his game, Smart seems more likely to play off the ball than on it. With his size, strength, athleticism and ability to defend multiple positions that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If Boston does indeed have one of those magical-type seasons, Smart is a player that has the potential to help significantly. He understands the Celtics’ system inside and out, and is doing what young players on the rise should do – show growth as a player.
 
 
2. James Young playing best basketball at right time
 
These are some pretty stressful times for James Young, but you wouldn’t know it by the extremely cool demeanor he has exuded. Although it has only been a few short days of training camp, James Young has stepped up his game knowing anything less than his best could result in him being waived and potentially on his way out of the NBA. During the first Green-White scrimmage on Friday night, Danny Ainge said there were five guys essentially fighting for two roster spots. He didn’t single out Young specifically, but it’s no secret that the 21-year-old who is heading into third NBA season is among the players in that group. To Young's credit, he's doing a lot of those little things such as playing solid defense, getting deflections and making "hockey assists" to show he belongs in the NBA and more significantly, should remain a Celtic. 
  
1. Terry Rozier's tremendous strides
 
Rozier was the star of the two scrimmages the Celtics put on in front of about 6,000 people at the TD Garden Friday night. He scored, got assists, rebounded … he did it all. What impressed me the most about him was his defense on Isaiah Thomas. Rozier loves Thomas and respects the hell out of him. But Rozier  has made no secret about wanting to get more playing time this year, and is out to snatch some of the minutes from anyone ahead of him, Thomas included. We saw the tenacious potential Rozier has as an on-the-ball defender, but he seems to have taken that up a notch from his rookie season. And the confidence he has in his shot-making is undeniable. We saw that in summer league and it’s good to see that he brought it with him into training camp. Ditto for his decision-making and leading of the team at the point which are also areas in which he has improved but still needs to continue to get better at on a more consistent basis. There’s no doubt at this point Rozier will play this season and likely get a lion’s share of the minutes vacated by Evan Turner’s departure to Portland.