Satch's induction honors contributions on, off the court


Satch's induction honors contributions on, off the court

By A. Sherrod Blakely Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
SPRINGFIELD, MA. For Tom Sanders, life in the NBA has never been about numbers, unless you're talking about championships.

He was a key cog in Boston's NBA reign in the 1960s, but his greatest impact had little to do with points - and everything to do with people.

Sanders played an integral role in the establishment of the several NBA programs that would go on to help rookies deal with the various challenges they would face as professional players on and off the court; programs that would go on to help shape similar transition programs in other professional sports leagues.

For years, Sanders' efforts went unnoticed.

Not anymore.

Sanders was among the 10 individuals chosen as members of the 2011 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class. Sanders enters the Hall of Fame as a contributor, which was voted on by the veteran's committee.

"He has been an enormous asset to the NBA," said Celtics great Bill Russell, during a video tribute to Sanders. Satch understood to lead, is to serve."

Joining Sanders in the 2011 Hall of Fame class were former NBA players Dennis Rodman, Artis Gilmore, Arvydas Sabonis and Chris Mullin along with four-time NCAA women's coach of the year Tara VanDerveer, four-time Olympic gold medalist Teresa Edwards, all-time NCAA wins leader at Philadelphia University and former Boston Celtics draft pick (1963, No. 62 overall pick) Herb Magee, coaching legend Tex Winter and former Harlem Globetrotter Reece "Goose" Tatum who was honored posthumously.

And in typical Sanders style, his opening remarks during his acceptance speech began with congratulating the other nine members of the Hall of Fame class.

"The quintessential team member was Tom Sanders, who had a very selfless role as a player," said Sanders' former Celtics teammate Tommy Heinsohn, Hall of Fame class of 1986 who was chosen by Sanders as his presenter. "He (Sanders) was a guy, I termed him the second best defender on a very good defensive team next to Bill Russell. But he was never recognized in the league for that."

A 13-year NBA veteran, Sanders was part of eight championship teams in Boston.

Only former teammates Bill Russell (11) and Sam Jones (10) can boast more championship bling-bling than Sanders.

And while Russell and Jones' contributions were clearly seen, the role that Sanders played in the Celtics' success often went overlooked by those not donning the Green and White.

"Oh, we knew how valuable he was," Heinsohn said. "When you have all that talent like we did, you don't win unless guys accept their roles. Satch had a role, and he played that role to the best of his ability every night. He meant as much to our success as guys like (Bill) Russell, like Sam Jones, myself. "

At 6-foot-6, Sanders was the Celtics' top perimeter defender, drawing such daunting defensive assignments such as guarding Oscar Robertson or Elgin Baylor.

Sanders said it was former New York Knick forward Mel Hutchins and former Celtic Bill Sharman who made him "really begin to think about playing serious defense."

"He (Hutchins) was so smooth defensively, always in the right place," Sanders told moments after delivering his acceptance speech. "I thought to myself, 'I sure hope one day I can play like that.'"

Sanders would have days - years, actually - where his defense would be one of the keys to Boston's run atop the NBA.

So while much of the attention back then was paid to the Celtics' bevvy of dynamic players, Sanders' defense was also an important part of the C's championship ways.

But Sanders could score, despite averaging just 9.6 points per game in 916 NBA games.

When the Boston Celtics drafted Sanders with the eighth overall pick in 1960, Sanders knew it would be difficult to score like he did at NYU where he finished his career as the team's all-time second leading scorer.

"I would have liked to have been a scorer, a star and all those kind of things," Sanders said. "But the reality was I had to find a way to fit."

And the best way to fit, was to simply do something that addresses a specific need, like defending at a high level.

"The reality was I had to find a way to make that team," Sanders said. "To make that team, I had to fit that particular role."

The Celtics were already an established NBA power at the time.

Sanders didn't want to do anything to disrupt that.

"One thing I didn't want to do was become the guy that was drafted and that was there, and not have them win," Sanders told recently. "That was a heck of a burden. And then we kept on winning, and the burden is now on the shoulders of some other rookie's shoulder that comes in."

With the Celtics continuing to dominate the NBA landscape, Sanders steadily grew into more and more of a leadership role.

But as he grew older, wisdom set in.

And as that wisdom led him to look forward to a post-basketball life, it actually brought him back to where his NBA hoops dreams became reality.

A transition program for incoming rookies was unprecedented, and paved the way for other programs to follow that benefit players.

The fruits of that labor can be seen throughout the NBA now, with a number of players like Chauncey Billups recognizing just how valuable Sanders' contributions have been to the game of basketball.

"It's a long time coming," Billups told "Everybody knows what he means. He came into league, was active, tried to give these younger guys a voice in what's going on. He's done so many great things beyond the game.

Billups added, "I can only imagine how alone I would have felt and guys like me when they got to the NBA would have felt, if it wasn't for the programs he started."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Horford-Celtics partnership gives both stability, chance to win


Horford-Celtics partnership gives both stability, chance to win

BOSTON –  This is not where Al Horford thought he would be right now.
Back in May, the Atlanta Hawks had just been swept out of the playoffs by the soon-to-be NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Disappointed with the outcome obviously, Horford was a free agent-to-be who was confident that he would be back in Atlanta and the Hawks would retool by adding to their core group which he was a major part of, and they would be back to making another run at it this season.
First there was the draft night trade of point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers. 
And during Horford's negotiations with the Hawks in July, they were also negotiating with Dwight Howard and ultimately signed the Atlanta native to a three-year, $70.5 million contract. 
Before the Howard deal was complete, the Celtics had already made a strong impression on Horford during their presentation to him. 
So the choice was pretty clear.
Return to Atlanta and potentially have a major logjam up front with himself, Howard and Paul Millsap, or join a Celtics team that’s on the rise where his five-tool skillset – passing, rebounding, defending, scoring and making those around him better – could be put to great use on a team that’s clearly on the rise. 
Horford chose the latter, giving both himself and the Celtics exactly what they wanted – stability and a chance to win at the highest of levels.
The first shot to see how this basketball marriage looks on the floor will be tonight when the Celtics kick off the 2016-2017 season at the TD Garden against the Brooklyn Nets. 
The preseason isn’t the best indicator of what’s on the horizon now that games count, but Horford’s presence was undeniable.
Boston’s starters which includes Horford, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson, each finished with a positive, double-digit plus/minus in the preseason. 
“He just makes the game so much easier for all of us,” Johnson told “He can do so many things out there at both ends of the floor. He’s going to be big for us this season.”
And his impact can be felt both on the floor and inside the locker room, similar to what he brought to the Atlanta Hawks.
“With the way that I go about it is, I’m trying to win,” Horford told “I’m gonna work, put in my work, try to help guys get better not only on the court but off the court as well. That’s how I carry myself.”
 And it is that approach to the game that has made his transition to the Celtics a relatively seamless one. 
Horford holds many fond memories of his time in Atlanta, a place that will always be near and dear to his heart. 
But he’s a Celtic now, coming in with the same single-minded focus that drives this organization to continue pursuing the only thing that truly matters to them – an NBA title. 
"Even though I’m leaving a lot behind, as a player you always want to be in the best position you can,” Horford said. “I felt for me being on this team would put me in a position to be able to contend and win an NBA championship. That’s my ultimate goal.”

Rozier's confidence, hard work earning him more minutes in Celtics rotation


Rozier's confidence, hard work earning him more minutes in Celtics rotation

BOSTON – You’ll have to pardon Terry Rozier if he doesn’t have that deer-in-the-headlights look about him when he takes to the floor tonight for what should be the first of many meaningful stretches of playing time.
You see, being harassed with the defensive pressure of Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart while trying to become a pest to Isaiah Thomas (which I’m told Rozier is frequently in practice), has instilled in Rozier the kind of confidence that’s not easily shaken.
That’s one of the main reasons why the Celtics aren’t freaking out about the departure of Evan Turner to Portland this offseason and more recently the sprained left ankle injury to Marcus Smart that’ll keep him out for a few games.
When it comes to filling those two voids, all eyes will be on Rozier.
“When somebody’s hurt, the next guy has to step up,” Thomas said. “Terry has shown he’s ready for that opportunity. He’s worked very hard this summer. I’m proud of him. I’ve been in that position before. He’s been waiting for that opportunity. He’s ready.”
Rozier had an impressive run during summer league as Boston’s best player. And in training camp, he hasn’t let up in being one of the standout performers.
It has led to the second-year guard being exactly where he thought his hard work in the offseason would take him to, and that’s a prominent spot in the Celtics’ rotation.
And in doing so, Rozier knows it’ll likely mean taking some minutes from his veteran teammates like Isaiah Thomas who he credits for always being there to help him grow as a player.
“I’m trying to get better, but I want to play too,” Rozier told “Getting his (Thomas’) minutes, anybody’s minutes, I’m going for it. But I know he’s not going to lighten up and make it easy for me. I know that. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
It certainly looks like it for Rozier who has shown growth in just about every phase of his game since he was selected by Boston with the 16th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
There were many who questioned Danny Ainge’s decision to draft a guard so high when he already had Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart in the fold.
But Rozier has shown the promise that Ainge saw in him coming out of Louisville.

Now it’s just a matter of Rozier getting the kind of minutes and producing, that will ultimately validate the trust and faith Ainge and his coaching staff showed in selecting Rozier.
For Rozier, not being looked upon all that favorably is just par for the course when it comes to his basketball career.
“I’ve been doubted all my life,” Rozier said. “It ain’t hurt me. I always tell myself, ‘they’re gonna fall in love with me because I play hard and they’re gonna fall in love with my intensity level. People didn’t know who I was when I came here; that’s fine. They’ll fall in love with me and my game sooner or later.”