HoopsHype.com Behind the Beat

Peter May: "The Celtics made a mistake promoting Jefferson"
by HoopsHype / November 7, 2006

Rate Doc Rivers' job with the Celtics. Do you think he's on the hot seat?

Peter May: Doc is not on the hot seat – yet. But I can't see how he makes it through the year if they don't show any improvement. He has been given a difficult job – try to get a lot of young guys to play NBA basketball that aren't necessarily ready. But the Celtics also have lost a lot of close games and that can come down to coaching or following the coach's instructions. Even if Doc is saying the right things, if the players don't do it, it's on him in the end. I think he'd be a better fit for a veteran team.

Which of the young players Danny Ainge brought to Boston has disappointed you more?

PM: Probably Tony Allen, although I wasn't as high on him as a lot of other people. You have to remember where these young guys were picked. Not one of them is a lottery selection. Compare that to Chicago, which has a bunch of lottery guys. I think Delonte West has been the best of the bunch. One way or the other, they can't all stay.

Where we, Celtic fans, too high on Al Jefferson a couple of years ago? Do you still see him as a future star?

PM: I definitely think the Celtics made a mistake in promoting/marketing Jefferson. He was one year out of high school in Prentiss, Mississippi, for goodness sakes. I don't know if he is going to be a future star. He needs to get better on defense and to stay out of foul trouble. I think Celtics fans tend to overrate all of these kids because that's all they see. On a good team, these guys would be reserves.

Sebastian Telfair, Delonte West or Rajon Rondo. If you had to keep just one of those guys, who would you choose and why?

PM: As of now, West. But it's too soon to judge Rondo and Telfair is still a work in progress as well. In the end, Telfair may be the real thing. But West has the edge now simply because of experience. He can also shoot a lot better.

How easy, or how tough was dealing with Larry Bird? And who was the toughest player to deal with during your career as a journalist?

PM: Larry was very difficult when he first came into the league. He mistrusted most reporters and only after he got to know you did he relax. Later, he came to understand that we weren't all bad guys and became a first-rate interview. I had hoped Tim Duncan would follow a similar course, but he hasn't. He's determined to be as boring as he possibly can – and he is very good at it. By far, the biggest jerk I ever dealt with Bill Laimbeer. He was a condescending (bad word) but I nonetheless admired the role he played on those good Detroit teams.

Where does Paul Pierce rank among the Celtics' all-time greats, in your opinion?

PM: I am in the distinct minority on Paul Pierce in Boston. I think he is an excellent player, but he has never been able to put a team on his back and carry it somewhere it ought to have no right to go. I think back when Bird and those guys played and the league was full of Paul Pierces – good players on bad teams. It's not his fault. But I would never have given him $20 million a year until the Celtics – and he – showed that they can win with him leading them. That's not too much too ask, I don't think.

What is the most stupid rule the NBA has approved in the last few year?

PM: To me it's the illegal defense rule. Let them play zone. Everyone else around the world does it. It doesn't make any sense to me.

I read your wife, Eileen McNamara, is a Pulitzer winning columnist. Does she like the NBA?

PM: Years ago, she took our son to a Celtics game. When the second half started, she got up and yelled that Rick Fox was going to the wrong basket. If there's such a word as asporting, that's what she is. She really doesn't care.

What percentage of players do you think read the papers?

PM: Very little. But not too many people their age in other walks of life read the paper, either, which is one reason the business is hurting. I think they might read ESPN.com or Hoopshype.com on their computers. But I have not seen a player reading a paper in years. In the old days, they'd read it on the bus – but only if you (the reporter) bought it.

What do you think is the biggest flaw in NBA journalism?

PM: I don't think "NBA journalism" is any more flawed than regular journalism. Like many sports, you are going to have writers who are too close to the teams they cover and writers who aren't. That's nothing new. The Internet is making it harder because anyone can put a rumor out there and we have to respond to it. What is making it hard for us to do a better job is the increasingly hard working conditions, the all-but-eliminated access and the late starts (and length) of games.

Is NBA journalism getting better or worse?

PM: I would hope it's getting better. Having said that, the NBA writers I enjoy reading are the grizzled old ones like myself. I don't think there's any substitute for institutional knowledge. But the players are getting younger and younger and that makes it harder for us old guys.

Don't you think there's too many rumors and speculation out there?

PM: I do. No question about it. Like I said, anyone can start a rumor and it tends to spread like a communicable disease. We had rumors back in the pre-Internet age, don't get me wrong. I can think of a few regarding the
Celtics and trading Larry Bird and Kevin McHale which were utterly bogus. So that part is not new. What is different is the proliferation of media. You know things are different when there's a press seat assigned to someone representing lebronjames.com. I am not making that up.

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