EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 23, 2009

Hall of Famer Jones still dislikes Lakers

Bill Burt

Newest Boston Celtic Rasheed Wallace went to a Dorchester elementary school yesterday to talk about the importance of reading before going on a Duck Boat tour of the city.

Hall of Famer Sam Jones, who will be in Andover on Sunday night for the "The Night of Champions" event at The Wyndham to benefit the new emergency center at Holy Family Hospital in Methuen, heard about Wallace's agenda.

"I like hearing that. Those are the kinds of things Celtics players do, helping the community," said Jones, from his St. Augustine, Fla., home.

As for the Duck Boats, Jones said Wallace should consider it a dry run for next June.

"The Celtics will the championship next year and Rasheed will be one of the big reasons," said the 66-year-old Jones. "I thought the Celtics were the best team last year. The injury to Kevin Garnett was the reason they lost.

"I met him in New York City at an event at a school in June. I was very impressed with him. He's very well spoken and he looks good. Adding Rasheed, it gives us one of the most versatile big men in the league. He can play so many positions. He's a heck of a rebounder. He can play down low. He plays great defense. He can shoot the three-pointer. As long as he doesn't go Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on us, he's really going to help this team."

Jones knows something about winning championships. He won 10 of them with the Celtics in 12 seasons. He was a two-time All-NBA second-teamer and played in five All-Star games.

"We won because we had the best player in the world, Bill Russell. And we had the best coach in the world, Red Auerbach," said Jones, a 6-foot-4 guard-forward who averaged 17.7 points per game. "Everything was about the team. We only cared about winning. We didn't care who scored the points."

Jones said that philosophy will be help tame Wallace's volatile personality.

"It's not so much the Celtics family as it will be his teammates, Doc Rivers, Danny Ainge and the owners," said Jones. "When you have guys like Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce around, it takes a lot of the pressure off."

Jones isn't about to concede anything to the Cavaliers, Magic or especially the Lakers.

"The Magic could have won that series (against the Lakers). They just didn't have the experience in big games," said Jones, who was legendary for his bank shot. "How do you let a guy shoot a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left when you're up three points? You put the guy on the line and give them two points. I blame the players for that. That's where experience comes in."

To this day, Jones admits he dislikes the Lakers.

It goes back to when he was drafted in 1957. The Minneapolis Lakers had his rights from 1956 but Jones decided to go back to North Carolina Central. In 1957, the Lakers dealt away their first round pick for Hot Rod Hundley, who was chosen first overall by Cincinnati, and had planned to draft Jones in the second round.

"But the Celtics drafted me in the first round. The Lakers blew it," said Jones. "Let's just say I never forgot that."

As for the 2009-10 Lakers, Jones says they might get back to the NBA finals, but they aren't as good as the Celtics

"Who have they added? The kid from Houston (Ron Artest) is pretty good, but he won't be enough. All I can say is I saw what the Celtics did to them two years ago in the finals. They killed the Lakers. And I believe the Celts would have beaten them again in the finals if not for the injuries."

Jones said he'll bring his strong opinions on his former team with him to Andover.

"I like the Celtics over the Lakers in six games," said Jones. "I think they're the best team in the league and Rasheed makes them better. You can write that."

I just did.

E-mail Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.