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Celtics Legends Series: Dave Cowens 2.0

Posted by shawn cassidy on August 5, 2013 at 5:20 AM

There was nothing simple about Cowens. He banged, fought, pounded, and willed his way into the upper echelon of NBA centers. Cowens's ability to run the floor and operate on the perimeter made him a tough opponent for giants such as Chamberlain and Kareem. Cowens bridged the gap between the Russell and Bird eras, and he spurred the Celtics to championships in 1974 and 1976 as one of the best in the game at the time, and frankly of all-time. He was honored in 1997 as one of the 50th greatest players of all-time.

Cowens is one of only four players to lead his team in all five major statistical categories for a season: points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. During his 1972-73 MVP season, Cowens played in all 82 games. He amassed 1,684 points, 1,329 rebounds and 333 assists.

Dave Cowens is a player that should never be forgotten by NBA fans, and defiantly not by Celtic fans. His play and skill level were top notch and he was always the hardest working player on the court. Cowens averaged 17.6 points and 13.6 rebounds per game during his NBA career. Dave Cowens was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame in 1990.

My lasting memory of Cowens is always the dive on the floor play against the Bucks in the 1974 Finals. Cowens beat the best center in his generation. I can't imagine how rewarding that was for the lefty.

1974 NBA Finals: Boston vs Milwaukee Game 6

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Cowens interview from 2011

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Categories: Celtics Legends Series

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Reply paul
10:25 AM on August 5, 2013 
Thankyou for this, Shawn. You wrote a great piece, and that interview is maybe the best Cowens interview I've heard. The guy is typically so laconic that interviewers can barely get him to say anything. He was, and clearly still is, a huge believer in letting his game say it for him. It was a point of integrity for him, I think. He didn't want to yak about his game. He didn't want to promote it. He just wanted to play it. Unfortunately, his self-effacing ways have done him a huge disservice over time. Also, I think folks look at those old films and figure Cowens couldn't play in the game today. How do they get this idea (assuming they do)? Look at how powerfully built Cowens was. He was listed at 220, but I'm sure it must have been more like 250. To imagine him in the game today, think about Kevin Love. Now imagine if Love were far more powerful and far more athletic. Now imagine Love with a much higher motor and a better overall understanding of the game. Now imagine Love with a repertoire of post moves and an absolute thirst for pivot dominance. Now, I would argue, you are imagining Dave Cowens in the game today. Cowens would never say this, of course. If you asked him how he'd stack up, he'd mumble, and stumble, and aw shucks, and then he'd finally allow that he figured he might be ok if he were playing today. No Dave. You'd be a monster in the game today.

Cowens ought to be appreciated now more than ever. It's really getting weird that he's not. His game was really a precursor to the ideal Big Man game today. In fact, you can't find a Big Man today who fits the ideal as well, I'd say. Why don't fans and writers of today see this? He loved to be on the perimeter, passing, shooting, defending, etc.. As Cowens points out himself, he loved to take on guards and he normally could contain them pretty well. Who do we know who loves to do that? Yes, KG. This is a big part of KG's defensive game. But as much as Cowens loved the perimeter, his heart was in the paint.

Willis Reed, Red Auerbach and Bill Russell loved Cowens. Kareem Abdul Jabbar hated him. DO YOU NEED TO HEAR ANY MORE?!!! Does that not say it all?

I wish, I really wish Cowens would bond with this young team. He and Rondo are both from Kentucky, and I think he really likes Rondo. I suspect he sees in Rondo a guy whose heart makes him play much bigger than his body size. Cowens was a guy who played with heart and hustle, always within a team concept, always with an awareness of the way offense and defense lead into each other. I think he could inspire our little group of hustle-oriented smallish big guys to play what he used to call Hard Ball. If they saw a HOF big man like Cowens, who just happens to be the same size as them, but who battled the likes of Kareem, Wilt, Moses Malone and Bill Walton, they might find some inspiration and encouragement there. I think this is a team that could surprise folks by attacking the post with surprising persistence and determination, but also pulling out to the perimeter, allowing slashers to attack the rim. The way Cowens describes the way the seventies team played would be a good fit too. On defense, they pressed and hustled and tried to make it a 90 foot game. On offense, they tried to attack the defense in transition, before it could set, and they they'd establish deep post position early quite often, or else they'd pull the ball out and play more on the perimeter, always keeping the defense off balance, not sure what was coming. And for all this we have the ultimate maestro.

So bond with this team, Dave. Come on, Brad Stevens. Reach out to the old Celtic who might understand your approach better than anyone else. Cowens was fanatical about giving your all on every play, and building the game, with this kind of work ethic and integrity, play by play, game by game.
Reply Greg
12:36 PM on August 5, 2013 
Good piece by Shawn and Paul. Without question this guy is left for dead on lists,and other things showing who is the greatest.The guy led the Celtics to two championships..
Reply paul
1:05 PM on August 5, 2013 
Greg says...
Good piece by Shawn and Paul. Without question this guy is left for dead on lists,and other things showing who is the greatest.The guy led the Celtics to two championships..

It's such a bizarre thing, really
Reply jlil89
1:43 PM on August 5, 2013 
OMG Cowens are Rondo are so similar it's creepy. Cowens shunned the media and their maniacal crap. He didn't suck up to anybody. Never. Just like Rondo. Cowens is consistently being underrated and does not get his due diligence. Just like Rondo. Cowens puts his heart out on the basketball court, even if it means physical harm to himself. The team winning was always the main objective. Just like Rondo. The video above of Cowens diving for the ball almost seems like deja vu with this Rondo clip below. You all know what I am referring to.
All Heart. All Pride. 100% Celtic.
Reply paul
7:35 PM on August 5, 2013 
Rondo and Cowens. Two guys who might have more in common than one might think.
Reply paul
7:39 PM on August 5, 2013 
I think this team would benefit from having one of the Legends step up in its support.