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Celtics Legends Series: Don Nelson

Posted by shawn cassidy on June 27, 2011 at 9:14 AM

I think Don's Celtics past is sometimeslost in the minds of NBA fans. I understand why and how he's forgotten. He's been one of the top head coaches in the NBA for the past 30 years. I can't believe he doesn't have a title as a coach.

Don Nelson defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves on April 7, 2010, achieving his 1,333rd career win. He passed Lenny Wilkens for first all-time on the list of the NBA's winningest coaches. Don coach the Bucks,Warriors twice,Knicks,Mavs. I always forget about his short run in New York.

He was invited to coach the Dream Team II at the 1994 FIBA World Championship in Toronto. He accepted and led them to the Gold Medal.

In 1995, Nelson would begin his stint with the Knicks, which lasted from July 1995 until March 1996. Despite coaching the Knicks to a respectable 34-25 record, Nelson had many personal problems with the players: e.g., he tried to convince management to trade Patrick Ewing in order to be in a position to make an offer to rising free agent Shaquille O'Neal.He also favored a morerun and gun style of offense, sharply contrasting the hard-nosed defensive style of play that the Knicks had employed under Pat Riley.

In his first season with Boston, Nelson averaged 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds, helping the Celtics to the 1966 NBA title as one of their role players. Four more championships with Boston followed in 1968, 1969, 1974, and 1976. In Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals, against his former team the Lakers, Nelson converted one of the most famous shots in playoff history—a foul-line jumper which dropped through the basket after hitting the heel of the rim and bouncing several feet straight up. The shot, taken with just over a minute to go in the game and the Celtics clinging to a one-point lead, helped secure Boston's 11th NBA title in 13 seasons.

A model of consistency, Nelson would average more than 10 points per game every season between 1968–69 and 1974-75 (before the introduction of the three-point shot). He led the NBA in field-goal percentage in 1974-75. Nelson was coined as one of the best "sixth men" ever to play in the NBA. He was also known for his distinctive one-handed style for shooting free throws. He would place the ball in his shooting hand, lean in almost off-balance and toe the free-throw line with his right foot and his left leg trailing. He would then push the ball toward the basket completely with his right hand while springing with his right knee and lifting the trailing foot in a sort of "hop." This technique helped him to a career 76.5% free-throw shooting percentage.

Nelson retired as a player following the 1975-76 season. His number 19 jersey was retired to the Boston Garden rafters in 1978.

Nelson had his battles in the 80's with the Celtics. The Bucks got the best of the Celtics in 82-83,but every year after the Celtics lost to the Bucks. The Celtics beat the Bucks twice in the conference finals,and one more time in the 2nd round. The Bucks had a power house,but Nelson and the Bucks couldn't win the big one. The Celtics beat them 8-1 in the conference finals.


Categories: Celtics Legends Series

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