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A laid-back Duck.
Who is the only Celtic to have played with both Bill Russell and Larry Bird?
The answer is Don Chaney.
In today’s game, a rookie guard who shoots 32 percent from the field and 40 percent on free throws will be selling insurance or coaching a middle school team the following year. The Duck got a championship ring and a total makeover for his shooting mechanics. Many were the times for the next couple of years when you could sense him feeling for the ridges on the ball as he was preparing to launch that set shot of his.
What Don Chaney brought to Boston from Louisiana and the University of Houston was 6’5” in height, arms that seemed to stretch from the sideline to Newton, an even temperament, and a pretty good head for the game.
Time and diligence transformed Chaney into a better than adequate shooter, surpassing 80 percent foul shooting a couple of times and consistently reaching the mid to high-40s from the field. (To provide some context for this shooting, during the Russell years, exactly one rotation player—Bailey Howell—shot field goals at a 50 percent clip or better and it happened exactly one time—1966-67, oddly enough a non-championship season.)
Never flashy, Chaney grew into one of the steadiest guards in the league and was universally recognized as being in the upper echelon of the league’s defensive players. It seemed that whenever Chaney had a good scoring game, the team didn’t lose. He was not really expected to provide much scoring, so it was the icing on the cake.
A sign hung regularly from the old Garden’s second balcony read “Duck Freaks.” The fan club got to enjoy Chaney truly contributing to a championship team in 1974, matching up with the immortal Oscar Robertson. In actuality, there was precious little home crowd pleasure in this seven-game series as the road team emerged victorious in five of the games. (Abacus presumes such oddities are expected when a team competing for a championship is starting a 6’4” power forward, Milwaukee’s Greg Smith.)
Following free-agent stints with the American Basketball Association’s Spirits of St. Louis (Now, there’s a story!) and the Lakers, Chaney rejoined Boston early in the 1977-78 season and finished his career two years later. Maybe it was his 35 percent field goal shooting that convinced him to hang ‘em up.
Trivia Time again.
Which future teammate and future Celtic coach was a rookie with Chaney during his 1975-76 ABA tenure?
Abacus will check for answers in the Comment Section.