Baseketball Hoop

Feb. 4, 1969

The NBA regular season approached its home stretch and the Celtics would have to start down that road without player-coach Bill Russell.

Actually, the C’s would be without their starting center as Russell suffered from acute strained ligaments in his right knee. Coach Russell, team Dr. Tom Silva said, could perform those duties from the bench.

There was no danger that the Celtics would miss the playoffs. Four teams from each of the two seven-team divisions were in. The 34-20 Celtics were fourth in the East Division, five games ahead of fifth-place Cincinnati.

Still, Russell’s injury provided more fuel to those who figured the Celtics’ dynasty was kaput. Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York, the teams leading them in the division, made them seem older and slower.

Russell recovered over the following two weeks and was as ready as ever when the playoffs began. The Celtics blew past the 76ers and Knicks, then provided one more bad memory for Wilt Chamberlain and the Lakers, beating them in seven games.

Russell had his 11th ring, then promptly retired.