In the late 1980s, a group of talented players led by Jerry Sichting and Darryl Dawkins helped to turn Philadelphia into a basketball dynasty. And with an emphasis on defense and rebounding, it was arguably one of the best NBA squads ever assembled. But there were two distinct personalities among that squad’s members: rugged veteran Fred Roberts versus more high-flying talents like Charles Barkley and Julius Erving
Fred Roberts had a wonderful time in Boston. He just wasn’t exposed to enough of it. The 6-foot-10 big from BYU spent two seasons with the Boston Celtics, including a memorable trip to the NBA Finals in his first season.
When Kevin McHale was injured with a foot ailment during the 1987 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Roberts stepped in as a starter. Roberts was interviewed by Sportscasting this week on his experience in Boston. Despite reaching the NBA Finals in his first season with the Celtics, Roberts stated the 1986-87 club seemed “like two unique teams.”
After the 1985-86 season, the Boston Celtics acquired Fred Roberts in a trade.
Celtics of Boston The Boston Celtics take on the Milwaukee Bucks. Mark Wilson/The Boston Globe via Getty Images of Fred Roberts in action.
Roberts was a reserve with the Utah Jazz from 1985 to 1996, averaging 3.7 points in 58 games. Before moving him to Boston, the Celtics offered him a free-agent offer, which the Jazz matched.
Roberts was an important part of the Celtics’ bench. During the 1986-87 season, the often injured Bill Walton appeared in 10 regular-season games, giving Roberts more opportunities to play off the bench.
Roberts came in as a starter after Kevin McHale went down with a foot ailment during the playoffs, and he helped Boston beat the Bucks in the conference semifinals.
Roberts said he loved his two years in Boston but never gained a true sense of the city.
Roberts told Sportscasting last week, “I enjoyed the city.” “It’s a fantastic location, but I wasn’t generating enough money to make a living there.” We leased and then departed when the season was done.”
The Boston Celtics, according to Fred Roberts, were two separate teams.
Roberts needed some time to acclimatize to life with the Celtics. He had come from a much smaller market in Utah to join Larry Bird and the world champion Celtics. He stated that playing alongside one of the finest in the industry made him uneasy. Bird delivered his legendary statement to Jazz coach Frank Layden when Roberts was on the bench in Utah.
“I was really looking forward to playing with Larry,” Roberts stated. “I was there when he dashed past the bench and Frank Layden, saying, ‘Don’t you have anybody who can protect me?’”
Bird, according to Roberts, enjoyed his solitude but didn’t get much of it.
“When I departed, Larry was a lot looser with me,” Roberts recalled. “He preferred his seclusion, yet he was never alone. He spent his free time on the basketball court.”
Despite the club’s success in 1986-87, Roberts claimed he thought the team was split.
“The dressing room was nice,” he remarked, “but it was a bit difficult for me.” “I felt that the first six people (in the rotation) were separated from the remaining six.” The top six men were the reason we won. It was the bench that cost us the game. It didn’t seem like one huge team to me. It seemed like two different teams were competing.
“McHale fractured his foot, and we’ve always needed him to win.” Walton hadn’t played in almost a year, and it seemed as though once they returned, everything would be alright. That was all true, but I believe they lost sight of folks like myself who were still maturing.”
Roberts departed Boston for the Bucks, where he had a good career.
Roberts averaged 14.4 minutes and 5.8 points per game in his two years with Boston. He was taken in the expansion draft by the newly established Miami Heat, but he was promptly transferred to the Bucks, where he spent the next five years. He expressed his gratitude for his time with the Celtics. He also described his brief stay in Boston as a wise professional choice.
“It was a fantastic professional move,” he remarked. “I was marketable after playing in Boston.” I’d never left the West before. In the East, you receive greater exposure, and since Boston was at the top of the food chain, it opened up job chances for me. It helped me advance in my work.”
Roberts enjoyed his greatest statistical years with the Bucks. For the first time in his career, he became a full-time starter in his second and third seasons in Milwaukee. In those two seasons, he averaged 10.5 and 10.8 points per game while appearing in all 82 games.
He remarked, “I finally established myself.” “This felt like my squad, my city.” It was an excellent match.”
He said that he’s lost interest in today’s NBA, despite the fact that he knows the Bucks and Celtics are at it again.
So, which team does he support?
“If I had to choose a team to cheer for in this series, it would definitely have to be Milwaukee,” he remarked. “I made myself at home there.” I spent ten years there.”
He also knows who Giannis Antetokounmpo is after watching enough of today’s game.
“If I played now, I’d definitely be paired up with him,” Roberts remarked. “I’m not sure how I’d deal with it.”
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