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Can K.C. Jones Be Serious? : Long Leash Required for Gag Rule on Maxwell

United Press International

Cedric Maxwell has had a tough week.

With his mouth working better than his knee, the Boston Celtics reserve forward is getting more interview time during the playoffs than playing time.

After enjoying a five-game debate with the Philadelphia 76ers, whose fans would like to have seen Maxwell’s tongue hung in effigy, the Celtics’ self-styled “Young Muhammed Ali” was ready for Los Angeles -- called “The Fakers” by Boston’s M. L. Carr.

And the targets were so easy for the ever-taunting Maxwell: the Lakers’ failure in last year’s finals, Kurt Rambis’ Clark Kent appearance, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s age and all of Southern California lifestyle, from volleyball and sushi to “taking lunch.”

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Everything is fair game, anything can become fodder. During the season Maxwell had fired a few experimental salvos and he was getting the range.

Then Boston coach K.C. Jones called a ceasefire.

Maxwell calls it “the gag rule.” Jones just says, “They can still talk; but I asked them to hold back. You don’t want to stir up a bees’ nest.”

It’s not easy on Maxwell, who strains against Jones’ request like a dog against a leash.

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During a recent practice Maxwell was answering questions from the press and holding back, until finally it got to be too much.

“Coach, coach, can I say anything?” he pleaded, dragging 10 reporters behind him. Jones just smiled at “The Mouth of the Team,” as Carr calls him, and turned back to his own interviews. Maxwell sighed.

After Game 1, a 34-point Celtics’ victory, Maxwell spoke for only a few minutes, then left. The next day he admitted it was because it was too hard not to talk; being bland isn’t easy.

The man who called the Philadelphia 76ers “doomed” before Game 5 in their Eastern Conference final and said they were “on their way to the electric chair, they’re just looking at the clock now,” is frustrated.

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How far can Maxwell go? He can say nothing which can be pasted on the Lakers’ locker room wall or provide emotional starting blocks.

“We’ve talked our way to two championships, we’ll talk our way to a third,” claims Maxwell, but then he stops. The leash won’t go any further.

“We’re mum,” jokes Carr, pressing his lips together like a kid who just took a bite of a lemon.

So, with Maxwell abdicating, Lakers coach Pat Riley becomes the media favorite for providing a memorable quote.

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“Playing defense is like getting married. You have to make the commitment,” he’ll say. Or while explaining his role, Riley would offer the analogy that his job is to take “12 independent contractors and construct a good building,” while serving as a “personnel manager.”

Interesting, but not Maxwell at his best.

Jones remembers how Bill Russell never said anything to get Wilt Chamberlain angry.

“Let sleeping giants lie,” he said.

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Cedric Maxwell doesn’t want to wake up the Lakers or get them mad, but, as he lamented, “talking is the best part of my game.”


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