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Maxwell's number goes up on Dec. 15

He was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1981 NBA Finals, the first of three championships won by the Celtics in the Larry Bird era. He delivered a huge performance (24 points) in Game 7 of the 1984 NBA Finals, the second championship of the Bird era. Even when things didn't quite turn out right for Cedric Maxwell, he brought Bill Walton via trade, leading to the third title in Bird's era.

How could this guy's number not be retired?

The Celtics announced last season that Max's No. 31 would, indeed, be hoisted to the FleetCenter rafters, the team's 22d number to be retired. Yesterday, the Celtics announced a date: halftime of the Dec. 15 game against Minnesota, a franchise run by one of Maxwell's old teammates, Kevin McHale.

"I really didn't have anything to do with the date," Maxwell said yesterday. "They told me. I'm sure they wanted to do a game with one of my former teammates." (He'd better hope it's not hunting season in Minnesota or they'll never find McHale.)

Max has been a constant presence with the Celtics for the last number of years, offering insights on radio broadcasts. He joined the franchise in 1977 as a No. 1 pick out of North Carolina-Charlotte and remains the franchise leader in season field goal percentage (.609 in 1979-80). He played eight seasons for the Celtics, one with the Clippers (where he went for Walton), and closed out with two seasons in Houston. He averaged 13.7 points and 6.6 rebounds a game in Boston, but left the Celtics in 1985 following a no-win contretemps with patriarch Red Auerbach over whether Maxwell worked hard enough to rehab from knee surgery.

To this day, Maxwell refers to his presence on those great Celtics teams as "The Big Three And a Half."
. . .

Celtics tickets go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. Individual tickets for home games can be purchased from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. at the FleetCenter box office, at all TicketMaster outlets (hours vary by location), by calling 1-800-4NBA-TIX, or at www.celtics.com.

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