Earlier this year I was thinking ahead to December 7th, which is my dad’s birthday, but also happens to be that of Larry Bird. I was shocked when I realized that Bird was going to be 50 years old this year. It’s a milestone that a number of writers have observed today with articles on the Legend.

The longtime basketball writers of the Globe and Herald each submit outstanding pieces on Bird this morning, With Bob Ryan serving up a look at how basketball has never been the same here in Boston since #33 hung ’em up. Ryan sounds like he’s going to sit in front of NBA TV today and take in the day long tribute to Bird. Steve Bulpett has an equally fine feature on Bird as he looks at how time waits for no one – even Larry Bird – who although he actually feels better than when he retired, still has many aches from his playing days. Gerry Callahan also has a fine column on Bird, pointing out that when Larry was in his prime, Celtics games were something you planned your whole evening around, they were something you looked forward to all day. The Herald serves up a Bird Timeline and also seven memorable games from his career.

The current edition of the Celtics played last night and were on the verge of getting blown out at home before they stormed back in the closing minutes, coming back from 14 down with 3:10 remaining to tying the game twice in the last 40 seconds before Rudy Gay hit a jumper that went off the rim and in to give the Grizzlies the lead. A last second shot by the Celtics was wild, and Memphis, who came into the game as one of the few teams with a worse record than the Celtics, defeated Boston 98-96.

BIll Doyle looks at the Celtics as a team sliding, and has a look at the last play of the game, which didn’t exactly go according to plan. Peter May says this one was particularly tough to stomach, unless you’re already on the Greg Oden watch. Bulpett’s game story has this one as a matchup between clubs who will likely be battling for Oden come next spring. Shalise Manza Young has more on the game, which ended with a “a (heck) of a comeback spoiled.” Scott Souza says that the comeback, led by a squad all under 6-8 was just another sideshow in a regrettable loss for the Celtics.

If there was a bright spot for the Celtics, it was the play of Gerald Green, who appeared to break his way into the rotation with his play last night. The second year player was a huge part of the comeback and scored 21 points on the night. Frank Dell’Apa has Doc Rivers saying that Green has clearly earned minutes and will be playing more. Mark Murphy says that if Wally Szczerbiak is going to miss Friday’s game with Phoenix than Green should start the game. Rivers doesn’t say the kid will start, but says he will get more time. Mike Fine has Doc Rivers acknowledging his club’s youth but not wanting to hear it as an excuse.

Bulpett’s notebook has Kendrick Perkins having to wear a protective boot for the next few weeks to allow his foot to full heal, which puts the Celtics dangerously thin at the center spot. May’s notebook has more on Perkins, who was removed from the game against Chicago on Monday because Rivers saw that he simply couldn’t move out there. Doyle has more on the Celtics playing without a center for at least the next couple weeks.

Patriots

The tea leaves seem to indicate the Laurence Maroney will miss Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. Mike Reiss examines whether Corey Dillon and company will have the ability to step and fill the hole left by the dynamic rookie. Karen Guregian says that the Patriots running attack isn’t quite as monstrous without Maroney. Eric McHugh has a report card from Sunday’s game and also says the screen pass could be a renewed weapon for the Patriots.

Ian Clark looks at how Daniel Graham was willing to give up his NFL career if it had turned out that he was a kidney donor match for his brother Jason. Alan Greenberg looks at Graham’s recent appointment as a team captain, only the second player in the Belichick era to be named a captain after the season had started. Michael Parente has Graham being awarded for his work ethic with the captaincy.

Bill Reynolds writes a whole column on how hard it is to get any information from the Patriots, but says it isn’t criticism. He says because they’re winning, it’s ok. It sure sounded like a criticism of the organization as I read it.

John Tomase has a look at Benjamin Watson as the third year tight end is having his best season, but also has recently developed a disturbing habit of coughing up the ball. Joe McDonald examines how Doug Gabriel seems to have dropped completely off the Patriots radar since fumbling against the Jets. Albert Breer looks at Mike Vrabel, Chad Scott and Artrell Hawkins as three veterans whose flexibility in being able to play multiple positions has really saved the Patriots. Rich Garven looks at Ray Mickens getting plugged into the Patriots secondary to fill a hole at nickel back for the club.

Check the coverage from down south in the pages of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald.

Reiss’ notebook has Tom Brady liking what he sees in this team, big picture, as they sit at 9-3. Tomase’s notebook observes that Maroney has never been one to miss a lot of time, having never been seriously injured at Minnesota. McDonald’s notebook looks at the Patriots late season roster tweaking. Garven’s notebook looks at whether Corey Dillon has what it takes to be the Patriots lead back on Sunday. Parente’s notebook has more on Mickens getting the call from the Patriots.

Red Sox

Gordon Edes says that with just a week to go before the deadline, the Red Sox are getting concerned about their chances of signing Daisuke Matsuzaka. Tony Massarotti says that no one can accuse the Red Sox of being cheap this offseason. Sean McAdam says that the new signings mean that the Red Sox payroll will likely be over $148 million for 2007. Rob Bradford looks at the reasons why the Red Sox paid $70 million for J.D. Drew. Jon Couture says that while the Red Sox see Drew as a complimentary piece, the Dodgers saw him as the answer, which may have been a part of his troubles there. Bob Stern takes a crack at analyzing the Red Sox spending thus far.

Michael Silverman has the Red Sox actively looking at Eric Gagne, but hoping to shave a little off the asking price. Nick Cafardo says that with Theo Epstein the bloom is off the rose as far as fans are concerned, and that this offseason could be a turning point in his career. Jeff Goldberg has Grady Little endorsing the latest Red Sox signees. Alex Speier looks at the Red Sox going back to a lineup that features more offense, less defense. Joe Haggerty has Lou Piniella praising Julio Lugo and saying that Boston fans are really going to like his energy.

Edes’ notebook says that the Manny Ramirez trade talk has just about died down. Silverman’s notebook also has the Manny trade talk diminishing after the Dodgers and Mariners turned down Red Sox demands for the slugger. McAdam’s notebook has more on the Manny talks and a number of other items and rumors.

There’s plenty more sports news on the Bruins and a busy night in college basketball locally, along with the news that BC Football coach Tom O’Brien is leaving for N.C. State, but I’m out of time…

NESN has Bruins/Maple Leafs at 7:00. NFL Network has Steelers/Browns at 8:00. TNT has Pistons/Mavs at 8:15 and Heat/Kings at 10:30.

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