In the era of partisan loathing, it might seem odd that a celebrity supporter of Maura Healey, one of the nation’s most relentless anti-Trump litigators, is on the record hailing Trump.

That would be Celtic great Bob Cousy, who called Trump “the most extraordinary president in my lifetime” at his Presidential Medal of Freedom award ceremony in 2019, five years after his warm endorsement of Healey helped get her elected attorney general. How could Mr. Basketball’s praise of Trump be compatible with support for Healey, proponent of what potential GOP opponent Chris Doughty calls a “far-left…radical, unworkable progressive agenda”?

Because Cousy and Healey share a common skill – point-guard cunning.

After all, Healey is – in Massachusetts political circles at least – Ms. Basketball. Voters somehow still unaware of this will learn all about it from the Healey campaign’s first TV ad, provocatively entitled “Teamwork” (like a basketball team, get it?). As cute pics of Healey’s childhood scroll by, she explains how “teamwork…got us through” growing up in a single-parent household with five kids. Then she pivots to the value of teamwork during her college and pro basketball career (she played basketball, did you know that?) and her years in office.

The commercial’s warm-and-fuzzy, jock/townie vibe sets a pick against the Republicans’ depiction of her as a demonic lefty. And for an extremist, Healey moves well to her right. “I’ll make Massachusetts more affordable,” she says. “We’ll cut taxes, reduce costs in housing and transportation, improve education and make vocational training available so every student has the skills they need.”

Voke-ed shout-out! Is that “workable” enough for you?  

The ad – like the governor’s race so far – is a layup for Healey. The closest thing to a turnover was her ill-advised pre-campaign comparison of arson during urban unrest with the process of forest regeneration. And as frustrated Celtics fans can attest, even if the opponent is the moribund Massachusetts GOP instead of the Warriors, when you’re playing for a title you can’t afford unforced errors.

So just as Cousy protected the ball during eight straight seasons leading the NBA in assists, Healey is making sure not to dribble it off her left foot. It’s a lot easier when no one beyond talk-radio and the subterranean Republican gubernatorial candidates are actively trying to guard you. As for the left, if academics and suburban liberals had any serious objections to Healey, Danielle Allen might still be running. Same goes for the fearsome, game-changing Markeyverse, and their preferred candidate, Sonia Chang-Diaz.

So Healey is free to run the weave, letting the activists touch the ball and feel involved until its time to drive down the center of the lane on taxes and crime. “Let’s do this together,” she says at the end of her ad, and moderate TV viewers are left with the impression they’re invited too.

Tricky dribbling. Just like Cousy’s handling of his moment with Trump. “I understand how controversial Trump is,” he told the Worcester Telegram. “So I didn’t want to say something that was going to go viral and get all of us in trouble, but I thought that was a nice middle ground. And ‘extraordinary,’ I suppose, can be interpreted in any number of ways in the mind of the listener.”

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Jon Keller has been reporting and commenting on local politics since 1978. A graduate of Brandeis University, he worked in radio as a producer and talk-show host before moving into print journalism at The Tab newspapers and the Boston Phoenix. Freelance credits include the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Boston Magazine, the New Republic and the Washington Post. Since 1991 his "Keller At Large" commentaries and interviews have been a fixture on Boston TV, first on WLVI-TV and, since 2005, on WBZ-TV. He is a 12-time Emmy Award winner for political reporting and commentary. He began his Massterlist column in March 2020.