Jul 31, 2003 7:57 AM EDT
When Celtics boss Danny Ainge was courting free agent forward Karl Malone, he offered him good money, tried to sell him on the storied Celtics tradition, and stressed that Boston could be a great fit for him.
Malone listened carefully, then asked only one question.
"He wanted to know if No. 32 was retired," Ainge said. "I reminded him [Kevin] McHale wore that number. He said, `Oh. How do you think he'd feel about me wearing it?' "
Malone, who wore No. 32 his entire career with the Utah Jazz, ended up signing with the Lakers. Before he did, he talked with Magic Johnson about wearing his retired No. 32 Lakers jersey. That won't happen. Although Magic publicly offered the number to him (what else is he supposed to do?), Malone will wear No. 11, his number when he played for the Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
The number on a uniform may seem trivial, but it is often one of the most important details to athletes embarking on an NBA career, or players in their prime, mulling over a move to a new team.
"It's a recruiting tool," Ainge said. "And we're at a big disadvantage."
No kidding. Imagine the Celtics' pitch: We love you, we want you, you can have any number you want -- except 1, 2, 3, 6, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 32, 33, 35, or 00. That's 20 jerseys -- and counting. Former Celtics forward Cedric Maxwell's No. 31 will be raised next.
"Athletes are superstitious," Ainge explained. "Numbers mean a lot. LeBron James has worn No. 23 his entire life, in honor of his idol, Michael Jordan. He's going to get to wear No. 23 in Cleveland, but if that number was retired, they might have had a problem."
Jul 31, 2003 7:55 AM EDT
Grant Long has a medical supplies business that more than fills his offseason time, but the itch is admittedly still there.
After playing for the Celtics for just over half a season, the 37-year-old power forward and veteran of 15 NBA seasons was told this summer to start investigating other options. In other words, it's been swell.
``I was looking forward to coming back,'' Long said this week from his home in Georgia. ``The guys were great. They have a no-lose attitude and I just think the world of coach (Jim) O'Brien.''
Unfortunately for Long - not to mention fellow free agents Mark Bryant and Bimbo Coles - the new numbers don't leave much space for last season's hired guns. With Tuesday's trade for forward Jumaine Jones and the signing of rookie forward Brandon Hunter to a two-year deal, the Celtics have 14 players under contract, with training camp two months away.
That doesn't even leave room for a player who, despite his short time as a Celtic, was valued as much for his classy locker room presence as for his game-time contributions.
``I had a great time,'' Long said. ``I only had one year with Boston and when I came home everyone was like, `Oh man, it was great to see you in a Celtics uniform.' There really is something special to being part of that organization.
Jul 30, 2003 9:11 AM EDT
Jumaine Jones was tossed into a kind of NBA limbo - the sort that no player who has experienced life at the top can appreciate - two years ago.
The 6-foot-8 forward went from starter on the Sixers team that reached the 2001 NBA Finals to an offseason trade that sent him to Cleveland, land of the doomed.
After averaging just under 10 points a game within the Cavs' anarchic system last season, he pushed out into free agent waters.
And the first exec to call was the Celtics' Danny Ainge, who had long appreciated Jones' athleticism and the forward's fluid game, from medium-range jumpers out to 3-point range.
Ainge and general manager Chris Wallace made good on that foray yesterday when they completed a sign-and-trade deal with Cleveland, sending guard JR Bremer and center Bruno Sundov to the Cavs in exchange for Jones.
Though terms of the deal weren't disclosed, Jones will reportedly earn approximately $4.1 million over three years. The deal was briefly delayed Monday when Jones attempted to have an option inserted into the contract, only to be told that under NBA contracts, options aren't allowed within the first three years of a sign-and-trade deal.
Jul 29, 2003 9:29 AM EDT
The Cavaliers failed to trade Jumaine Jones a year ago and didn't even plan to offer him a contract this summer.
But they pulled off both feats Monday, agreeing to a sign-and-trade deal that will ship Jones to Boston in return for Cleveland native J.R. Bremer, Croatian center Bruno Sundov, and a future second-round draft pick. The deal is expected to be officially announced today.
Bremer, who was on the All-Rookie second-team last season, will give the Cavaliers a bonafide outside shooting threat and another option at point guard. He averaged 8.3 points as a rookie and made 3.23 3-pointers per 48 minutes, third in the NBA.
``He's really a fantastic outsider shooter who can also play the point,'' Cavaliers Coach Paul Silas said. ``He gives us some prohometowntection we needed there.''
The deal is a surprising move that developed quickly over the past several days. The Cavaliers traded Jones to Sacramento last summer only to see the deal fall through when guard Mateen Cleaves failed a physical. Jones averaged 9.8 points and 4.3 rebounds for the team last season and was a restricted free agent this summer.
The Cavaliers appeared to end their association with the 6-foot-8 forward when they did not present a contract offer, making him an unrestricted free agent. The Celtics, however, were very interested in Jones' services but, as of Sunday, had 14 players on their roster and were about to make second-round pick Brandon Hunter the 15th.
Jul 29, 2003 9:24 AM EDT
The longer he was in a Celtics uniform this summer, the more one particular phrase was attached to second-round draft pick Brandon Hunter.
``He's going to play in this league, for someone.''
Celtics coach Jim O'Brien said it. Director of basketball development Leo Papile, Hunter's earliest booster, said it.
And finally Danny Ainge, the toughest sell of all, had to admit it as well. The director of basketball operations, who ultimately gave approval on the two-year contract that the 6-foot-7 Hunter signed yesterday, knew that someone was going to give the kid a job.
But the 22-year-old Ohio University alum, of course, knew that well before anyone.
``I was going to go to veteran camp with this team, no matter what,'' said Hunter, who will earn the rookie minimum of $366,931 this season, followed by a non-guaranteed one-year veteran's minimum of $620,046 during the 2004-05 season. ``I knew I was going to play in this league. I got three double-doubles in a row (during the Reebok Pro Summer League), so I knew that someone was going to be interested in me.''
Jul 28, 2003 7:41 PM EDT
The Boston Celtics announced today that the club has signed its 2003 second round draft pick Brandon Hunter (56th overall) to a contract. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Hunter, a 6-7 forward, played his college basketball at Ohio University where he led the nation in rebounding as a senior (12.6 rpg). Hunter was a three-time First Team All-Mid-American Conference selection and became the third player in MAC history to compile 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. He finished his career at Ohio as the school's all-time leader in rebounds, as well as free throws made and attempted. He also ranked fourth on the university's all-time scoring list.
Earlier this month, Hunter competed for the Celtics in the 2003 Reebok Pro Summer League. He finished fifth in the league in scoring (16.3 ppg), while shooting 66.7 percent from the field, and finished third in rebounding (8.2 rpg). Hunter led the Celtics squad in rebounding and minutes played (32.8 mpg) and was second on the team in scoring.
Jul 28, 2003 7:34 PM EDT
The Cleveland Cavaliers say they have agreed to a three-player trade with the Boston Celtics.
Team spokesman Tad Carter said tonight that Cleveland plans to send swingman Jumaine Jones to the Boston for guard J.R. Bremer and center Bruno Sundov.
Carter says an announcement planned for Monday night was postponed because there wasn't enough time to have the trade paperwork filed with the league.
Both teams plan to make it official tomorrow.
Jul 27, 2003 8:37 AM EDT
You really don't have to ask Byron Scott if he's happy.
Exuberance shines from the New Jersey coach's face these days like a lantern. Jason Kidd is in the fold for $103 million over the next six years, and so is Alonzo Mourning, for just a shade ($5 million) over the mid-level exception next season.
The Nets are now four deep at the center position, if you assume that Dikembe Mutombo will remain part of the picture with the $17.9 million - third highest in the league - he will earn next season.
Now comes talk that the Nets, known to be searching for another shooter, may actually be pondering a run at free agent Reggie Miller.
This is escalation on the NBA's highest scale, and Scott gets to coach the result.
But he is also about to enter the tender area of the center's rare kidney condition.
Banking on Mourning's availability ultimately reduced Pat Riley's hopes in Miami to ineffectual rubble.
Jul 26, 2003 10:08 AM EDT
Mike James already has scored two points on the savvy scale.
Not long after signing a one-year contract worth $638,679 with the Celtics yesterday, the guard went out apartment hunting with his wife.
No sense in waiting until an army of college students swoop in to clog the real estate market next month, right?
``I'm happy to get everything done quickly,'' said the 28-year-old veteran of professional basketball's less-traveled roads.
UMass fans will remember James as the gritty scorer who, in his senior year at Duquesne, made the Atlantic 10 all-conference first team with some far flashier names, including Rhode Island's Cuttino Mobley. Xavier's James Posey made the second team and Temple's Pepe Sanchez the third.
All made the NBA within their first year out of college.
Jul 25, 2003 9:01 AM EDT
The Celtics have struck a two-year deal for approximately $1 million with second-round pick (No. 56 overall) Brandon Hunter, which will bring the number of roster players signed for next season to 14. Hunter was impressive in the Reebok Pro Summer League, averaging 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds.
''We have agreed to terms on a two-year deal,'' said director of basketball operations Danny Ainge, reached by phone yesterday. ''Brandon had a fantastic summer league and we think he has a chance to be an excellent NBA player. When we drafted him, the one thing that we lacked was rebounding, and he's proven in college and in the summer league that he can rebound.''
Though 6 feet 7 inches, Hunter was hard to miss on the boards, aggressively going after every loose ball and posting three straight double-doubles in summer league play. Hunter brings impressive credentials from Ohio University where he led the nation in rebounding as a senior (12.6 per game).
''It's a great opportunity for me,'' said Hunter by phone. ''Boston has a lot of history with winning. [The Celtics] just need that extra piece and I'm just happy to be a part of it. I wasn't expecting it because it's a business and you never know what's going to happen, but I was hoping for it. I was thinking, `It should happen.' I think I can help the team tremendously and I think I played up to my capabilities [in summer league].''
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