1983-84 Boston Celtics
It would appear that the Celtics have succeeded in their effort to prevent the New York Knicks from signing free agent Kevin McHale to a multimillion- dollar offer sheet.
The Knicks yesterday matched Boston's offers to forward Sly Williams and backup center Marvin Webster and appear to have bowed out of the McHale sweepstakes for now.
New York dealt Williams and his annual $450,000 salary to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for guard Rudy Macklin ($100,000 salary), but the Knicks have been unable to swap Webster and until they do, they're stuck with his $450,000, three-year contract.
"That knocks 'em out of the box," said a chuckling Red Auerbach. "We would have taken the players, but we knew they were gonna match, and if they keep one guy, they're out of the box. They can't even bid on him (McHale) at all, which is OK."
According to terms of the current collective bargaining agreement, the Knicks must stay within a $4.6-million salary cap this season. Two weeks ago, the Celtics acted to inflate New York's payroll by signing Knick free agents Rory Sparrow, Williams and Webster to whopping offer sheets. The Knicks ended up matching all three offers and are saddled with an extra $950,000 in salaries to Sparrow and Webster.
"No one's laughing at us now," said Auerbach.
John Sandquist, McHale's agent, said, "If they keep Webster, I would think that would make it different. I'm still waiting to talk to the Knicks. I haven't talked to them since last week. But I'm not worried . . ."
Three days ago, Sandquist said he was coming to New York this week and "either we'll do it or we won't."
"We aren't actively pursuing him anymore," said a Knick official. "I don't think we can make an offer with the cap being what it is. Hey, they were waiting around and we had to move forward. There is such a thing as painting yourself into a corner."
Sandquist's last contact with the Celtics was Sunday, when he rejected Boston's new offer. Auerbach blasted Sandquist Monday, saying, "We've been used." He added that any further negotiations will have to be initiated by Sandquist.
Sandquist said he has no plans to go back to the Celtics. "We know their plans," he said. "If the Knicks are no longer interested, we'll have to find out who has any interest."
The Celtics have offered McHale close to $1 million per year, but hewants a no-trade clause and the Celtics have thus far been unwilling to include such a provision.
"Money has never been the issue with Boston," said Sandquist. "The whole problem with the Celtics is that they've never assured us that Kevin would not be traded. They've not even come close to satisfying us on that."
Would the Celtics be willing to offer McHale a no-trade pact?
"I can't discuss that," said Auerbach. "It's a good question, but I can't discuss it."