The Kevin McHale Derby is over.
The three-year veteran signed a four-year contract with the Celtics today in Minnesota, ending one of the longest negotiations in the team's history. The deal reportedly guarantees McHale $1 million a year without deferring any of the money.
Celtic general manager Red Auerbach and McHale's agent, John Sandquist, completed the contract negotiations yesterday. Although McHale, under the new contract, can be traded, Auerbach said he has no plans to trade the 6-foot- 10 center. McHale had been seeking a no-trade clause. McHale thus becomes the highest paid Celtic--ever. The highest paid player on the Celtics last season was Scott Wedman, who brought his $750,00 salary with him from the Cavaliers. Wedman was acquired in the Darren Tillis trade. Cleveland is reportedly paying a percentage of Wedman's salary.
The signing shores up the Celtics' front line for the coming season.Although the Celtics traded Rick Robey to the Phoenix Suns for guard Dennis Johnson, the front-line is set. McHale, Larry Bird, Cedric Maxwell and Robert Parish are returning along with No. 1 draft pick Greg Kite and Wedman. With Bill Fitch gone, McHale should see more playing time next season under
new head coach K.C. Jones.
The Celtics, namely Auerbach, played out a financial chess game with the New York Knicks to keep the Minnesota native in a Celtic uniform. When the Knicks were negotiating with McHale, Celtic owner Harry Mangurian declared war on the basketball playing Gulf & Western subsidiary. Auerbach fired the first shot, signing New York free agents Rory Sparrow ($2 million,
four years), Sly Williams ($450,00, three years) and Marvin Webster ($450,000, three years) to offer sheets between June 15 and 17.
The Knicks matched all three offers; they kept Sparrow and Webster and traded Williams to the Atlanta Hawks for guard Rudy Macklin and his $100,000 contract. That prevented New York from going after McHale, because, according to terms of the current collective bargaining agreement, the Knicks must stay within the $4.6 million salary cap. When the Knicks matched Sparrow's offer sheet, they were dangerously close to the $4.6 million team cap, having only $1.5 million to spend on five players. And the Knicks cut deeper into the $1.5 million by signing Webster and acquiring Macklin from Atlanta for Williams.
On June 22 The Globe reported that the Knicks had offered McHale a three-year package worth $3.6 million, which included $3 million up front and $150,000 for each for the four years, which, at that time, would have kept the Knicks under the $4.6 million cap. At that time Celtic owner Harry Mangurian said the Knicks "were predators that have an utter disrespect for money. Four days later the Minneapolis Star reported McHale would be signing a $7 million five-year contract with the Knicks.