Rory Sparrow and Marvin Webster were Almost Celtics

Celtics 116, Knicks 102
Game 2
1984 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Celtics Lead Series 2-0

It's easy to forget that two of the people wearing New York Knick uniforms last night were Boston Celtics for a few days last spring.

We're not talking about Eric Fernsten. Knick guard Rory Sparrow and center Marvin Webster (plus Sly Williams, who was later traded) were signed to free- agent offer sheets by the Celtics during the annual league meetings last June.

It was an obvious and effective ploy to put the Knicks over their salary cap - a move designed to prohibit New York from offering Boston free agent Kevin McHale a whopping contract.

The plan worked beautifully. New York matched Sparrow's $500,000-per-year deal almost immediately. The Knicks then waited the limit (two weeks) before matching the offers to Webster and Williams ($450,000 per year each). Having matched the offers at inflated prices set by the Celtics, they were unable to bag McHale.

"I'm kind of surprised it's taken 10 months for people to focus on it," Celtic assistant general manager Jan Volk said last night. "I thought at the time it was a pretty innovative move. It came up in the course of conversations between Red (Auerbach), Harry (Mangurian, former owner) and myself."

What if the Knicks had not matched the offers?

"We didn't know how they were going to react," said Volk. "But the players we signed we would have been happy to have kept."

Sparrow never envisioned himself in Celtic green.

"Before I signed with them I asked them what the chances were of me ending up in Boston," Sparrow said last night. "They told me the chances weren't very good. I really wanted to stay in New York and I didn't care about what the whole thing was actually about."

Webster said, "At the time, I thought I was going to be a Celtic, but I really didn't have too many thoughts about it. It's something I really don't want to get into anymore."

This from Knicks GM Dave DeBusschere: "It's been a tough year for us. We can't do anything easily. For a while, we were thinking about beating Philly in the regular season, but that was before we struggled at the end (losing 10 of their last 16).

"There aren't a lot of secrets at this point. We know Boston is strong inside, but we have to stop the Celtics from running."

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