May 8, 1980
There are two rumors, actually.
The first one, emanating from the West Coast, is that the Celtics would deal their No. 1 pick to Phoenix in exchange for Paul Westphal. The second one, with an apparent East Coast origin, is that they would trade both the No. 1 and No. 13 picks in the first round and get Westphal and Phoenix guard Don Buse. The Celtics deny the existence of either deal.
"There is absolutely nothing going on between us and Phoenix," Bill Fitch said yesterday. "You can just about bet your life that Paul Westphal will not wind up in Boston. There isn't a chance in a hundred he'll wind up in Boston. There is no way I'd trade the No. 1 for him, and the No. 13 has never come up with anybody."
Red Auerbach offered an equally vigorous denial on Saturday, and he even went so far as to apologize to Sun scout John Wetzel, whom he met in Cincinnati at the weekend affair staged by agent Ron Grinker, who runs a sort of tryout camp each year for free agents, inviting NBA clubs to take a look.
"Red told Wetzel he was sorry about all this," Fitch said. "He wanted Wetzel to know the rumors did not originate in Boston."
Westphal may very well be traded, however. The 29-year-old guard (he'll be 30 on Nov. 30) is heading into the final year of his contract with the Suns, and he has indicated a desire to be traded.
"I've got one year left on my contract," he explained, "and if we can't come to an agreement, it appears to be in the best interests of the club to trade me, because if they wait until next year they will receive no compensation for me if I leave."
Westphal had played the last five years in Phoenix after spending the first three years of his career in Boston. He has a clause in his contract that stipulates eight franchises to which he cannot be traded, but he would consent to one of them for the 1980-81 season since he can become a free agent at the end of the campaign, anyway.
There is also a story making the rounds that the Seattle SuperSonics are interested in Westphal. The Sonics are said to be considering trading guard Dennis Johnson, whose petulance upset team officials during the Sonics' five- game series with the Lakers.