August 25, 1980
Included in the group are four of the biggest names in the business, three little-known lawyers who are doing it out of friendship to the kid, one noted ex-coach and one poppa who is something of a regional celebrity.
What Bob Woolf (Joe Barry Carroll, Darrell Griffith and Ronnie Lester), Donald Dell (Mike O'Koren), Mark McCormack (Mike Gminski), Howard Slusher (Kelvin Ransey), Ron Simon (Kevin McHale), Eugene Peek 3d (James Ray), Bob Wright (Andrew Toney), Tom Heinsohn (Michael Brooks) and Dr. Ernie Vandeweghe (Kiki Vandeweghe) have in common is that each represents an unsigned first- round NBA draft choice. Here we are, 19 days prior to the start of training camp, and not one of the first 11 picks in the draft has been signed. And only five of the remaining 12 first-round picks (Michael Woodson, Ricky Brown, Reggie Johnson, Chad Kinch and Carl Nicks) have signed contracts. The NBA has never before seen anything like it.
History was made last night in Marshfield when the Celtics began their rookie camp without their No. 1. Bill Fitch, for one, was not very pleased with the situation. "People keep asking me if we're going to trade any of our big men," Fitch thundered. "If I were, the first name off my lips would be the kid's (McHale). There isn't a rookie in this crop who doesn't need the orientation of rookie camp, let alone regular training camp. I keep thinking back to last year, and how much Larry Bird benefitted from camp."
Don't worry, folks. McHale isn't going to be traded, and he will be wearing a Celtics' uniform this year, if only because he really wants to play for the Celtics. Woolf, meanwhile, keeps throwing around words like "Italy" and "collusion." But anybody of that caliber who goes to Italy will still make less than he'd get here, and, as for collusion, listen to the words of Chairman Red: "Anybody who knows the owners realizes the ego factor. They want to beat each other. There is no way they'd be in collusion."
Hey, some teams really need these players. Denver has a spot open for Jacksonville's Ray, a smooth 6-foot-9 forward. Paul Silas is counting on Brooks out in San Diego. But Messrs. Peek and Heinsohn appear to be members of the new "$300,000 or Nothing Club," and there is no way either of their young men is presently worth that kind of money, even in this badly inflated market. Denver's need for Ray clearly exceeds Philadelphia's for Toney, for example, but the Nuggets don't feel they should be starting Ray off in such an exalted financial category, and I quite agree.
Part of the problem is the fact that everybody knows what Larry Bird got. So they're saying, "Hey, my guy is worth half that, anyway." But, of course, they aren't. "The difference," points out Auerbach, "is that with the possible limited exception of Griffith, none of these guys are going to sell tickets." How true. Me and a couple of hoop junkies I know may groove on the way O'Koren moves without the ball, but the Nets know they aren't going to impress most of their fans with that fact.