July 24, 1980
Is the signing of Cedric Maxwell to a multi-year contract with an NBA team other than the Celtics imminent?
If you can believe Ron Grinker, Maxwell's agent, the signing of his free-agent client will materialize within a couple of days. Speculation is that the Indiana Pacers will secure his services.
If you can believe Maxwell, he doesn't want to become an ex-Celtic. He said yesterday in a phone interview from Cincinnati that he's "still optimistic" that he and the Celtics will come to terms.
But Maxwell quickly added that "unless something dramatic happens with the Celtics in the next couple of days, I'm prepared for it. It would be a letdown, but joining another club would then become a challenge for me."
General manager Red Auerbach solidified the belief that Maxwell will not return to the Celtics.
"We've made our final offer to Maxwell," said Auerbach. "It's now up to him. We would like to have Maxwell as a member, but we can't prostitute the ballclub in order to keep him."
The impression is that Grinker has failed in his attempt to pressure the Celtics into reconsidering their offer. Instead, Grinker now finds himself in the position of having to commit his client's services to another team. As Grinker so aptly put it, "It's like the last of the ninth and two outs, and we're taking a last swing for Max."
Which probably explains why Grinker announced early yesterday that "Maxwell will not return to the Celtics" - only to amend that statement a few hours later by saying, "Everything is subject to change."
But the Celtics refused to take the bait.
Grinker maintains that he is dealing honorably with the NBA clubs which are expressing an interest in Maxwell. He implied that during his negotiations he has alerted other clubs that the door is still being left ajar in the event the Celtics decide to make an 11th-hour proposal. He said Maxwell is still willing to bargain for a multi-year contract below that offered by other teams if the Celtics came up with more than their previous offer.
Maxwell sounded like a man who is desperately hoping the Celtics will bail him out before Grinker is forced to peddle him to another team.
"We've arrived at a stalemate, but I'm still optimistic," said Maxwell. "It's now a question as to whether my value to the Celtics has diminished that much."
Pacer general manager Dick Vertlieb, responding to rumors that his team is on the verge of obtaining Maxwell, told the Indianapolis Star that the talk was "quite premature. We've nailed nothing down. We don't know who else he's dealing with. The people in Boston are saying we've got him, but we don't."
If Maxwell does wind up with Indiana, the Pacers may have to pay a high price in compensation to the Celtics. They may have to give up a guard - perhaps either Johnny Davis, whose outstanding quickness makes him an all- around offensive threat, or 6-foot-5 Dudley Bradley, who is defensively oriented.
And there are those who suspect that Auerbach, for just that reason, isn't exerting himself in attempting to re-sign Maxwell. He's aware the Celtics are in dire need of guards - not forwards.
Observers generally agree that Maxwell, Boston's first-round draft choice in 1977 from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, has yet to realize his full potential.
Last season Maxwell became the Celtics' single-season field goal percentage leader with a 60.9 average (457 baskets in 750 attempts) while averaging 16.9 points in 80 games. His ability at 6-foot-8 to convert layups while being shoved about by defenders who tower over him has earned him respect throughout the league.
But some critics feel Maxwell has displayed a horrible lack of outside shooting skills. And they point to his poor mental outlook, which includes a lazy approach and lack of desire on his part to work diligently on improving the weak aspects of his game during the summer.