June 8, 1980
They've got the No. 1 pick, and no offseason story has so captivated the local basketball public in the 34-year history of the Boston Celtics. Take it or trade it? Take whom? And what about the second first-round pick, which is the 13th overall selection? These questions have dominated all postseason conversation and have created unprecedented interest in Tuesday's annual NBA cattle auction, a/k/a the college draft.
Every fan knows the basic story. The Celtics could either trade one or both of their first-round picks for established players or they could bolster the team (presumably) with young talent. There is outside interest in the first pick. "The phone is ringing more and more," says coach Bill Fitch. "The closer we get to the end, the farther away we are from the truth, because we are presented with more and more options."
And what are some of those options? Though absolutely none of this is verifiable, the rumors include:
- Trading the first pick for guard John Lucas and center Robert Parish of Golden State.
- Swapping their first pick for Golden State's third, throwing in Rick Robey and winding up with Lucas, Parish and Kevin McHale.
- Something or other involving names such as Phil Ford and Artis Gilmore.
- The No. 13 for Marvin Webster.
One thing does become clearer, however. The Celtics appear intent on drafting 7-foot Purdue center Joe Barry Carroll if they do not make a trade. Their posture has been: "There is a 7-footer out there who can play. Show us why we shouldn't take him."
Some people would say that Rick Robey is one reason they needn't bother, but Fitch has made himself clear on the subject. "There is no doubt in my mind that he (Robey) is not the guy to go 82 times a year as your center for the next five years," he says. "But he surely isn't going to embarrass you at either center or forward."
That is a definitive statement, and the logical inference, therefore, is that the Celtics are in the market for a center. Dave Cowens will be 32 on Oct. 25, and he is on the final year of a contract. Moreover, he has seen his best days. Should the Celtics keep the pick, the only question is whether they would select Carroll, who has his detractors (largely on the basis of a less- than-enthusiastic playing style) or McHale, the 6-11 banger from Minnesota.
The Celtics respect Darrell Griffith, and they admit to needing guard help. But they feel the guard crop is deep enough to give them a shot at a good prospect at No. 13. The following names are almost certain to be among the first 16 players picked, in some order: Carroll, Griffith,
McHale, Mike O'Koren, Kelvin Ransey, Mike Gminski, James Ray, Andrew Toney, Michael Brooks, Kiki Vandeweghe, Larry Smith, Rickey Brown, Mike Woodson, Hawkeye Whitney, Don Collins, Jeff Ruland and the saddest story of the draft, Iowa guard Ronnie Lester. Before he injured his knee, Lester was being talked about as the No. 1 choice. Now? "He could play 10 minutes or 10 years," says one GM. Even Fitch, who loved him as much as anyboby, isn't sure he'd take him at No. 13.
There is a deadline of 8 p.m. EDT tomorrow for swapping draft picks, and the Celtics expect to be hearing from people for the next two days. "We're keeping all our options open," explains Fitch, "so there is at least a 50-50 chance of a deal."
And if there is no deal? "If we get Carroll and the No. 13, to go along with what we've got, we'll still be a formidable ball club," Fitch contends.