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Ramon Rivas: From the Olympics to Boston
September 16, 1988
RIVAS' GOAL: CELTIC BERTH BOSTON IS HIS NEXT STOP AFTER SEOUL
The view through the crack of the sealed door was not sufficient. Ramon Rivas, former Temple University starter and member of the Puerto Rican Olympic basketball squad, was in there running full-court drills. But to appreciate his entire worth, a wide-angle lens -- or at least an open door -- was required.
Indeed, although Rivas has a nice soft touch for a big man, his biggest asset remains his size. Never confused with an offensive terror in the middle, Rivas has been known to cause havoc defensively in the role of a physical player who took up space and moved unwanted bodies aside.
American Olympic coach John Thompson dubbed him "widebody" during the NCAA tournament, then watched the 6-foot-11-inch Rivas push aside the Georgetown boys en route to a Temple victory.
When the Celtics signed Rivas less than two weeks ago, they were not looking for a center to log 20 minutes a game. But with Artis Gilmore gone and Bill Walton injured for yet another full season (maybe forever?), they were looking for another big man to help back up Robert Parish during the long NBA season.
Rivas, who will begin his Olympic journey with an opening-round game against Australia Sunday, hopes to be the big man Boston has been seeking.
"I don't want to take anything away from the people that are already there," said Rivas following a closed practice. "I want to show them I can run the court, that I can be mobile. I'm a role player. I can follow directions."
He is still stunned that the Celtics, his favorite American team since he can remember, decided to sign him and invite him to camp.
"It really came out of the blue," he said. "I had spent time talking with the Milwaukee Bucks and the San Antonio Spurs. I was planning on going to the Spurs veteran camp, but then Jan Volk called me and said the Celtics were interested."
As it happened, Boston was about to embark on its annual cruise, and the Celtics brass thought it might make sense to mix a little business with pleasure.
"When they actually made the trip down to Puerto Rico, then I couldn't help but get excited," said Rivas. "I thought that must surely mean they were serious."
How serious will not be determined until October, when Boston opens camp and begins shaping its roster -- with no guarantees for its latest signee. By then, Rivas will be an Olympic alumnus, although he is unsure how much he will be called on to contribute to the Puerto Rican cause.
"I'm not sure where I stand," said Rivas. "The coach here seems to have his own players. But I'm just here to get some experience."
The Puerto Rican team, which is part of the preliminary pool that includes Russia and Yugoslavia, is a long shot to medal, but the center thinks it is possible.
"We have really gotten quite good," he said. "We play a lot like the US now, with pressure defense and the fast break."
Other players with American ties who will be toiling for Puerto Rico include Ramon Ramos (Seton Hall), Jose Ortiz (recently signed by the Utah Jazz) and Jerome Mincy (Alabama-Birmingham).
But Celtic fans will be watching No. 11 on their program, Ramon Rivas, the big guy who is trying to nail down his own version of the Kevin McHale post-up repertoire.
"I have watched the Celtics and tried to learn their moves," he said. "I tried to stick with it, and now I'm happy that I have."
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