1983-84 Boston Celtics
Each day the puzzle becomes more complex. Where will the Celtics play their home games next year? Will there be a new owner or will the new boss be the same as the old boss - Harry Mangurian? Will Kevin McHale be blocking shots for the Green, or for someone else's green? Will Marvin Webster and Sly Williams be property of the Celtics by 5 p.m. tomorrow?
Yesterday's college draft/meat market, hosted locally in the Garden's Blades and Boards club, provided no answers, only more Celtics questions. The player the Celtics hoped to get in the first round (6-foot-9 Rutgers forward Roy Hinson) was snatched by the tenacious Cleveland Cavaliers at the last second, forcing the Celtics to switch to Plan B in the person of Brigham Young's 6-11 widebody center, Greg Kite.
Before the day was over, Red Auerbach and his college of coaches had selected nine other players, none of whom have much hope of playing with the Celtics next year.
The Celts were drafting big men as insurance in the event Boston finds itself without a backup center this fall. The Knicks have until 5 p.m. tomorrow to match Boston's offer sheets to Williams and Webster. With Rick Robey off to Phoenix in exchange for guard Dennis Johnson, Boston will be left without a backup pivotman if the Knicks match Webster's offer sheet, and free agent McHale winds up elsewhere.
"When we traded Robey, we had no backup for (Robert) Parish," said Auerbach.
Kite, drafted in the first round, and East Tennessee State's Winfred King, picked by the Celtics early in the third, are both hefty centers. "We weren't looking for anybody to start ahead of Robert," said assistant coach Jimmy Rodgers. "We wanted a strong player who can set picks."
The Celtics were obviously disappointed when Cleveland, picking 20th, selected Hinson just before Boston's turn came up. Hinson is a power forward from Rutgers who averaged 16.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in his senior season. "We thought he would go around 13 or 14," said head coach K. C. Jones. "When he kept falling, our hopes got higher."
The Celts were all set to grab Hinson when commissioner Larry O'Brien, in a hookup from New York, announced, "Cleveland selects Roy Hinson of Rutgers." Auerbach, seated between Jones and Mangurian, leaned back in his chair and hurled his pen on the table in disgust.
After a 3 1/2 -minute conference, it was agreed that Kite was the best big man available. The only other highly rated center still up for grabs was Mark West of Old Dominion. He was selected by Dallas early in the second round.
Kite has a shot at making the 1983-84 Celtics (after all, Darren Tillis was kept ahead of Eric Fernsten last year), but yesterday's other nine selections will probably be weeded out at Auerbach's rookie camp in late August. Some may wind up playing in Europe, or for the Bay State Bombardiers of the CBA.
Put Kite in the running, and allow for the possibility that Webster, Williams and McHale might all be Boston property when camp opens, and the Celtics depth chart for next fall looks like this:
CENTERS (3): Parish, Webster, Kite.
FORWARDS (6): Larry Bird, Cedric Maxwell, McHale, Scott Wedman, Williams, M. L. Carr.
GUARDS (7): Johnson, Danny Ainge, Quinn Buckner, Gerald Henderson, Tiny Archibald, Charles Bradley, John Schweitz.
If guard Terry Duerod and center/forward Eric Fernsten are asked back for one more look, the Celtics could have 18 legitimate NBA players in camp. Don't count on it, though. The Knicks are likely to match the Webster and Williams offers, McHale is likely to be traded and other Celtics (Archibald, for instance) could easily be dealt or released before Labor Day.