The Celtics failed to win the NBA lottery yesterday, but the opportunity
to secure prize Wake Forest center Tim Duncan could still be within
Five minutes after San Antonio won the lottery and the right to the first overall selection in the June 25 draft, Rick Pitino was on the phone with Spurs coach and general manager Gregg Popovich.
Celtics' new coach and president, whose team landed the third and sixth
overall selections, had more than just congratulations on his mind
during their brief chat.
"I wouldn't have spoken to Gregg five minutes after it ended if I didn't think (a deal) was an option," Pitino
said in conference call about an hour after the nationally televised
lottery had concluded. "There is a distinct possibility they may trade
the draft pick, but obviously a trade is only good when both teams can
A Celtics-Spurs hookup could fit that criteria. San Antonio already has perennial All-Star David Robinson roaming the middle.
31, injured for much of the 1996-97 season, would have to share the low
post with Duncan should the Spurs decide to keep the pick and employ a
"We're going to get as
creative as possible, but as much as we want Tim Duncan, I think you'll
see comments from Gregg to the effect that David and Tim can probably
play together," said Pitino,
an assistant coach with the Knicks when they tried unsuccessfully to
team centers Bill Cartwright and Patrick Ewing in a frontcourt 12 years
ago. "People might be thinking, 'Well, they already have David Robinson,
why do they need Tim Duncan? Maybe trade one.'
probably say both players are very agile, very mobile - let's move
David to power forward or vice versa and see if we could play with them
first. We could always trade one down the road."
exercising his role calling Celtics personnel shots for the first time,
sounded like he was prepared to explore multiple avenues before the
June 25 draft. At the same time, he did not want to leave the impression
he was disappointed with the Celtics' dual draft position.
"Obviously, the No. 1 pick was Tim Duncan and after that, (Nos.) 2 through 6 made no difference to me," said Pitino.
"If I could do it over again, of course I would have liked to have had
him with the No. 1 pick, but I'm certainly not discouraged with having
the third and sixth picks.
disappointed with the third and sixth picks doesn't understand the draft
process or the long haul we're in here with the Celtics. The third and
sixth picks will have enormous upside potential. Down the road they
could be as valuable as Tim Duncan."
True, but even Pitino
could not deny the lottery played squarely against his team's best
interests. The Celtics' most glaring need is for a legitimate big man.
Unfortunately for the locals, the same could be said for Philadelphia,
which turned up with the second draft pick. That means Texas Tech's
6-foot-11 Tony Battie, the only big man in the draft with skills in the
same area code as Duncan's, will likely be wearing a Sixers uniform next
"As you look at it now, Tony Battie is probably going to be the second pick, although there are no guarantees," said Pitino,
who will spend the next few weeks evaluating talent and discussing
draft strategy with his staff. "Philly might try to trade down, they
might try to go after Tim Duncan and trade up.
are going to be a quite a few speculative things that crop up in the
next week or two, and we're probably going to be in the middle of that
The speculation will
initially revolve around San Antonio, which has a major trump card in
Duncan. The All-American senior, head and shoulders above the rest of
the college crop, could be a major asset playing for the Spurs - or
fetch them plenty in a blockbuster deal. The Celtics, with two of the
first six picks to offer - in addition to just about anyone from their
current roster - will listen very carefully to any San Antonio
"It all sounds great, but I think you're going to have to offer them one heck of a deal for them to trade Tim Duncan," said Pitino. "Maybe we can do it. Maybe we can't. That remains to be seen."