Why Did the Celts Send Carr to Secaucus Anyway?


M.L. Carr said he didn't bring any good-luck charms with him to yesterday's draft lottery and nerve festival here at the NBA Entertainment studios.

"I've already done my work," the former coach and director of basketball operations said after the Celtics had suffered their 68th setback of the season, finishing with the third and sixth picks (the latter courtesy of Dallas).

The Celts actually didn't need luck. With far and away the best chance of all 13 lottery teams to get the top pick, they just needed the odds to hold true.

Instead, San Antonio made the leap from third to first, winning the right to Wake Forest center Tim Duncan. Philadelphia, aided by a loaned charm from famed Boston Strangler Andrew Toney, also vaulted the Celts, moving on up from the fifth position to second.

"Would we have rather had the No. 1 pick? Definitely," said Carr, who held down the Celtics' place on the televised panel but is no longer involved in player operations in his new role as vice president for corporate development.

"But we're still going to get two good players if we stay in those positions at 3 and 6. Obviously we wanted No. 1, but you have to remember we've already made a big score by getting Rick Pitino to come in and run things. To get Rick Pitino and then the No. 1 pick? How fortunate could you be?

"But I'm telling you, getting Rick Pitino and the No. 3 and 6 picks is still hitting a home run."

With the Celtics possessing the best cards coming in, Philadelphia president Pat Croce set his sights on knocking them off.

"One day I was just telling someone that I wanted to get a better pick than the Celtics, that I wanted to be the new Boston Strangler," the colorful Croce said. "The next thing I new, Andrew Toney sent me a letter with this shoelace in the envelope."

Croce help up a sneaker lace and displayed the handwritten correspondence from the former Sixers guard.

It read: "This shoe string comes from the right sneaker that I wore in the championship playoffs in '83. Please send it back when you get a chance. Thanks, Andrew. P.S. Good luck in the lottery."

Said Croce, "I love that Boston didn't get No. 1. Everyone said there was a 36 percent chance Boston was going to get him (Duncan), and M.L. and I have said that we would love to have the rivalry of the Sixers and Celtics up again. You should have heard M.L. in the beginning when they started announcing. He said, 'I don't feel good about this, Croce. Get off there. Get out of here.' "

But Carr was taking no credit or blame for the game of chance that went on yesterday in a separate room.

"The balls, I didn't touch any one of them," he said. "I didn't touch a single ball. The job that I did got us to this point. So as far as the balls coming out, I don't believe in good luck and bad luck.

"If you asked me any other time, I would say (the Celtics luck) is pretty good because we have 3 and 6. Your expectations are a lot higher obviously because Tim Duncan is sitting out there. But I think we have two quality players with 3 and 6. Coach Pitino will put that together with what he already has. Coach Pitino knows these players. He had to prepare for them (as coach at Kentucky) and he had Ron Mercer on his team. He knows them as well as anyone."

Quite clearly, the Celtics coveted Duncan, not only because he is the consensus best available player in the draft but because he would also fill a glaring need at center. But the Spurs were all over this one. One of their numerical combinations came up first. Then another San Antonio number came up second. It was, of course, put aside, and a Philadelphia number bounced out.

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