Duncan was Planning on Playing for Celtics

June 8, 1997

CHICAGO - If you spent the latter part of the NBA season preparing for a Celtics-Tim Duncan marriage, you were not alone. Tim Duncan was right there with you.

"I'd been hearing about Boston all year," said the draft prize who will be making his NBA home in San Antonio. "I tried not to pay too much attention to those things because I was in the middle of my season (at Wake Forest), but that's where I thought I was going to go.

"On the day of the draft lottery, I was just sitting there waiting for Boston to get the No.1 pick. I pretty much figured that's how it was going to happen. Then when Boston's name came up early (at No.3), I sat up in the chair and started to get nervous. I wasn't sure what was going to happen."

What happened was Philadelphia getting the No.2 choice and the Spurs earning the right to the top spot and, undoubtedly, Duncan. And Duncan doesn't mind. Though he liked the idea of playing for the Celtics, he is quite pleased to be headed for the San Antonio climate ("I spent the first 16 or 17 years in the Virgin Islands") and a union with David Robinson. It was just a surprise for him to realize he was going to be a Spur.

"Nothing was certain before the lottery, so I really tried to keep everything open in my mind," Duncan said. "But Boston was really all anyone talked about, except for my brother. He kept saying he thought I was going to San Antonio.

"But I saw a lot of positive things with Boston, especially with coach (Rick) Pitino coming in. He's a great coach, and I heard he's a great motivator. I thought he could really change the situation up there. I thought it would have been a good thing to step in there and help rebuild the franchise. I know with the players they already had and the changes that were going to be made, we could have a lot of fun turning things around with that team."

Certainly Celtics types would have had fun with Duncan, but now, if in fact they do keep picks No.3 and 6, they will have to get their kicks with others. And those potential draftees seem genuinely impressed with the changes the Celtics have made. There is a real interest in being part of the more open style Pitino will employ.

"I think everyone would like to play for him," said Utah's Keith Van Horn. "He's known for getting the most out of his players, and hopefully he'll like me."

Van Horn was scheduled to work out for the Celtics last Sunday, but the birth of his second child and first son, Nicholas, altered the plans. He'll now be coming in a week from tomorrow. Time for daddy to go back to work.

Work has been a big issue with Villanova's Tim Thomas, with Pitino openly questioning how much the 6-foot-9 bundle of talent wants to play the game and is willing to work at it. But Thomas said yesterday the rap isn't right.

"I think that started in high school with me," said the 20-year old who is entering the draft after just one year with 'Nova.

"I grew up playing the game. I've got the love for the game. But when I was in high school, I was playing against a lot of guys smaller than me, and it was easy to dominate. I think I got bored playing in high school, and people kept talking about that with me.

"But I know it's going to be tough for any rookie in the NBA. I'm no idiot. I know it's going to take a lot of hard work. I'm not going to walk into the NBA and be Michael Jordan. Even Michael Jordan didn't start off where he is. He had to work at it, and I will, too."

The Celtics have expressed interest in Chauncey Billups, a scoring guard at Colorado who says he'll have no problem handling the point in the NBA.

"I hope they like me," Billups said. "I met with coach (Jim) O'Brien and coach (Winston) Bennett when they were at my workout in Stamford (Conn.), and they were great to talk to.

"I just think it would be perfect for me to get to play in coach Pitino's system. He's a guard-oriented coach, and it would be a great opportunity to be in that kind of system."

Among those who won't be coming in for an audition is Ron Mercer, who spent his last two seasons working out and playing for Pitino at Kentucky. Though Mercer has doubts about whether he'll wind up with the Celtics, he has no question on what Pitino will accomplish.

"It might take him a couple of years, but he'll turn them around," Mercer said. "It'd be great to play for him again, because you know they're going to get a lot better. Just look at what he did when he came to Kentucky and how much he turned things around there."


FLCeltsFan said...

For a team with a leprechaun for a mascot, Boston has never had luck in the lottery. The conspiracy bug in my says Stern had something to do with it, but I never expect us to do well in the lottery. In the Durant/Oden lottery, we got the worst possible pick we could have gotten with the 2nd most chances. Guess this goes into the "Best laid plans of mice and men" category.

Lex said...

you are absolutely right FCF.

Oh well.

good memories of banner 17 anyhoo

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