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.
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
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.
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
"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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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."