The Current (Pitino) and Almost (Larry Brown) Coaches Clash Over Radja

June 26, 1997

Attention David Stern: You might want to make sure that Rick Pitino and Larry Brown are at opposite ends of the banquet table at the league meetings in September. This Dino Radja thing isn't setting well in either place.

Last night, Brown, the coach of the 76ers, took a shot at Pitino for saying Radja was fit enough to pass a physical. Radja did not pass the Sixers' physical and the trade, which would have sent him to Philly for Clarence Weatherspoon and Michael Cage, was voided. The Celtics want the league to resuscitate it.

Brown came to the defense of his front office henchman, Billy King, when asked last night about Boston's contention that Radja is not damaged goods.

"Can you imagine this? The kid King makes his first trade and this guy with choir eyes Pitino is telling everybody he can't believe how Radja can play tennis with a 45-year-old orthopedic surgeon who can't run up and down," Brown said.

He went on, "And Pitino saying Radja is physically fit to play 82 games in our league and that he's a non-defender who can't play in a running game? Billy made that trade and we were in favor of it. Radja obviously didn't go through. So now I'm yelling at him King, telling him he's traded for damaged goods. But it's been a great experience for us."

Pitino said the Sixers approached the Celtics about the deal. He added that the Celtics would not have consented to the trade had they known Radja was so worried about his condition that he had gone to see other doctors. The team was unaware of those visits, he said.

Farewell, seniors?

The top two selections were seniors. That probably won't happen again. It had been seven years since Syracuse's Derrick Coleman and Oregon State's Gary Payton were picked 1-2. This year, Tim Duncan and Keith Van Horn seemed to have the pro game in perspective. Moments after he was drafted, Van Horn mentioned that he knows he won't be staying in Philadelphia. "I think they really drafted me with the idea of a trade, trying to get something for me," he said. "It's not done yet." In addition to saying he was looking forward to playing with David Robinson, Duncan weighed in on the fixed rookie salary cap. "It's a great idea," he said. "Of course people want it not to be there, but I think it's a great idea by someone."

Back to work

Pitino isn't wasting any time. Today, he'll be over at Brandeis, working out some free agents and trying to find some height and experience. Pitino has said all along that he prefers to get big man help from the free agent market, although the team went with Ben Pepper, a 7-foot Australian, with its second-round pick. (That sounds like a real Chris Wallace special; the Celtics general manager specializes in obscure foreigners. He was responsible for Martin Muursepp last year.) . . . Pitino on why he did not choose 6-11 Tony Battie, the forward/center from Texas Tech: "I really like Tony Battie's upside. I think he has terrific potential. But he's not ready to contribute for us because we have Antoine Walker. Walker has to play power forward. So Battie is not going to be a potential starter for you, so it's kind of tough to take him as the third pick or the sixth pick and not be a potential starter." . . . Depending on what the NBA says about the Radja-Weatherspoon trade, and what the Celtics do with their free agents, Boston could have more than $ 3 million available to spend on free agents. The Celtics also have the $ 1 million exception to spend. The team said Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer also will be at the Brandeis camp today, but only for a press conference. This particular camp runs through Saturday morning. The workouts are closed.

Rookie camp looming

The team announced that its annual rookie-free agent camp will be held July 6-9, also at Brandeis. Pitino said he expected Billups, Mercer, Eric Williams, Dana Barros, and Walker to all be in attendance. Following that camp, Pitino will take a team to Atlanta to play in the Hawks Summer League July 10-12 in Marietta, Ga. . . . Mercer knows his coach well. Asked where he thought he'd play, Mercer said, "wherever Pitino wants me to." . . . Anyone left who wonders why Kentucky won the 1996 NCAA championship? Or who doubts that Pitino was a master recruiter? With Mercer going to Boston at No. 6 last night, and with Derek Anderson going to Cleveland at No. 13, this means that five members of that team have gone in the first round in the last two years. A year ago, Walker was Boston's choice at No. 6, while Tony Delk went to Charlotte at 16 and Walter McCarty was taken by New York at 19. In addition, Mark Pope was Indiana's second-round choice at No. 52. And that's not all. Another Pitino route was taken in the first round last night. The Houston Rockets bagged USC forward Rodrick Rhodes, a Kentucky transfer, at No. 24.

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