Will Pitino-Brown Spat Refuel Celtic-Sixer Rivalry?

June 28, 1997

Whose longing for the days when a Celtics-76ers game dredged up a bucket of bad feelings have been granted their wish. While M.L. Carr and Sixers president Pat Croce tried to revive the rivalry, all it took was for Rick Pitino and Larry Brown to enter the picture.

While the proven talents of both coaches show they are clearly beyond such scrappishness, competitiveness will light the way.

Pitino's comments say he believes - with reason - that Philadelphia soured on the Dino Radja for Clarence Weatherspoon and Michael Cage deal after making it, thus assuring Radja would not pass his physical.

Brown, who wasn't happy at all with the Celtics for the way he was treated during his talks with the club, fairly snapped out on draft night when the Celts were still planning to challenge Philly's Radja finding. In an age when NBA leaders prefer coach-speak and candor is couched, Brown calling Pitino "this guy with choir eyes" is the NBA equivalent of Kruschev banging his shoe on the U.N. podium.

There has been a call to arms. Well, a call to finely tailored suits, at least.

And how about Brown calling Celtics team physician Arnie Scheller "a 45-year-old orthopedic surgeon who can't run up and down"?


Sure, it's what happens on the floor that counts, but delicious subplots just seem to make things all the merrier. There hasn't been pregame emotion for a Celtics tilt since what? Since they went into the last week of the season in desperate search of their first Atlantic Division victory?

GHOSTS IN THE MACHINE: It's been open season on Radja in these parts, and several sources of the vitriol could well be called for piling on.

You may not like Radja's game and the fact he would get upset with teammates and not make his proper defensive rotations, but he  an offseason worker. Indeed, it was his summer workouts that often contributed to his injury problems.

And perhaps Pitino shouldn't have been so insistent that Radja remain in Boston for this summer. Radja is sincerely in love with his hometown in Croatia, and since the NBA doesn't make road trips there, summer is his only shot to get extended time there.

One other aspect to this story will have to remain undisclosed, but trust me when I tell you this is a very difficult time in Dino Radja's life. Business is business, but personal life is personal life.

As for Radja's claim of injury, one Sixers source said, "It's bone on bone. He can play a game, but he can't practice afterwards. The knee will swell. He can't play four games in six days."

SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND: Don Nelson is shooting par for his course in Dallas. No one there can understand why he traded 15th pick Kelvin Cato to Portland for 18th pick Chris Anstey and $ 800,000. Just as no one there can understand his trades.

And Nellie, who left Texas Friday to do some overseas scouting and, of course, stop by his home in Maui, is not a bit concerned about the fans' concern.

"I suppose I'm like everyone else," Nelson said. "It's more fun when everyone understands the pick, when everyone knows the player and likes the pick. We have to accept what people say. I got more criticized in the Bay Area for drafting (Latrell) Sprewell than for drafting anyone else. Sometimes it's a good omen."

ALL YOUR FRIENDS HAVE GONE AWAY: Shawn Kemp is still a Sonic, and there wasn't much talk about changing that in the days before the draft. Clubs weren't calling Seattle with any realistic offers. In fact, they were hardly calling.

"It really cooled down," said Sonics GM Wally Walker.

Maybe that's because people realized Kemp committed an NBA-high 320 fouls and had 280 turnovers, seventh-most in the league, this season. Or how about the way he simply couldn't put aside his personal jealousies for the good of the team?

George Karl said he'd maybe see Kemp at Gary Payton's wedding next month and try to get things worked out then.

Nobody wins unless everybody wins.

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