July 7, 1997
Supposedly, fans don't come to games to watch the coach. This is
supposed to be a player's league. So what to make of the fuss over Larry
Making his debut as Pacers
coach, the Celtics legend walked toward his sideline seat at Life
University last night and received a standing ovation. Television
cameras tracked his initial path to the bench. Children and adults
flocked to him, seeking autographs. He declined. You must understand, he
is Coach Bird now. How often do you see a coach signing something
before the game? It was a mostly free agent-rookie contest in which the
Pacers beat the Hawks, 88-75. It was a humid summer night. It was
un-NBA-like. But it was still Bird's first game as coach.
expect the man to be quiet on the sideline. Two minutes into the game,
he called Jalen Rose over and told the guard to be assertive. He yapped
with the officials.
Coach Bird could face coach Rick Pitino tonight when the Pacers face the Celtics, bringing intrigue to these often dull games.
Cavs get the jump
The Celtics lost the opener of their four-team round-robin tournament
to the Cavaliers, 85-75. Many spectators at Life University had joked
that the Celtics were the early favorites, since their roster includes
Dana Barros, Greg Minor, and Eric Williams. Problem is, none of those
players is a center. That would have helped, because the Celtics were
pounded on the boards, 37-20.
The play of
Barros and Williams was encouraging - especially the 6-foot-8-inch
Williams, who appears to be in terrific shape. On one play, he left
Devin Davis landlocked with a spin move. Williams finished with 15
points in 32 minutes.
Minor looked lost. He began the game at small forward and took only two shots in 27 minutes. He missed both.
he remains with the Celtics, Minor will be pressed for minutes by
rookie Ron Mercer. He was a clear crowd favorite, primarily because he
often went to the basket with style and finished with 10 points. This is
how good things were for Mercer: He was cheered even when he missed a
reverse layup that would have been nifty.
Abrams had a forgettable night. In 16 minutes, he totaled 4 points and
five fouls. The forward from Boston College seems to be plagued by a
classic NBA problem: too big to guard small forwards; too small to bang
with the big guys.
Where's the star?
A television crew from Lexington, Ky., was in town to record Pitino's
first game with the Celtics. Before the game, the crew interviewed
former Wildcats Derek Anderson and Mercer. Only one problem. Pitino
wasn't in the gym. He had an afternoon flight to Atlanta (the rest of
the team departed Boston at 8 a.m.) and reportedly went to the team
hotel trying to close the Dino Radja deal . . . As for Radja, the
forward's status remains the same. He's close to signing on with
Panathinaikos AC, but nothing is official yet. "I'm sure we'll be able
to work something out soon," Celtics general manager Chris Wallace said.
"I can't put a timetable on it." Asked why the deal was taking so long,
Wallace said, "There are some t's and i's that need to be crossed. From
my experience with international moves, it always takes a little longer
than you think it should." When the Celtics free themselves of Radja,
sources say they will quickly sign free agent forward Derek Strong. The
6-8 Strong, a former Celtic, spent last season with the Magic . . . When
the Celtics waive Radja, they must wait 10 days for him to clear.
Fox crossed up?
Sources say Rick Fox is not happy with the Celtics. Supposedly, the
club had a handshake deal with its former captain worth $ 20-plus
million. But when they realized they could not sign Fox and Travis
Knight, the Celtics renounced Fox and eight others and signed Knight.
Was there a verbal agreement between the Celtics and Fox? "No," Wallace
said. "I will say that we didn't want to lose him. But we didn't want to
lose the big guy, either. There was a heavy recruiting battle going on"
with the Lakers. "And if he had left Boston for the West, there's a
good chance he wouldn't be coming back East."
Minor has decided to appeal the latest court decision in Kentucky which
ordered him to pay $ 30,000 a month in child support to the mother of
his three children. Attorneys for Minor, who will earn $ 2.16 million
this season, filed the motion yesterday with the Kentucky state court of
appeals. A hearing will be held Monday to determine if Minor must post
bond during the appellate process. Minor had been paying $ 2,000 a month
until the recent court order in March. Meanwhile, yesterday's appeal
motion apparently did not stop the release of more than $ 80,000 held in
escrow since March. That amount is due to arrive today in Kentucky and
is being sent to Celestyne Rowan, Minor's former girlfriend and the
mother of the three children. Minor speaks occasionally to the children
and is not involved with Rowan anymore. Earlier this year, he failed to
go through on a real estate deal, which resulted in Rowan and the
children being evicted from their home. For the last six weeks, she and
the children have shared one bedroom in her mother's two-bedroom house
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