Nine Carr-Era Celts Get Thrown Under the Bus

July 8, 1997

"Renounce" is such a powerful word, don't you think?

Maybe it's just that Catholic thing.

"Do you renounce Satan?"

That question should resonate in all those parochial school alums. I mean, asking us if we wanted to just say no to Satan would have been one thing, but asking us to renounce him was another matter entirely. The word had real clout. Asking us to "renounce" Satan carried additional weight. Criticizing Satan would have been one thing, but asking us to "renounce" him told us that this really was a very bad creature.

And so the Celtics took the unprecedented step yesterday of not just releasing, not just waiving, not just saying au revoir, to no fewer than nine players, but of renouncing them all. You have this image of making them walk the plank, or something.

So long, Todd Day. Bye-bye, Rick Fox. Farewell, Frank (We Hardly Knew Ye) Brickowski. Too-da-loo, Marty Conlon. See ya later, Brett Szabo. And Godspeed, Nate Driggers, Michael Hawkins, Alton Lister, and Steve Hamer. Nine guys whacked in one day. Nine guys swept out to sea to make room for Travis Knight.

Wow. What a truly amazing country.

The good people in Huskyland must be slapping their very own selves upside the head. They must figure there are two Travis Knights. Down in the Nutmeg State, they surely believe we have a clear case of The Name's The Same, because the Travis Knight they know could not possibly be worth a seven-year NBA contract good for $ 22 million.

I recall driving home one night during Knight's junior year. He had just turned in a creditable performance against someone or other, and I was listening to the UConn postgame show on the radio. He hadn't put up great numbers, just creditable ones. But they were slobbering all over him, and I came to the conclusion that this might have been the night when the 7-footer from Sandy, Utah, had first learned to, as they say, walk and chew gum at the same time.

He followed that up with a nice senior year, and I realized that he actually had a chance to have a fringe NBA career because a) he was 7 feet tall, b) he could shoot from the foul line, and c) he could get up and down the floor. But the absolute outer limit I foresaw was roster filler. I figured that he could, if he looked both ways before crossing the street and drank his milk to the bottom of the glass, become the next Matt Bullard, but that's all. And the Matt Bullards of the world don't command seven-year, $ 22 million contracts, even in this bloated expansion age.

Well, God bless Travis Knight is all I can say. Envy is a terrible vice, and so I will suspend that thought on the say-so of Rick Pitino. If Rick feels Travis showed enough last year as a Laker to be worth a $ 22 million commitment which, for the time being, anyway, puts the Celtics in a tenuous 1998 salary cap predicament, then I'm willing to go along with the program. And before you even ask, no, I would not have extended the same benefit of the doubt to M.L. Carr. If M.L. had done this, I would have called for the league-authorized shrink. But M.L. had forfeited all credibility. Rick is still in our honeymoon period.

As for the renouncees, good bleepin' riddance to Todd Day. Let's start with that. He came here as the party of the second part in a classic my-headache-for-your-headache trade in which the Celtics shipped the disgruntled Sherman Douglas to Milwaukee. Say this for Mr. Day: there was no deceptive advertising. He came billed as a selfish, slothful, entirely loathsome player who had occasional offensive ability, but no real clue as to how to be a winning NBA player, and that's exactly what he is. He was so labeled in Arkansas, and nothing has changed. Losing him is a classic case of addition by subtraction. I would not only wish him renounced. He also deserves to be denounced.

I will, however, miss Marty Conlon, the player my astute daughter Jessica refers to as "Secret Weapon." He became something of a fan favorite during the dismal 1996-97 season, although I was never quite sure the crowd cheers were sincere. Whether they were or weren't, I'd like to go on record as a big-time Marty Conlon fan. This is a man who truly knows how to play basketball, whatever his physical limitations, and I assume his career is far from over. He would have fit in with Pitino on his brainpower alone, and I'm willing to bet it pains the mentor to include him in this necessary purge.

But the real killer here is saying farewell to Fox. Lord knows he has paid his dues in this town. He gave the team six dedicated seasons. He played every second of every game as hard as he could, and he did absolutely everything asked of him by both Chris Ford and Carr.

I know he would have been an ideal Pitino player, but the truth is that Fox deserves better. He deserves a regular rotation spot on a contender, and he deserves it now, at age 28. There are plenty of OK teams in this league who could use a legitimate 6-7 swingman with boundless energy, and I hope one of them makes him a fabulous offer.

Let the record show that Rick Fox should not be renounced. He should be bequeathed. Fox deserves a testimonial banquet. Day is lucky we didn't build a scaffold. As for Knight, get yourself a good financial planner and thank your maker he saw fit to make you 7 feet tall.

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