July 6, 1997
Apparently, the Celtics have solved their center problems. It was a $ 22
million solution. According to yesterday's Los Angeles Times, the
Celtics have agreed to a seven-year contract with 7-foot free agent
Knight, who will be 23 when
training camp begins, is no stranger to the area; he spent his
collegiate career at the University of Connecticut. But the former
Lakers backup is unfamiliar with the dollar amounts that now appear on
his contract. This time last season, the Chicago Bulls - the team that
drafted him with the 29th pick in 1996 - were trying to convince him to
work on his game in Europe. He declined and was signed by the Lakers for
The Lakers liked Knight, who
averaged 16.3 minutes, 4.8 points and 4.5 rebounds last season. The team
was elated that the thin center was able to work his way from 12th man
to a valuable backup at center and power forward. But the Lakers could
only offer him just over $ 300,000 for next season. A native southern
Californian, Knight said he wanted to stay in the area. He and his
agent, Arn Tellem, could not resist when the Celtics came waving a
multimillion dollar contract with an "out" clause after three seasons.
Knight acknowledged to the Times that he was indeed moving on to
Boston. However, Celtics spokesman Jeff Twiss said last night that, to
his knowledge, the Celtics did not have any deal in place with Knight.
Usually, he said, a free agent comes to town, tours the team's
facilities and then comes to an agreement. Twiss said that did not
happen with Knight.
"I've talked to our
general manager Chris Wallace, and if he has anything to say, he'll say
it tonight or Monday," Twiss said. The team begins a rookie-free agent
camp this evening at Brandeis.
Team president and coach Rick Pitino did not return phone calls from the Globe yesterday, nor did Wallace.
in an interview with WBZ Radio yesterday, Wallace did say the team had
spoken with Knight's representatives and revealed, "Knight impressed us.
He's definitely someone who can play Rick Pitino-type basketball."
To make room for Knight, the Celtics will have to renounce a few of their free agents (they have nine). Pitino
already has said he will renounce guard Todd Day, who made $ 2.9
million last season. The team's other, relatively high-salaried free
agents are center Frank Brickowski (who made $ 1.7 million last season)
and forward Rick Fox ($ 1.75 million).
month, there were rumblings at the final predraft camp in Chicago that
Knight would command a large contract. It was then that he and his agent
made it clear that they were not interested in signing a short-term, $ 1
million contract. Supposedly, the Celtics were not the only team in the
market for Knight. There were at least two other offers that would have
paid Knight more than $ 2 million per season.
many scouts and general managers were surprised to learn that the
Celtics paid such a high price for Knight. He was a bit player for most
of November and December. He started 14 games when Shaquille O'Neal was
hurt and played in 71 games. He shot 51 percent from the field and was
second to O'Neal in rebounds per minute.
to reach Knight for comment yesterday were unsuccessful. Knight told
the Times that it was hard for him to leave Lakers executive vice
president Jerry West and general manager Mitch Kupchak.
really have mixed emotions," he told the newspaper. "I should be elated
right now, but I'm not. I feel so much loyalty to the Lakers. I respect
Jerry and Mitch so much and I understand what they say and believe what
"But you work at something as hard as you can, and then it's there. The security. That's the rest of my life, right there."
addition of Knight may not guarantee that the Celtics will be
significantly better than last season, but it does ensure that they will
have a different look. At least three-fifths of their starting lineup
could be altered with Knight at center and rookies Chauncey Billups and
Ron Mercer in the backcourt. Before Knight's signing, Pervis Ellison was
the only center under contract.