Travis is Tailor Made for Pitino Ball

July 7, 1997

Chris Wallace said free agent center Travis Knight is "tailor-made for Rick Pitino basketball." The Celtics' general manager added the team is "very interested" in Knight and has been recruiting the 7-footer since July 1. Wallace said many things yesterday, except what appears to be obvious: Knight will be the newest Celtic.

"Well, I can't comment on that right now," Wallace said during opening night of rookie-free agent camp at Brandeis. "Nothing is official until a contract is signed."

Knight apparently has a seven-year contract in place, worth about $ 22 million. On Friday, he told the Los Angeles Times that he was leaving the Lakers for Boston. Yesterday, he told WBZ Radio that he's on his way here. "I did some soul searching and decided," said Knight. "I'll probably come to Boston in the next couple of days. Money wasn't that important a factor. They're rebuilding and I think it's an exciting situation there. Pitino obviously will be very exciting to play for."

Still, the Celtics made no announcement. More important, they didn't renounce any players. Renouncing one or more of their nine free agents would have to happen before a signing because the team is over the salary cap.

Although Wallace would not say that the 22-year-old Knight is on his way to town this week, he did explain why the Celtics would be interested in the former University of Connecticut player.

"Big people in this business who have talent and upside are rare," Wallace said. He said Knight began to tap his potential with the Lakers last season, when he averaged just over 16 minutes, 4.8 points, and 4.5 rebounds. Wallace said he has been following Knight since his days at UConn and has been impressed with his progress, although, he said, "He's going to have to get stronger." When he does come to Boston, Knight will have to log twice as many minutes as he did last season in the shadows of Shaquille O'Neal and Elden Campbell.

Part of the Celtics' "great interest" in Knight, Wallace said, relates to his ability to play power forward and center, as well as his mobility. A lumbering, halfcourt-oriented big man will not thrive in the Pitino system, and Knight can run the court with ease.

Knight's signing may be even more important with the uncertain status of Dino Radja. According to Wallace, the 6-11 Radja is in Europe working with a personal trainer. Wallace said the power forward's position with the team is status quo. He also said the Celtics have not examined Radja since the 76ers determined June 24 that his left knee and back were not strong enough to survive an 82-game season. Take Radja out of the mix, and the only Boston player over 6-10 is the brittle Pervis Ellison.

Wallace refused to speculate on when Knight would arrive, but indications are that the deal should be completed no later than tomorrow.
Pitino wasn't a softie on the first night of camp. Many players arrived in town yesterday for the 8 p.m. start. But it wasn't an easy night. There were still players on the court after 90 minutes. Some of the faces were familiar: Dee Brown, Greg Minor, Eric Williams. There were other roster quirks, too: Cousins Danya Abrams and Otis Hill are competing for roster spots, and the most physically impressive player, 320-pound Garth Joseph, could not participate because of injury. The camp resumes this morning with the first of two sessions.

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