July 13, 1997
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 Joe Bird?
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.
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
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.
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.
If 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
Danya 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