Pitino makes point about scoring

July 14, 1997

Rick Pitino made his rookie-free agent debut last night. You can be sure the man didn't sneak into the Life University gym.

"He's like Elvis," Celtics general manager Chris Wallace said. As the GM said this, there were people reaching around him with cameras, pens, hats, and books, all trying to get something signed by the Celtics coach and president.

When the Celtics' game with the Hawks began, Pitino was at the end of the bench. Assistant coach Jim O'Brien coached the Celtics to a 107-78 win. Pitino said afterward that he didn't understand why the possessions in the NBA have slipped so dramatically. The Celtics took care of that against the Hawks, breaking 100 points. No big deal? Well, consider that they were the only team here to score 100 in a game.

Veterans on parade

Most of the happenings here are classic rookie and free agent stuff. The gymnasium is a humidity box. The seats are so close to the benches that fans run up to celebrity coaches (hello, Larry Bird) and ask for autographs at halftime. Excluding big-name rookies, the best players are your Darvin Hams, Priest Lauderdales, and Reggie Gearys.

You won't find many players who made the NBA All-Star Game here. Unless you look at the Celtics bench. You won't find many players who started for their teams last season. Unless you look at the Celtics bench. Players with four more guaranteed years on their contracts? Yep, Celtics bench.

Dana Barros, Eric Williams, and Greg Minor are all NBA veterans. While most players spent the past three days trying to prove they deserved playing time, the Celtics Trio was trying to prove something to the new coaches. They may have been members of a wretched 15-67 team, but they wanted to show the new guys that they can play. It's what most employees would do for a new boss.

"I definitely wanted to show everybody what I was capable of doing," he said. "I thought I was going to get some support from my boy Antoine Walker, but he couldn't make it." Williams did fine by himself, constantly spinning and head faking on his way to the hoop.

Minor didn't establish himself until Friday. "I was real nervous on Thursday," he said. "I know I didn't play well. I finally told myself to relax and I felt a lot more comfortable after that."

Since experimentation is always in effect here, Minor spent some time at small forward. He is a legitimate 220-pounder, so he could play there without being pushed around.

On opening night, Barros shot well from the field and executed a terrific baseline drive. An All-Star with Philadelphia during the 1994-95 season, Barros was out to prove that he can play point guard. He did a solid job of it on Thursday, but he looked more natural as a shooter.

The Celtics have trades to make and free agents to sign, but the veterans gave their bosses a better idea of what they currently have.

Setting up camp

The Celtics aren't finished with their camps. "I'm going to have one later this month and I'm going to have another one next month," said Pitino. "I'm going to keep having them until we get it right." . . . Pitino had lunch yesterday with free agent center Andrew DeClercq, who played last season with the Warriors. DeClercq, 24, stands 6 feet 10 inches and can fulfill a drastic Celtics need. "We need a few more 4 men and 5 men," Pitino said of power forwards and centers . . . Pitino's take on the Dino Radja situation: "It could be done on Monday or he could be back with us. It could go either way." On Friday, Radja's agent, Marc Fleisher, said he was pessimistic that the 6-11 forward would play with Panathinaikos AC. Wallace insists that there is no reason for gloom. Clearly, though, the team would like to get a chunk (or all) of Radja's $ 5.3 million salary off their cap. Wallace says he has waited as long as 11 weeks for an international deal to be completed . . . Barros' left ankle was sore, so he didn't play Friday or yesterday . . . Standouts from last night: Ron Mercer (crowd pleaser), Travis Williams and Eric Williams (combined 10 of 12 from the field) and Anthony Tucker (nice all-around game with 11 points and seven rebounds in 14 minutes).

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