August 27, 1997
One day it was Atlanta. The next day it was New York. The day after that it was somebody else, and then somebody else and so on and so forth until just about the only team that wasn't going to be signing Rick Fox was the Boston Celtics. It's a wonderful thing to be wanted.
Fox has finally made his choice.
"We've reached a verbal agreement with him," Los Angeles Lakers spokesman John Black said yesterday. "He's going to play for us. He's going to come to Los Angeles tomorrow and we expect that he'll sign the contract that day." Terms have not been disclosed.
NBA life is indeed fascinating. Fox was one of the nine players coach Rick Pitino renounced in order to sign away Travis Knight from the Lakers, and now Fox himself lands in Los Angeles, where there are legitimate title aspirations.
At age 28, Fox is at his peak. He's old enough to know what's going on and smart enough to know there's always something more to learn. The Lakers are getting him in his physical prime, and what they are getting is a man who has been wounded emotionally and has something to prove.
They are also getting one of the most versatile mid-sized players in the league. He is coming off an excellent year in which he was, along with Atlanta's Mookie Blaylock, one of only two players in the entire league to average more than 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals a game.
The Celtics' top pick in 1992, Fox drew early raves from both friend and foe alike for his game savvy, although as time went on he frequently found himself in former coach Chris Ford's doghouse when his boundless energy sometimes took him places the mentor thought he didn't quite belong. But any mistakes Fox made resulted from enthusiasm. As Celtic fans were well aware, Fox was one of the hardest-working men in this particular branch of show biz.
At 6 feet 7 inches he is a true swingman, and it has long been a given that he would be best showcased by a team that chooses an up-tempo game. He is an excellent transition player who can both finish off a break and make a clever pass on the move. He also developed into a deadly inside-out 3-point specialist, a skill that should have great appeal in Los Angeles now that he will be on the same team as Shaquille O'Neal.
His departure leaves Dee Brown as the only remaining Celtic who played with any of the Big Three. But the NBA landscape has changed so much in the past five years that Fox will hardly realize he is joining a team that was Boston's mortal enemy for the better part of three decades. The Celtics have had a difficult time maintaining that rivalry, and they'll have an even harder time now because the truth is that on many nights over the past several years the best player they had was none other than Rick Fox.