Bowen on the Bubble?


The story was told for moments such as these. When Bruce Bowen signed with the Miami Heat last season, he was pulled aside by veteran Keith Askins. The message was clear: Think about basketball.

"He said to me, 'Bruce, I've seen a lot of people come and go. And I'm going to tell you, you can't worry about what management is going to do. You just have to play,' " Bowen recalled yesterday.

That brings us to this morning. Officially, 17 men are on the Celtics roster. Only 12 will stay. The first game of the season is six days away. Bowen said he has heeded Askins's advice throughout training camp.

"I don't have time to worry about being cut," he said. "If they do, they do."

Bowen doesn't have to worry about that. Others do. Especially the guys on the roster who stand 6 feet 6 inches or shorter.

One of the obvious moves is to waive newcomer Scott Brooks. But that will take time because just before Brooks was traded from the Knicks Wednesday, he was scheduled to have elbow surgery to remove chips. He was estimating his return date as Dec. 1. Since that is the case, Brooks could file a grievance with the NBA, saying he was waived without being given a chance to recover from surgery. Apparently, though, the guard is not interested in doing that.

The removal of Brooks would leave the roster at 16. New forward John Thomas, who did not play last night in the exhibition game against the Bucks, will probably begin the season on the injured list. That leaves 15 players, with three to go.

One of the moves could come via trade. The Celtics have had repeated discussions involving Dee Brown and Dana Barros. Other teams have an obvious interest in both. The catch is that the Celtics would ideally like to trade a contract for a pick, which rarely happens (they did that in the deal that sent Eric Williams to the Nuggets; both sides were pleased with the results).

As for the other trims, it appears almost certain that at least one of the free agents signed by Chris Wallace and Rick Pitino will be cut. That means either Tyus Edney or Tony Massenburg will have to go. The 5-10 Edney is most likely, although Pitino said nothing should be made of his lack of playing time. He's averaged five minutes a game in the exhibition season. Greg Minor has not found a spot in Pitino's rotation, but if the Celtics cut him, they would have to swallow about $ 10 million and would receive no salary cap relief.

Block party?

New Celtic Dontae Jones will see a familiar face every time he walks into the team's locker room. He not only knows Ron Mercer from the Southeastern Conference, he grew up a few blocks from him in Nashville. "Yeah, we used to play together all the time," Jones said. "I'm older than Ron, but everyone at home knew he was the best player around. He was just that kind of player." . . . Travis Knight picked up two fouls in the first 24 seconds last night. The first came after 11 seconds, when the center was whistled for a call by official Ted Bernhardt on contact that Pitino labeled "gentle." When Knight was summoned to the bench, Pitino told the referee he should have given Knight a warning. He added, "Earl Strom would have done it that way." . . . The newest Bucks, Tyrone Hill and Terrell Brandon, did not dress for the game . . . The exhibition season ends tonight when the Celtics play the Sixers at Philadelphia's CoreStates Center.

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