Popeye Plans to Stay

Popeye Plans to Stay

January 20, 1999

 WALTHAM - Rick Pitino had said that if we saw Popeye Jones again at Brandeis, we could reasonably assume he had agreed to stay with the Celtics.

Jones was there yesterday. He said he was going to sign. General manager Chris Wallace said only, "Let your eyes do your work here. We said all along he was a priority."

Jones missed all but 14 games last season while recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He came to Boston from Toronto in the Kenny Anderson deal and diligently rehabilitated, dramatically reducing his weight and body fat.

"I think this is the best place for me," Jones said yesterday. "They've done a lot for me. I feel comfortable here."

Asked if he felt the deal was done, he said, "In my mind, it is."

The Celtics had originally offered a three-year deal starting at a little more than $2 million. Jones earned slightly more than $1.8 million last season. More than a dozen teams had called Jones's agent, Jimmy Sexton, seeking to put the forward into the $1.75 million exception. That in itself spoke volumes about a player known primarily for one thing - rebounding - who had been hurt all last season.

"It was really nice," Jones said. "It makes me feel like I do have a place in this league, and things that I accomplished before, other teams noticed that. So it made me feel good.

"This is a tough injury. Ten years ago, your career was over if you had this kind of injury. Now a lot of guys come back from it.

"I think this year is going to be the toughest, to get back to the level where I was. It's kind of like Mike Tyson. He hadn't fought in 18 months and he looked kind of raggedy. I think at times I'm going to look like that. But if I just keep pushing, and with the type of will I have, I'll be fine."

As planned - sort of

The Celtics will play the Raptors in their only home exhibition game Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. Toronto was scheduled to be in town that night had there been no lockout . . . Travis Knight again was a no-show at Brandeis - he has not shown since last Thursday - and the Celtics think he has left town now that he knows he isn't on the team anymore. Once the lockout is officially lifted, Knight will end up back in Los Angeles with the Lakers in an even-up deal for Tony Battie. "Everyone knows Travis wanted to be in LA, so it doesn't surprise anybody," said Walter McCarty. Added Antoine Walker, "I think he liked playing for Del Harris and the Lakers. But Boston has been good to him. He got his contract here. But it's a good situation for him." Knight did not return a message left on his beeper. Battie's prospective teammates, meanwhile, welcomed the deal. "He didn't play too well in Denver last year, but he's a great talent," Jones said. "A lot of guys have tough rookie seasons, so I think anybody can bounce back from a tough rookie season. He's a good player." Walker likes Battie's athleticism and shot-blocking ability. "He's going to fit well into the system here," Walker said. "I think it's a good trade for both teams."

The other Jones . . .

Dontae Jones expects to be at Brandeis when training camp opens. "He's still a part of the Boston Celtics," said Jones's agent, Tim Jumper. "Unless they trade him or waive him, he'll be there. I just think it's real unprofessional with a guy on your roster to just sit there and hold him." Jumper spoke with Wallace yesterday. "He told me they're trying to trade him," Jumper said. "But the bottom line is we can't wait around." Asked about Dontae's situation, Wallace said, "I'll leave that to Rick." Pitino said Monday that Jones would not be on the Celtics this season . . . Free agent guard Marlon Garnett is working out with the regular Celtics, hoping to win an invitation to training camp. He played at Santa Clara with Steve Nash and spent last year in Turkey. He's also a friend of Paul Pierce's from the UCLA pickup games last summer and fall. Garnett said yesterday that he was here on the advice of his agent, Dan Fegan, who also represents Greg Minor.

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