Stewart Didn't Say No to Green for More Green

January 27, 1999

Stewart Didn't Say No to Green for More Green

   TORONTO - The Celtics would not promise Michael Stewart the type of contract that the Raptors did. But that's not why the 6-foot-10-inch center told Boston, "No thanks." The real reason, he said, is that the Celtics are too young.

Never mind that Stewart is 23. Never mind that he would have been joining a group of players in his generation. Stewart said he didn't need that at this point in his career. "What really made the decision for me is that the Raptors have guys like Kevin Willis and Charles Oakley," Stewart said. "Those are veteran guys who I can learn a lot from. I'm sure I could learn in Boston, too. But this was a better situation."

Stewart said his situation "was not about money," even though the Raptors plan to substantially improve his one-year, $1 million deal once the season is over. Earlier, Stewart joked that coach Rick Pitino was like a swift-talking Jerry Maguire during the recruiting process in Boston. "I had a good time there," Stewart said. "I got to see a lot of Boston, got to see the new practice facility, worked out with some of the guys . . . "

But in the end, the team in green was too young.

A free-for-all

Last night's game was free for Raptors fans. Problem was, many of them could not see the difference between Tracy McGrady and Alvin Williams because they were so high above the court in SkyDome. Season ticket-holders got their regular seats in the lower bowl, while the people holding freebies were sent to the rafters. Spectators scrambling into SkyDome reportedly shattered two stadium doors and ripped out a set of turnstiles. Two fans were treated for cuts to their hands, a Raptors spokesman said. "They just started pushing from behind when the doors opened," said Jim Roe, director of event operations for Maple Leaf Sport and Entertainment. "We were overwhelmed and off guard."

The Raptors are planning two more giveaways of tickets, including one for their regular-season home opener against the Milwaukee Bucks at Maple Leaf Gardens Feb. 9.. . . Former Celtic project William Cunningham (who could pass for a 7-foot Michael Jordan) is in camp with Toronto . . . Kenny Anderson was booed loudly before the game. Before becoming a Celtic, Anderson was traded to Toronto in the Damon Stoudamire deal but refused to report to the Raptors. He didn't want to play for an expansion team . . . Lorin Engquist, former official scorer at Johns Hopkins (1987-91), sent an e-mail correcting an error in this space. Celtics shooting coach Andy Enfield actually was 431 for 466 from the free throw line in his career at the school.

Spurts of spurs

Pitino said the bone spurs in Greg Minor's ankle may not require surgery after all. Apparently, the condition flares up in 24- and 48-hour increments, then goes away. Of course, there are two ways of looking at that: You can be optimistic that the pain goes away or you can be concerned about the recurrence. Dana Barros tried to return from a bone spur problem in 1996-97 before finally conceding that he would have to sit out the season . . . Other injury problems: It now appears that Walter McCarty's turf toe could keep him out a week or two; Bruce Bowen (slight wrist fracture) will most likely miss Opening Night a week from Friday; and Andrew DeClercq (wrist) could be out two weeks . . . The team has changed its warmup garb. "Boston," in white block letters, is now printed across the front of the warmups ("Celtics" was there last season) . . . Antoine Walker was smiling and chatting with official Bennett Salvatore before the game. Celtic fans have to like that. Walker didn't click with the referees his first two seasons in the NBA.

More big news

The Celtics' continuing search for center help has landed another big one: Eric Riley. The 7-footer from Michigan, who has played for four NBA teams - one per season - in his career will be at Brandeis today. "We need another body," Pitino said last night. "He won't be ready to play, but we need another body for protection." The coach is right about that; the Celtics had only nine players in uniform. Riley was a reserve on both Michigan "Fab Five" teams and was a second-round pick of the Mavericks in 1993. His NBA career consists of 151 games over four seasons in Houston, Los Angeles (Clippers), Minnesota, and Dallas. He has a championship ring from his stint with Houston (1993-94), although he didn't appear in the playoffs, and also was once traded for Popeye Jones. He has career averages of 3.3 points and 2.5 rebounds a game.

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