We Hardly Knew Ya, Travis

We Hardly Knew Ya, Travis

January 19, 1999

WALTHAM - Travis Knight was one Celtic who was not at Brandeis yesterday, and Rick Pitino said he didn't know why. The reason may be that Knight is packing for the Coast.

Pitino is close to pulling the trigger on a deal that would send Knight, who had a tough year last season, back to the Lakers and Shaquille O'Neal's large shadow. In return, the Celtics would receive second-year forward/center Tony Battie, the fifth player taken in the 1997 draft.

Asked about the swap, Pitino said he could not comment. Asked about Battie in general, the coach noted that the team strongly considered drafting him but went instead for Chauncey Billups.

"He needs to get stronger defensively, but we like his potential for shot-blocking, his athleticism, his running, and his low-post presence on offense," Pitino said.

Battie had a horrible rookie season in Denver - GM Dan Issel referred to him as "El Busto" - but the situation there was ridiculous. The Lakers got him in the deal for Nick Van Exel. Battie makes slightly less than Knight ($2.238 million to $2.4 million) but the two are close enough to make it an even-up swap.

The deal would get Knight back to LA, where he had a surprisingly good rookie season. Pitino shocked the hoop world when he signed Knight to a seven-year, $22 million deal, one of his first personnel moves. Since then, Knight's agent, Arn Tellem, has been devising ways to get Knight back to LA as his client struggled for much of the year in Boston.

Games on tap

The first exhibition game against Toronto will be in SkyDome next Tuesday. The teams also will play a game in Boston. No date has been announced, but the original 1998-99 schedule had the Celtics and Raptors playing in Boston Jan. 29 . . . Pitino said there wasn't much substance to many of the three-way and even four-way deals on the rumor mill. One had the Celtics getting Jamal Mashburn and Vitaly Potapenko and losing Paul Pierce and Andrew DeClercq in a four-wayer with Cleveland, Miami, and Golden State . . . An update on the Joneses: Dontae Jones is history. "I don't believe Dontae will be on this basketball team," Pitino said. "Right now, I can't comment too much, but I don't believe he will be here." Pitino is trying to cram Jones into a deal, believing that his contract (one year left) will make him attractive. If not, he may cut him. "It would be a disruption to have him around," said the coach, adding that he doesn't see a spot for Jones, who has not been to any of the workouts. Attempts to reach Jones's agent yesterday were unsuccessful. As for Popeye Jones, Pitino said there is no deal yet. Jones left for home and may come back soon. If he does show up, that will mean he has a deal with the Celtics. According to Pitino, Jones said he was planning on coming back to Boston, "but I wouldn't read anything into that." Popeye's agent, Jimmy Sexton, was not happy with the Celtics' first proposal . . . Several Celtics staged a public shirts/skins game at Brandeis, but Pitino said he couldn't stand to watch. "I'd rather play with my dog than watch that," he said. "It's nauseating. It's five guys on the perimeter, playing one-on-one. No one reversing the ball. When the league mandated that we couldn't watch, they were doing us a favor." A couple of NBA security men were there yesterday to discuss with Pitino and general manager Chris Wallace the do's and don'ts. The coaches are allowed to watch but not allowed to communicate with the players.

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