Delk Gives the Celtics Instant -0-

February 23, 2002

DALLAS - There were 50-60 tickets available for Thursday night's Suns-Grizzlies game in Memphis. That's because native Tennessean Tony Delk wasn't around to distribute them to friends and family.

Instead, he was 45 minutes away, in his hometown of Brownsville, Tenn., tending to his ailing father, Leslie. But that wasn't why Delk wasn't playing in Memphis. By then, he was no longer a Sun. By then, he was a Boston Celtic.

   "We took a trip [to Memphis] for nothing," Delk said yesterday prior to his first practice with his new team. "We flew to Memphis for the game and we made the trip thinking there wasn't going to be a trade. As soon as we landed, they dumped the news on us. It came as a surprise. But those guys [Suns executives] knew. The organization didn't give us that much respect, to let us know that they had a trade in mind."

When Delk was assured his father was not in further danger, he flew to Dallas to join his new team. Along with former Suns teammate Rodney Rogers, he is expected to add depth, scoring punch, and defense to the Celtics' playoff drive in the Eastern Conference.

Coach Jim O'Brien, who knows Delk well from their time together at the University of Kentucky with Rick Pitino, gave a qualified "maybe" as to whether either new player will make his Boston debut tonight against the Rockets in Houston. But he also made it clear the new acquisitions will not be wallflowers, even though the team's eight-man rotation remains intact.

"We've got to work them in," O'Brien said yesterday, returning to practice at the latest scene of the crime, a 98-92 giveaway loss to an undermanned Dallas team Thursday. "Tony and Rodney are guys that can crack that playing time [of the first eight]. They have to."

Delk is 6 feet 2 inches, a six-year veteran who is with his fifth NBA team. He once scored 53 points in an NBA game and gives the Celtics a legitimate source of instant offense off the bench. He has been bothered by injuries this season (he missed 12 games with the Suns, including the game against the Celtics in Phoenix Dec. 27), but still averaged 10.6 points a game despite some wayward shooting (40 percent from the field, 32 percent from 3-point range).

Boston is his first Eastern Conference stop since he came into the league in 1996 with Charlotte, fresh off a 24-point performance against Syracuse in the NCAA title game, which earned him MVP honors at the Final Four. He then went to Golden State, Sacramento, and, in 2000, to Phoenix. He signed a six-year deal with the Suns, thinking it would be his home for a while.

It still will be.

"The only thing I'm leaving behind is the weather," he said. "I'm still going to keep my place out there and I'm still going to live in Phoenix."

But read that as an endorsement of the climate, not of the basketball situation at America West Arena. Delk said he saw the beginning of the end when valued teammate Jason Kidd was dealt to New Jersey last summer.

"I think I was more upset when that happened than when they traded me," Delk said. "That really took a lot out of me because I loved playing with Jason. That's one of the reasons I signed with Phoenix - to play with Jason. When he got traded, that whole summer, I was in disbelief. That told me anyone can be traded. A player who plays that hard, night in and night out, you just don't give that up."

The Suns still haven't recovered from that one and are likely to be out of the playoffs for the first time since 1988. Delk's new team, meanwhile, has a chance to make its first playoff appearance since 1995.

He admitted he knows little about the Celtics, other than from his periodic phone conversations with former Kentucky teammate Walter McCarty. Delk says he rarely watches basketball on television and, when he does, it's never an Eastern Conference team. In other words, he will be given a crash course on what the Celtics are doing and how they're doing it.

"I think this is a good transition for me," he said. "It's a chance to be on a winning team with a chance to be in the playoffs and to play a different style, a style I was accustomed to [in college]. The Celtics are playing better defense and sharing the ball. Those are keys if you want to win. You have to have confidence in your teammates."

Oh, and don't worry about all those tickets that went unused for the Phoenix-Memphis game. Delk already has plans to exchange them. He has March 15 circled on his calendar since that's the night the Celtics make their first (and only) visit to Memphis. You can be sure the stands will be well stocked with Tony Delk fans.
. . .

The Celtics watched film yesterday prior to practice and one thing O'Brien noticed (as if he needed a reminder) was that Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker went scoreless in the fourth quarter Thursday. "We didn't respond well to our two scorers being taken out," he said . . . Vitaly Potapenko played eight minutes, his shortest stint on the trip. The Celtics tried to play small against the bigger Mavericks . . . Delk was credited with McCarty's scoring line in the box score that ran yesterday in USA Today . . . The Celtics will fly home after tonight's game and don't play again until Wednesday, when they host Milwaukee

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