July 14, 1991
Robert Parish is recommending Kite for the Hall of Fame, not the one in Springfield but the one that never will be built for players who simply do nothing but work, work and work some more. Now Kite is more than just a drone. He's a rich, secure drone.
Twelve days ago, the Orlando Magic presented Kite with a four-year guaranteed contract worth more than $ 4 million. Kite, who has never averaged more than 4.8 points a game in eight years in the NBA, has played for five teams, has been waived twice, has been misnamed on an official NBA box score (Tom Kite) and was playing AAU ball two years ago, is now making more money than his former, more celebrated teammate, Danny Ainge.
"He was a very important part of what we accomplished here," said Magic general manager/president Pat Williams. "We wanted him back."
Kite established personal highs in virtually every category last year while starting all 82 games. He led the vastly improved Magic in rebounding and blocked shots, and even improved his once-dismal free throw shooting to a now simply brutal 51.2 percent. But there are few who set better picks (ask Parish about that), play straight-up defense or, as Clint said, know their limitations.
Kite also knew his options. He was an unrestricted free agent, something he had been twice before, and knew there would be a few nibbles out there. Orlando didn't get the center it wanted in the draft (although it did get Stanley Roberts, but that's another story) and quickly signed Kite on July 2.
Kite thus could remain in the city where his wife's family lives, and where he was residing in 1983 when the Celtics made him their first pick in the draft. He has a camp there, he is starting a business there, and he and his wife have lived there since their college days at Brigham Young.
He has two championship rings from his Boston days, but he never got to play regularly. The highlight of his Boston experience undoubtedly was Game 3 of the 1987 NBA Finals, when he turned the game around without scoring a point, blocked a Magic Johnson shot, prevented a Laker sweep and uttered the immortal line at the postgame news conference: "I never thought I'd see one of these." The Celtics waived him the following February and he landed in Clipperdom, a real mess at the time. Elgin Baylor, the Clippers' GM, waived Kite and failed to inform coach Don Casey.
Then it was a brief fling with Charlotte, a year with Sacramento (after the AAU experience) and, finally, on to Orlando. Kite hopes the journey ends there.
"There are a lot of reasons to stay here," Kite said, "but basketball is still the first. They have created a really good atmosphere down here, and there's a lot of excitement. It's really a great opportunity for me."
Did he ever wonder during his AAU days if his basketball days were over? There was one story where he had to be escorted off the court during a game at Florida State. It didn't look promising.
"As strange as it sounds, no," he said. "I thought it would get to this at some point. But you'd have to be in my shoes to have seen it that way, not only from the standpoint as a player, but also from the business side. I just felt it would happen."
And now he's got a deal that carries him to age 35.
"We're committed to him," Williams said. "He's our starter until we get someone better."
You can skip camp
The Celtics have their annual rookie/free agent camp next weekend at Babson. If you're looking for entertainment, fine. If you're looking for a player, forget it. Two teams (Orlando and Chicago) already have canceled summer camps because of what they see as wasted time, energy and money. Each of those teams figures to have 12 or more players with guaranteed contracts. The Celtics have 13, and that doesn't include Derek Smith. Last year the rookie camp, LA Summer League and Yugoslav exhibitions made some sense. Chris Ford and his staff got their feet wet. Dave Gavitt learned to inhale when cigar-smoking Red Auerbach exhaled. There were uncertainties on the team (Brian Shaw, Dee Brown). There was (at last!) a confirmed Stojko Vrankovic sighting. And they almost found a player in Eric McArthur. This year? Rick Fox, the guy who should be there - he even is signed - supposedly will finish summer school instead. A few veterans invariably show up to thrill the hungry masses, but don't look for much beyond that. Not unless the Celtics do some serious contract eating and open up some roster spots.
The real Miami story
Someone Who Knows says that ex-Miami coach Ron Rothstein essentially hung himself by tuning out Billy Cunningham, one of the club's partners and head honcho of hoop. Rothstein resigned (he jumped before he was pushed), and in comes Kevin Loughery, who, if nothing else, is going to listen to Cunningham. The two go way back. However, there may be even more than just having a yes man installed. That same Someone also thinks Loughery is merely keeping the chair warm for, are you ready, Rick Pitino - and that if Pitino doesn't surface in Miami in two years, he may take over the presumably up-and-coming Nets from Bill Fitch. The Someone insisted that Pitino left the Knicks for one reason only: Al Bianchi . . . Former Celtic Conner Henry is among the participants at the Nets' rookie camp this week. He played for Fitch in Houston and has been a CBA star, although unable to stick in the NBA. Among other participants in various rookie camps are former Celtic Dave Popson, who will be in Atlanta, along with Rumeal Robinson and Tree Rollins. Tito Horford and Mitchell Wiggins are reporting to the 76ers camp, and Anderson Hunt has an invite from the Bullets. Chris Jackson is on Denver's roster, which, considering his rookie year, is a very good idea . . . No. 1 draft pick Larry Johnson made an interesting choice of agents - Athletic Associates of Dallas, which happens to be his hometown. The man who's doing the contract work is Steve Endicott, the same Steve Endicott who coached the New England Patriots' receivers for 2 1/2 years in the Ron Meyer regime. He quit after Meyer was fired, the only assistant to do so. And the two, with seed money from Sherwood Blount (he's the guy linked to the SMU scandal), started the business. They also handled Jon Koncak when he signed that ridiculous deal with Atlanta . . . One team watching the Patrick Ewing/Knicks free agency arbitration with a little more than passing interest is San Antonio. That's because the Spurs' meal ticket, David Robinson, has a clause in his contract that stipulates he be one of the two top-paid players in the game after next season. With his current salary, he won't be in the top two. So he'll either get the average of the top two salaries (more than $ 3 million per) or become an unrestricted free agent. That is a no-brainer for the Spurs, who will empty their collective wallets. "I don't anticipate any problems with David," said general manager Bob Bass. "He likes it down here, and we like having him down here. We'll just have to wait and see what the market is at that time and go from there." Bass said he knew of no other players besides Ewing and Robinson who have such clauses but added, "you may start seeing more of that with the way the cap escalates and guys get long-term contracts." And he wondered how the arbitrator will view the so-called "balloon contracts" when he examines whether Ewing is one of the four top-paid players in the game. If he is, the Knicks contract remains intact. If he isn't, Ewing is eligible to become a restricted free agent at the end of the 1991-92 season . . . Incidentally, this flap between the Knicks and Ewing is merely the latest in a long-simmering feud between agent David Falk and Knicks president Dave Checketts. The whole thing boiled over years ago during Adrian Dantley's inexcusable holdout in Utah, when Checketts was running the Jazz. Now we have intrigue, collusion, tampering, all the good stuff, and those two are in the center of it again.
Sleeper at the switch?
The second-round pick of the Lakers, Anthony Jones of Oral Roberts, is already responsible for one lost job. While waiting for the draft, Jones was playing for the Empire State Stallions in the US Basketball League. When the team's owner saw that Jones was taken by the Lakers, and that he was playing only 19 minutes a game for the Stallions, he promptly fired coach Jim Sleeper. The message: If the guy is good enough for the Lakers to draft him, he should be good enough to be playing more than 19 minutes a game for the Stallions . . . The Clippers may be in for a surprise in Doc Rivers. An ex-Atlanta insider was more than amused to see the Clips ordaining Rivers as their point guard, because Doc doesn't want to be a point guard at all. In fact, Rivers wants to be an off guard, which is not where the Clippers plan to play him. Further, the affable, quotable, accessible Rivers that the media sees is a little different behind closed doors. The feeling at Atlanta was that Rivers was getting to be more and more uncoachable, basically a know-it-all . . . Why didn't the Miami Heat make a draft-day deal for Hot Rod Williams? They couldn't. The Heat signed Williams to that huge offer sheet last August and the Cavaliers matched it on Sept. 5. NBA rules prevent the team that matched the offer (Cleveland) from trading the player to the team that made the offer (Miami) for a full calendar year. Thus, if Hot Rod is going to Miami, it won't be official until Sept. 6 . . . Europe did wonders for Charles Shackleford. He went there last summer - the Nets were more than happy to see him go and customs agents eagerly waived him through - and no one cared. Now he's back and all of a sudden he's Larry Nance II. The Sixers signed him with Rick Mahorn's money. If they hadn't, Detroit would have . . . The Spurs brought Dave Cowens down to San Antonio to work with both Dwayne Schintzius and Robinson. Schintzius will play in the Spurs-sponsored Midwest Revue that also features entries from the Timberwolves, Rockets and a team from Milan. "He's going to stick around and work out," Bass said of Schintzius. "And we'll have coaches monitoring him."
Murdock keeps PC ties
Eric Murdock is due to arrive in Utah tomorrow, where he will participate in the seven-team summer league hosted by the Jazz in Salt Lake City. There will be a reunion of sorts with Jazz assistant Gordie Chiesa, who coached Murdock for one season at Providence. "I made a tough decision which turned out to be the right one," Chiesa said. "I made him a starter after five games as a freshman. I saw a lot of intangibles in him, mainly the ability to play defense and compete defensively." Chiesa, however, didn't have to sell Murdock to the Utah brass. Player personnel boss Scotty Layden was convinced after the Big East tournament in March. The man who recruited Murdock out of Raritan-West High in Bridgewater, N.J., was none other than Stu Jackson, then a PC assistant, and now in the league office. He also coached the Knicks for more than a year . . . If there is a sleeper out there who wasn't drafted, it may be 6-foot-3-inch Jerome Harmon, who played only one year at Louisville. He was a Prop 48 as a freshman, missed his sophomore year as an injury redshirt (back) and didn't play last year because of academic difficulties. The one year he did play, he averaged 15 points a game as sixth man for the Cardinals. "I think he's a can't-miss NBA player who just hated school," said Southern Miss coach M.K. Turk. At least he got one part right. Anyway, about a dr offers? Truth is, no one is exactly beating down the door of the Salley household, and he sounded a bit concerned when reached in Hawaii. "I'm waiting for the offers to come in, and when the best one does, I'm going to sign it," he said. "But I don't even want to talk about it." Here's just guessing that Salley will go back to Detroit, probably with his tail between his legs. He's a valuable role player, but hasn't established anything more than that. His one chance at starting (after Mahorn left) ended in disaster. And most teams simply don't have the loot available to meet his inflated demands.