McHale Signs Two-Year Deal

McHale Signs Two-Year Deal

August 13, 1991

There never was any serious doubt as to the eventual outcome. Kevin McHale wasn't going anywhere, nor did he want to. He knew that. So did the Celtics.

Both sides had hoped to have McHale locked up in a new deal by the end of June and even though that didn't occur, neither side seemed concerned. Apparently it just must have taken some extra time to write in all the zeroes.

McHale has signed on for two more seasons, the Celtics announced yesterday. McHale, who by NBA standards was vastly underpaid the last few years, will get $ 7 million over the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons, $ 3.5 million a year, according to sources.

"Kevin McHale is an integral part of our franchise," said senior executive vice president Dave Gavitt in a statement released by the Celtics yesterday. "He is the best low-post player in the league today, and destined for the Hall of Fame. We're delighted to have him as a Celtic for at least the next two years."

Gavitt had said last season that McHale was due for a "big hit" and the new extension certainly qualifies. He is the highest-paid Celtic in salary, because roughly $ 4.87 million of Larry Bird's $ 7.07 million "salary" for next year is a deferred signing bonus. Robert Parish and Reggie Lewis are both slated to earn $ 3 million next season.

McHale also appears to be one of the four highest-paid players in the game for next season, joining Hot Rod Williams, Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan, based on the numbers that surfaced during Patrick Ewing's arbitration hearing. Had McHale signed this extension before June 1, Ewing might be a free agent now.

McHale earned $ 1.4 million last season, the fourth year of a five-year deal, which included an option year. As NBA salaries escalated exponentially, with people such as Kendall Gill and Willie Burton earning more, it soon became apparent that McHale was not only overdue for a mother lode, he also was the best bargain in the league.

The contract had an option year for $ 1.6 million, but apparently the Celtics were able to finagle a new deal and erase the option year. They were unable to do that when they extended Bird's contract, but the situations were not the same.

In McHale's case, there was a 10-day window following the end of the playoffs in which the Celtics could exercise the option, or allow McHale to become an unrestricted free agent. But when the 10-day period ended, both sides agreed to extend the deadline.

Last month, McHale underwent surgery on his left ankle to remove a bone spur and clean up the damage caused by a severe sprain in February. It was thought at that time that there was an agreement, but the Celtics said that was not the case.

However, a source said that the deal has been done for some time and that the Celtics simply elected to make it known yesterday.

"I'm happy to have this contract matter behind me," McHale said in the statement. "Now I can concentrate full time on our goal of bringing another championship to Boston."

The extension makes McHale the first of the Big Three to venture beyond next season. Gavitt has made it a priority to build around Bird, McHale and Parish in hopes of extending their careers. Bird and Parish are in the final year of their contracts.

McHale, who will turn 34 in December, had expressed reservations about continuing at the end of the season. However, he usually is in sunken spirits after a Boston playoff exit. And he also knew surgery was on the horizon.

Statistically, McHale's numbers from last year were well below his recent figures. He averaged only 18.4 points a game, his lowest since 1983-84. In addition, he shot "only" 55.3 percent from the field, a figure most players would kill for but one that McHale watchers knew was below what he's done in the past. Even his free-throw shooting slipped.

The scoring drop could be attributed to the Celtics' share-the-wealth offense and to McHale's return engagement as the official Sixth Man. He also missed 14 games because of an ankle injury and never seemed to be in game shape after the February mishap. In a move reported here earlier, the Celtics officially signed former Nevada-Las Vegas guard Anderson Hunt.

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