Still No Deal for Oscar

October 4, 1991

There was a name tag for him at Wednesday's charity outing, but Kevin Gamble wasn't around to claim it. There would have been time scheduled for a physical yesterday, but Gamble wasn't around to take one. There would be plenty of photo ops for him today, but he won't be around to pose.

All Gamble can do now is wait. He's 1,000 miles away from where he wants to be - and even farther apart in dollars.

The Celtics' small forward, who started 76 games last year and finished third in the NBA in field goal percentage while averaging 15.8 points, won't be among the familiar faces when the team opens training camp today. Instead, he'll be home in Springfield, Ill., waiting for the Celtics and his agent, Ron Grinker, to work out a deal.

"This is all new to me," Gamble said yesterday. "I've never been in this situation before. I want to be there with the guys, working out, but it doesn't look like that will happen."

No one has offered any figures, but Grinker said, "We're a distance apart. We've agreed we do not agree and to keep working at it." Gamble said, "Ron and I have gone over the figures that players who play my position make and who do the things I do and we think they're the right numbers."

The Celtics, obviously, don't agree.

"We would like to have Kevin in camp and sign him to a long-term contract," CEO Dave Gavitt said yesterday. "We've made good efforts toward that end."

Is he concerned that signing Gamble might upset some of the players who feel they are worth more?

"No. Not at all. It's just an honest disagreement over money," Gavitt said. "We hope the next news we hear about Kevin Gamble is that he's signed."

While Gamble waits, so does another potential Celtic, Vinnie Johnson. In the past 24 hours, the Microwave has seen the Lakers grab Sedale Threatt, the Rockets snare Gerald Henderson, the Spurs land Tommy Garrick. Everything seems to be pointing toward Vinnie and the Celtics getting together, doesn't it?

Johnson is in no hurry, however. He missed training camp last year because of a contract impasse and the year before because of injury. He still is hoping to find a team to give him two years, a tough sell for a 35-year-old guard. The Celtics called his agent yesterday to restate their interest, but at the same, unappealing price: one year at the minimum, $ 130,000.

"We've talked to them about John Bagley and Derek Smith, but we haven't talked real numbers," said Johnson's agent, Mitch Frankel. "It's not so much numbers as opportunity. If everything were equal and it was one year, he'd choose Boston. But everything isn't always equal."

The Celtics are not going to simply jettison Bagley or renounce Smith because (a) they want to see what the two can do and (b) the difference between what that would allow them to offer and the $ 130,000 isn't all that much. And they can't offer a two-year deal without some roster pruning.

"Vinnie would like a two-year deal," Frankel said. "If he's successful in getting one at a place where he'd like to go, then he'll take it."

Said Gavitt, "Nothing has changed with Vinnie. It's up to him. There's not even a negotiation."

Meanwhile, life must go on and coach Chris Ford already is pushing the clock forward. With only a week before the team's exhibition opener, Ford decided an empty night was an opportunity wasted. So instead of reporting for duty tomorrow, the team will regroup tonight at Hellenic College in Brookline behind closed doors after Media Day and officially begin the 1991-92 season.

Fifteen players are due to report, though not all will be able to actively and fully participate. Larry Bird and Kevin McHale still are recuperating from summer operations. Asked about Bird, Gavitt said, "I don't know if he's going to go tonight or not. I haven't asked him." In addition, guard A.J. Wynder was scratched from the roster after suffering an ankle injury.

There will be four new faces joining the usual returning suspects. Top draft pick Rick Fox of North Carolina will be joined by guards Anderson Hunt and Kennard Winchester along with power forward Steve Scheffler. Among those who played for Boston last year, only Dave Popson is missing from the 12-man roster from Opening Night 1990-91.

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