The Celtics general manager and coach said yesterday that the New Jersey Nets came to them about acquiring Chauncey Billups and that the Celtics told the Nets no, no, and no once again. The proposed deal would have sent rookie point guard Billups and Greg Minor (or Andrew DeClercq) to New Jersey for Kevin Edwards, Michael Cage, and a No.1 draft pick.
"The report out of New Jersey is erroneous," Wallace said. "We never offered Chauncey Billups to the New Jersey Nets. The Nets came to us trying to obtain Chauncey. We're not interested in moving Chauncey. We had high hopes for him when we selected him as the third pick in the draft. He's got an extremely bright future and we're excited about seeing it unfold here in Boston.
"There have been many inquiries. Teams have called into us and expressed interest in Chauncey. Again, I want to reiterate, make it clear, we are happy with Chauncey. We're not out there pushing him on the market."
Word out of New Jersey is that the Nets, not the Celtics, said no when the team tried to throw in the contracts of either Minor or DeClercq.
"It was the other way around," Wallace said. He said they were proposing and the Celtics were listening. Pitino said he "should be committed" if he made the proposed deal and that Nets coach John Calipari should be committed if he didn't.
First things first
Pitino's career record in openers increased to 15-3 with Friday night's win over the Bulls, but he said that's a bit misleading. "When I was at Kentucky, we would always play a team we should beat in the first game," he said, "and then come back against somebody like Indiana in Game 2." . . . On The Day After, Pitino reiterated to the Celtics that they will be judged by what they do tonight against the Magic, not what they did Friday against the Bulls. The team watched video of the Bulls game yesterday morning, then practiced until about 1:15 p.m. Looking back on the tapes, Pitino said he was happy with the job Ron Mercer did on Michael Jordan. The Great One had 30 points, on 7-of-23 shooting. He also went to the free throw line 21 times. "Ron's going to be a great, great player," Pitino said. "And so is Chauncey." . . . Red Auerbach attended practice . . . The Celtics are 1-7 against the Magic in the last two years, including 0-4 last year. Pitino said he isn't sure whom he will put on Orlando's best player, Anfernee Hardaway. "It depends on who they start," he said. Chuck Daly makes his first trip to the FleetCenter as a head coach . . . Dontae Jones practiced yesterday and should play tonight. He was the only Celtic on the active roster who did not play Friday. He was suspended for leaving the bench area in the Knicks' Game 5 playoff loss to the Heat.