Celtics Sign Former Thorn in Side

Celtics Sign Former Thorn in Side

November 5, 1996

He still looks like your friendly, neighborhood altar boy who just finished science class at Archbishop Stepanic High.

Marty Conlon may have added a few facial hairs to try to change the image, but he still is what he is and always has been: a hardwood nomad who has defied the odds and the prevailing wisdom to fashion a pretty nice NBA career.

His latest employer, his sixth in six years, is the Celtics. (Say a novena.) He was signed Saturday, played 16 minutes against the Bucks without benefit of a practice, and was back at work yesterday at Brandeis.

"A crazy week," Conlon said, shaking his head. "The teams are coming at you like it's recruiting. The coaches sweet-talk you. The general managers sweet-talk you. It was nice because I've been on the other end, too, when the phone doesn't ring at all. The Celtics told me what the situation would be and I'm happy to be here."

M.L. Carr said yesterday the team had had its eye on Conlon even before the Suns waived the 28-year-old power forward last week. By releasing him, the Suns ate his $ 1.2 million contract. Several teams then called to see if another $ 247,500 - the NBA minimum - could convince Conlon to play for them.

It came down to three teams: Boston, New Jersey and Seattle. The Nets? "They couldn't put it together," Conlon said. (Geez, things really have changed there, haven't they?) Seattle? Conlon already had spent time with the SuperSonics as a rookie in 1990-91 under a head coach named K.C. Jones. "If I go there, what's my future? And would I even be there all year? You never know what the total situation is," he said.

Boston? Well, the Celtics just happened to be in Milwaukee and Conlon just happened to still have a place there. Conlon and Carr met at the Celtics' hotel. "What do you think?" Carr asked. "I'm ready to go, coach," Conlon said.

They finalized the deal and Conlon was given a quick Cook's tour of the playbook. The man who used to relish torturing the Celtics is now one of them. He had 8 points and 5 rebounds in 16 minutes against his former team.

"He has been a thorn in the side of the Celtics for a long time," Carr said. "Let's hope he won't be anymore.

"He is a hard worker and has been around the league. With Marty, you know you are going to get 100 percent. There's an opportunity for him here, too."

Conlon said the Celtics made no promises about employment beyond this year (which is good, because that is illegal). He replaced Julius Nwosu on the 12-man active roster, a somewhat mystifying move in that Nwosu had a fully guaranteed deal whereas Brett Szabo does not. Nwosu was impressive in summer league play but, Carr said, started to slide a bit after that. "He wasn't coming along as well as we thought he might."

As for Conlon, since leaving Providence in 1991, he has played in France, the CBA (twice) and in the NBA for Seattle, Sacramento, Charlotte, Washington and Milwaukee. It was while he was with Washington that he made his name as a Celtics killer, scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in 16 minutes on April 17, 1994. He also had some big moments against Boston while with the Bucks.

"Maybe it's a subconscious thing, I don't know," he said. "But I have had some nice games against them."

Milwaukee traded him to Phoenix Sept. 25 as part of the Elliot Perry deal. Conlon was a salary-cap throw-in to make the deal work and never felt he had a shot at making the Suns.

"I saw it coming," he said. "They even tried to move me a couple of times while I was there. And I wasn't there that long."

He hopes the stay in Boston will be longer and more rewarding.
Eric Williams missed yesterday's practice because of trouble in his right knee. That's not the one that necessitated surgery last April. Carr said Williams felt some pain in both games but played anyway. Asked if it might be weight-related, Carr said he did not know . . . David Wesley rested his sore right foot and hopes to play tomorrow night against Indiana. The Celtics thought Wesley might have a broken bone and were relieved to find out otherwise. So was Wesley. "I didn't want to have to wait another six weeks," he said. Asked whom he would vote for today, Wesley said, "Clinton. You go with what you know. Anyone else might screw up the economy even more than it already is." . . . There was a confirmed Dee Brown sighting. He walked around the court gingerly and is not expected back soon . . . Assistant coach Dennis Johnson was forced to scrimmage and was the best player on the floor.

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