Ellison Signs Six-Year Deal


August 2, 1994
Sometimes when nothing is working, the best thing to do is move somewhere new and start fresh.

At least that was Pervis Ellison's thinking yesterday when he signed a six-year, $ 11.5 million contract with the Boston Celtics. Ellison, who spent four years with the Washington Bullets before they made him an unrestricted free agent this summer, has been plagued by injuries and unfulfilled expectations. He is hoping that with some new luck -- and new teammates Dominique Wilkins and Blue Edwards -- the result will be more than a change of zip code. 

"A change of scenery can really make things happen," said Ellison, who was originally scheduled to return to Washington last night but was so pleased with the Celtics'reception that he decided to stay in Boston until Friday. "Although I don't know why people keep calling this a complete turnaround. My career hasn't been that bad."

Career averages of 13.2 points and 8.1 rebounds are nothing to sneeze at, but those numbers are a bit below what was expected of Ellison when he was selected by Sacramento as the top overall pick in the 1989 draft. Ellison's numbers in the "games played" column have not exactly been impressive either.

Injuries to both knees, a foot and an ankle have limited Ellison to 272 games in his five-year National Basketball Association career. Bullets General Manager John Nash said doubts about his ability to recover from his latest surgery in July 1993 were what prevented the team from renegotiating his contract.

"We weren't willing to take that risk considering Pervis's inability to play a full season once in his entire professional career," he said. "That just compromises a team tremendously."

Nash said that Bullets doctors examined Ellison just two weeks ago and found that if the season started this month, Ellison would be unable to play. But M.L. Carr, Boston's director of player personnel, said that his physicians have also examinedEllison, and that the team is confident that he will eventually be 100 percent.

"Everyone knows that the question with Pervis is his health," Carr said. "But our doctors have designed a program for him to strengthen his legs. We'd love for him to be ready by day one, but that's not the overriding factor. The big picture is that he will really fit in here once he is completely healthy."

The Celtics are planing to use Ellison as a power forward, with some time at center. Coach Chris Ford will also utilize him on defense, where, when healthy, he was considered an above-average shot blocker.

In terms of the salary cap, Ellison's signing ensures that the Celtics' 1994 first-round draft choice, Eric Montross, will end up making approximately $ 800,000. But Carr said he made sure that Montross's representatives were well-prepared for that fact.

Most important, though, Ellison will be expected to fill the gap left two years ago by the retirement of Kevin McHale.

What drew Ellison to Boston was the opportunity to work with Wilkins and become part of Boston's quest for a brand-new, championship-caliber team.

"Dominique was a positive factor, and that place just reeks with history," saidEllison's agent, Bill Strickland.

"Washington was ready to move on, and Pervis wasn't going to be part of that. In contrast, Boston provided an opportunity where he was really wanted."

Ellison, who already is working out with the Celtics' trainers, agreed.

"Everybody here just seems so upbeat about my future and the team's future, and that's so important," he said. "I've never been on a winning team before and this team is really focused on winning the championship. The Bullets have been focused on rebuilding, and those are two very different things."

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