Mark Blount: NBA's Most Improved?

March 24, 2004
Celtics interim coach John Carroll was carrying around his Mark Blount file. He wanted everyone to know that in the past five games, Blount had shot (.744) from the field and averaged 11.4 points and 16.6 rebounds, and should be considered for the league's Most Improved Player.

But will Blount consider being a Celtic next season? He will be a free agent and has already mused about joining former coach Jim O'Brien wherever he lands. Blountadmitted yesterday his relationship with director of basketball operations Danny Ainge is a bit shaky, particularly after he heard Ainge was quoted in a Florida newspaper as saying the team would be better off if it didn't make the playoffs.

   "Do they really think they can just say, 'Don't win?' " Blount said. "Do people really think we're going to lay down and say, 'That's it?'

"We've won some games lately. It feels good. We're playing hard. The front office still has got their agenda, but I'm still trying to win games. All of us are."

But would Blount like to return with Boston next season?

"I don't know. I think you ought to ask him [Ainge] and see what he says about that,"Blount answered. "We don't talk. He doesn't talk to me."

Ainge, reached in Chicago yesterday, where he is scouting high school talent, said, "Mark is part of our future. He's had a great year. We'll make every effort to sign him."

When asked about Blount's critical comments throughout the season, Ainge said, "I think Mark has gone out and done his job in spite of some trying times. I give him credit for that. I think you have to allow him a little frustration over losing his friends, but at the same time, I think we've given him an opportunity to increase his value. He's played a lot of minutes, and I hope he appreciates that, too."

Mark Bartelstein, who represents Blount, said yesterday he's had conversations with Ainge and that Blount "wants to remain a Celtic."

"But I've told him, 'Don't focus on that,' " Bartelstein said. "I've told him to focus on making the playoffs. Just play ball, and let me worry about the rest."

Bartelstein likened Blount's success to another one of his clients, big man Brad Miller, who went from being an eighth or ninth man with the Hornets to becoming a legitimate NBA starter.

"To me, Mark Blount is almost a replica of Brad Miller," said Bartelstein. "He's gotten better and better. Starting the season you may have said he's a role player, but he's emerged. I don't think anyone will say anymore he's a bench player."

Ticket tack

Think the Celtics owners are worried about their season ticket base? The team sent a letter to all season ticket-holders telling them if they re-upped before April 7 for next season, they would receive a complimentary ticket to the first round of the playoffs for each season ticket they order. The team also released more details about its ticket decreases. It is lowering its $80 seats to $75, its $62 seats to $60, and its $36 seats to $35 . . . Paul Pierce turned his ankle in practice yesterday, and was not participating in the team's scrimmage in the final minutes of practice. "He's fine," Carroll reported. "He fell down, then he got up." . . . Boston assistant Paul Cormier was sporting crutches, the result of an arthroscopic procedure on his knee . . . Carroll gathered his players and told them to avoid distractions over the final 11 games as they make a push for the playoffs. "I told them to put their personal aspirations aside for the final 11 games," Carroll said. Why was that reminder necessary? "We're not good enough to deal with distractions," the coach answered. "I'm not unrealistic enough to think we're an upper-echelon team."

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