Celtics Sign X
September 13, 1992
Last week, the Celtics signed free agent Xavier McDaniel, a 29-year-old forward who the past four years has undergone two knee operations, been traded twice, been left unsigned by a third team and been called ... how does one say this? ... a divisive presence.
Yet, for the staunch Celtics fan, the McDaniel acquisition is another in a long line of major coups. This fan says, "He shall overcome." This fan has proof.
When one wanders through the Celtics' storied past and the 16 championship banners, one might deduce McDaniel could be headed down one of two paths:
McDaniel will mesh perfectly, play to the level that made him an All-Star with Seattle in 1988 and -- who knows? -- become the needed ingredient for a 17th championship team.
McDaniel will continue a career slide and be just another piece of a franchise on the fade.
It's true: Celtics history provides divergent trails for players like McDaniel. Many like him have come before, and some of them have flopped in green and white. Forget the mystique.
What follows is a look at how some other noteworthy Celtics moves turned out, beginning with a few beauties, a few beasts, then a look at how McDaniel may fit -- if he does -- into any of these molds:
The beauties Nate Archibald: As orchestrated by then-Celtics owner John Y. Brown, "Tiny" was a part of the 1978 franchise swap with the Buffalo Braves (who became the San Diego Clippers and with whom Archibald never played). Often characterized as "moody," Archibald came off a blown Achilles and a year of inactivity and went on to have five solid seasons with the Celtics. While he ultimately wound up disenchanted, he would depart Boston with a championship ring, from 1981.
Dennis Johnson: The early book was that the 1979 season -- when he led the Seattle Supersonics to the title and was named MVP of the Finals -- went to his head. Subsequently, Johnson, who once fancied himself a scorer, was deemed a cancer by then-Sonics coach Lenny Wilkens and shipped to Phoenix. Johnson wore out his welcome there, too. The Celtics acquired Johnson in exchange for backup center Rick Robey the day before the 1979 draft. With Larry Bird leaning on him, Johnson became one of the great clutch guards in Celtics history, helping the team to their last two titles (in 1984 and '86) and winding up with his No. 3 in the rafters. Bird called DJ "the best teammate I ever had."
Robert Parish: Parish toiled in obscurity in Golden State for four seasons. He was a center without a heart, it was claimed, and, as it was back then, a man without a nickname. Essentially, Parish was acquired with Kevin McHale for Joe Barry Carroll and Ricky Brown in 1980. The rest is history, which the Chief, now 39, continues to make.
The busts Marvin Barnes: He was acquired in 1978 with Billy Knight and Archibald (for Sidney Wicks, Kevin Kunnert, Freeman Williams and Kermit Washington). Barnes was an amazing talent at Providence College (where he played for Dave Gavitt, now Celtics chief of basketball operations). Barnes also had a propensity for off-court problems. He was only 26 when the Celtics got him, but he played just 38 games in Boston before being waived, and the forward was out of the league less than two years later.
Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe: These former UCLA forwards were an integral part of the darkest days of the franchise. Both were acquired on the eve of the 1976-77 season, just as statesman Paul Silas was shipped off because of a contract dispute. Wicks didn't like being a secondary offensive option; as it was, his numbers trailed off dramatically in each of the last five years of his career (two with the Celtics, the last three in San Diego). As for Rowe, he once said, "There are no Ws or Ls on the paycheck."
Bob McAdoo: Former owner Brown's fiancee, Phyllis George, liked McAdoo. So Brown got McAdoo, a high-scoring forward, from the Knicks for three first-round draft picks. Such is love. McAdoo lasted 20 games with the Celtics before he was sent to Detroit (and coach/GM Dick Vitale) as compensation for the signing of free agent M.L. Carr. The Celtics also got two first-round draft choices in the deal, picks that eventually would be bartered for Parish and, as it turned out, McHale.
The X Factor Forget perceptions, raps, whatever. This is what McDaniel is known for in NBA circles: He plays hard every night, he talks trash, he backs it up. For those who play equally hard, he is a fast and hearty teammate. While he has had celebrated fistfights with a teammate (the mercurial Dale Ellis when both were in Seattle) and a future teammate (New York's Charles Oakley, when McDaniel was with Phoenix) -- McDaniel is known for being intense rather than insane. And despite the two arthroscopic knee operations, he has missed only 18 games in seven seasons.
His numbers have been trailing off; last season, he was more than six points under his previous career average of 20 points.
For the Celtics, McDaniel could get worse, he could get better. History allows no indication of which direction.
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