6.09.2018

Catching Up with Wally

12/23/2007

On the night of the 2007 NBA draft, Wally Szczerbiak wanted to chill out. He didn't even plan on watching the festivities from New York. His focus was to continue rehabbing from a major ankle operation in the spring and be ready for what he thought would be his second full season with the Celtics.

Oh, well.

His wife, Shannon, was watching the draft, however. She quickly yelled to her husband when the news started to break about a possible Celtics-Sonics deal with her husband's name mentioned prominently.

No one was more unaware of what had been going on than Szczerbiak.

"It caught me completely by surprise," he said this week by phone from Seattle, where he now is with his third team, the Sonics. "I've moved on. I'm trying to get my career back on track coming back from surgery. There's no hard feelings on my part.

"I'm happy for them. It's a top-notch organization. I'm happy for Danny [Ainge]. I'm happy for Doc [Rivers]. I just wish I could have stayed on and become a part of it."

Well, he is a part of it, sort of like Cedric Maxwell is a part of the last Celtics championship team. Maxwell was used to acquire Bill Walton. If Wally stayed in Boston, that would have meant no Ray Allen. And no Ray Allen would have meant no Kevin Garnett. And no KG would have meant a lot of Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose jerseys at TD Banknorth Garden.

It's been a tough go so far for both Szczerbiak and the Sonics, who the Celtics will see for the first time Thursday night in Seattle. The recovery from surgery necessitated a slow transition and he only recently has started to play comfortably.

"I spent a lot of training camp just trying to get my timing back," he said. "I'm starting to get there."

As for his team, well, there's a new general manager, the locally spawned Sam Presti (Concord). There's a new coaching staff, headed by P.J. Carlesimo. There was the ridiculous start (0-8, but 8-11 since then).

And there, in all likelihood, will be a new address next season, as attempts to keep the Sonics in Seattle seem to be losing to what now seems the inevitable relocation to Oklahoma City, which happens to be the home base of the team's chairman.

"There were a lot of issues at the start of the season with all the new players, the new staff. It took time," Szczerbiak said. "The coaching staff has done a good job of putting the relocation situation aside and getting us to focus on the task at hand. I think once you get into the heart of the season, that's all you focus on - the games. And getting rest in between."

No talk about Seattle would be complete without a mention of putative Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant. Szczerbiak sure likes what he sees of the kid.

"He's doing as well as he can possibly do," Szczerbiak said. "He's 19 years old. He's got the weight of the franchise on his shoulders. That's not an easy burden. He's been up and down, which is understandable, but he works hard and is a great kid.

"He's also mature beyond his years."

Szczerbiak said he has grown closer with ex-Celtic Delonte West, who came along in the deal. (The Sonics got the fifth pick in the draft, which they used to select Jeff Green. The Celtics got Seattle's pick in the second round, which they used to select Glen Davis.) West, however, has been sidelined by plantar fasciitis and hasn't played since Dec. 2. He may not be available for the Celtics game, though knowing West, he'll do everything he can to make it.

And what about the other Kevin? As in The Big Ticket? Szczerbiak knows Garnett about as well as any player.

"It was a privilege to be his teammate for 6 1/2 years," Szczerbiak said. "He's a real pro. But I still am really impressed with how swiftly they came together. They brought in some great role players, guys who can defend, guys who know how to win. I'm happy for them."

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