Tim Duncan in green? Spurs rebuffed Celtics' trade proposal after NBA Draft Lottery

Tim Duncan in green? Spurs rebuffed Celtics' trade proposal after NBA Draft Lottery

Twenty-three years after the ping pong balls defied the Boston Celtics in the 1997 NBA Draft lottery, M.L. Carr contends the most painful moment came a short while after the San Antonio Spurs vaulted to the No. 1 pick.

Carr, representing the Celtics despite having been replaced as both the head of basketball operations and head coach by Rick Pitino, was on stage in Secaucus, N.J., when Boston saw its logo appear in envelopes representing picks Nos. 3 and 6.

While the Spurs were still basking in the glow of their leap that would soon deliver Tim Duncan and kickstart their own title run, Carr got sent an impossible task.

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"We worked very hard to put the team in position to get, potentially, the first pick. It didn’t happen. When it didn’t happen, obviously there was disappointment,” Carr said Monday on the anniversary of the defiant ping pong balls. “We came up with the third pick. I got a call from the folks in Boston, the Pitino group, asking, ‘Could we give picks to [Spurs coach and president of basketball operations Gregg] Popovich and ask him if he would trade the first pick for a couple — like third and six. And, obviously, you gotta do it; it’s what they asked.”

So Carr engaged the Spurs contingent, despite knowing full well what the answer to his query would be.

"I went to Popovich, he felt sorry that I even had to ask,” said Carr. "Because I knew right then, to get Tim Duncan away from San Antonio, we’d have to give them the Prudential Center, all the money on the Mass Pike, you’d have to give them all of the North End, you’d have to give them all the suburbs, and probably the Callahan Tunnel revenue, as well as the Ted Williams revenue for the next 40-50 years. And it still probably wouldn’t have been enough to give it up.

It was a stupid question. A stupid question you have to ask, and Popovich knew it so he said, ‘No, we think we’re going to hold onto it.’ I had to do it.

Not even the ever positive Carr, famous for his emphatic towel waving during his playing days while winning two titles in the early 80s, could put a positive spin on missing out on Duncan.

“It was a bad moment for the Celtics. Because we we had the best opportunity with the ping pong balls and it went the other way,” said Carr. "It would have been great to have Timmy because there would have been more banners flying, I’m sure.”

Needless to say, you won’t see the 1997 lottery ceremony on NBC Sports Boston’s Classic Celtics series anytime soon. Told, though, that a new generation of Celtics fans are being exposed to Carr and those 80s Celtics team because of the classic games, Carr playfully admitted that’s actually a negative for him.

"The only problem I have with the old games coming up and classic sports is that I have to be truthful to my five grandkids. I can’t tell them I was the best player on the Celtics because they’re looking and saying, ‘Pop Pop, Larry Bird looks like he might have been better than you,’” said Carr with a laugh. "And I can’t tell them I’m the best player to come out of Wallace, [North Carolina] because they may look at ["The Last Dance" documentary] and say, ‘Michael Jordan, yeah, I think he’s better, too, Pop Pop.’

"I’ve gotta be honest and tell them I was just happy to be on the team.”


Celtics will return to limited practice routine starting June 1

Celtics will return to limited practice routine starting June 1

The Boston Celtics will move one step closer towards preparing for the remainder of this season, with voluntary individual player workouts beginning at the team’s practice facility on June 1. 

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Friday that professional teams in the state could resume practicing soon. 

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“I know we still aren’t to the point where we’ll have our pro sports teams back playing anything yet,” Baker said in a press conference at the State House. “The leagues are obviously working hard to host games again. And I think we all hope that at some point, opening practice facilities will help make that happen a little sooner.”

Danny Ainge, the Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations, echoed similar sentiments on Friday. 

“We’re happy that our players will now have the option to work out individually in a safe environment at the Auerbach Center,” Ainge said. “And we hope it signals a step back towards playing basketball again.”

The Celtics added that the workouts will adhere to strict protocols that include but are not limited to the following:

  • Workouts are voluntary & will be conducted in strict accordance with city, state, CDC, and NBA requirements and guidelines.
  • Symptom and temperature checks will be done by team medical staff before anyone enters the facility.
  • Workouts will be limited to individual (1-on-0) shooting, strength and conditioning work, and medical evaluation and therapy as needed.
  • Only essential areas will be accessed. There will be no access to locker rooms, showers, hydrotherapy, medical exam rooms, cafeteria, and offices.
  • Only four players will be able to work out at a time, each working with only one staff member at a time. There will be no more than one player per half court at a time.
  • All staff members will wear masks in the building, and any staff member working with a player must wear gloves. Players will wear masks except while engaging in physical activity. Players and staff will adhere to CDC and NBA compliant social distancing standards at all times.
  • Social distancing will be required in the building except in limited specific instances  (e.g. physical therapy), when PPE will be used.
  • A thorough cleaning and disinfection of all spaces and equipment, including basketballs, will take place before and after each player uses the building.
  • Only staff members essential to these workouts will be present at the Auerbach Center. There will be no access for general staff, public, or media. 

While no definitive date has been set for the NBA to resume play, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has reportedly told owners that the league is targeting July 31 as a return-to-play date. 

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NBA rumors: July 31 is a target date for 2019-20 season return

NBA rumors: July 31 is a target date for 2019-20 season return

Could we see the return of NBA basketball at the end of July?

The Athletic's Shams Charania has reported the league told its Board of Governors on Friday that July 31 is a potential target date for the resumption of the 2019-20 season.

Charania also reported the league discussed four return to play scenarios ranging from going directly to the playoffs with 16 teams to bringing back all 30 teams and having them play 72 regular season games (most teams already have played around 65) before the postseason. The latter scenario doesn't seem likely, though.

If the season does resume, the remaining games (including the playoffs) could be played at one location to minimize travel and maximize the safety and health of players, team employees and everyone else involved. One such location reportedly being considered is Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida.

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It's important to remember nothing has been announced by the league, and plenty of details must be sorted out before games can start up again. This news of a potential target date for a season return is encouraging, though.