9 Boston Celtics The rebuilding begins. To wit: A bargain free agent starts at point

October 27, 2003

Ever since they dealt Kenny Anderson to Seattle last year for Vin
Baker, the Celtics have lacked a first-rate point guard. That
void became more pronounced on Monday after they traded returning
starter Tony Delk and leading assist man Antoine Walker to the
Mavericks. Both Marcus Banks, whom Boston drafted out of UNLV at
No. 13 in June, and second-year guard Jiri Welsch, who arrived in
the deal with Dallas, are months away from being able to run the
offense.

For now, the best solution may turn out to be a 28-year-old free
agent who spent the last two years with the Heat after toiling in
Europe and the CBA. Don't be fooled by Mike James's humble
pedigree; his fans include Pat Riley, who has called James the
hardest worker he's ever coached. "Mike takes care of the ball,
his shot selection is very good, he hits the open man, and he
spent two years playing Riley's defense," Boston coach Jim
O'Brien says. O'Brien expects James to knock down the open
jumpers he'll get playing alongside Paul Pierce as well as free
Pierce from having to initiate the half-court offense.

In 1994 James snagged Duquesne's last scholarship after an
assistant coach spotted him in a Long Island pickup game. As a
senior he was deemed athletic enough to compete in the slam-dunk
contest at the Final Four, but James went undrafted. Last season
he grabbed O'Brien's attention when he hit the decisive trey in a
Miami win at Boston. The 6'2" James was known as a good-natured
braggart in the Heat locker room, but that confidence saw him
through a career in obscurity to this opportunity. "I've always
been a hard worker," says James, who received a one-year,
$638,679 contract. "That's gotten me to this point." The Celtics
hope he's ready to fill a role that's only getting larger. --I.T.

COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN (2) Mike James
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN (2) POINT BLANK With his three-point shooting percentage in free fall and fellow All-Star Walker gone in a trade, Pierce will have to find new ways to score.

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Celtics

"They're no longer a playoff team after trading their two most
experienced playmakers, Antoine Walker and Tony Delk, to the Mavs
on Monday for Raef LaFrentz, Chris Mills, Jiri Welsch and a
first-round pick in 2004. New G.M. Danny Ainge decided this
summer that this team had peaked, so he's dismantling it and will
rebuild with an eye toward a more athletic, up-tempo lineup....
LaFrentz gives Boston a shot blocker, and he can be a slightly
better rebounder and defender than Walker, but overall this trade
downgraded the Celtics. Walker was vital to everything they
did--he ran the offense, was their best rebounder and rallied his
teammates in the locker room.... Without Walker to share the
load, Paul Pierce has to take responsibility for elevating the
play of his teammates. Can he improve his shot selection while
defenses key on him more than ever? His three-point percentage
fell from 40.4 in 2001-02 to 30.2 last year, and it got so bad
that we were telling our guys to let him prove he could make the
three-pointer. That's something we never would have said two
years ago.... They'll also concentrate on developing Kedrick
Brown, the former junior college swingman who was a Number 1 pick
in 2001. He's an athletic rebounder and defender who could give
them a lot of energy, but he has to knock down jump shots or else
the defense will sag on Pierce even more.... Vin Baker has lost a
ton of weight since he went into alcohol rehab last spring, but
his knees are still bothering him. They're counting on getting
absolutely nothing from him, so anything he can do inside will be
a bonus.... Ainge and coach Jim O'Brien have long-term contracts,
so they can afford to take a step backward. Still, their fans are
going to be upset, because this team won't play with as much
intensity now that its leader is gone."

FAST FACT

Paul Pierce's 604 free throws made not only led the NBA but also
broke the Celtics' record of 574, set by Cedric Maxwell in
1978-79.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP with 2002-03 statistics

Record: 44-38 (6th in East)
Points scored: 92.7 (22nd in NBA)
Points allowed: 93.1 (12th)
Coach: Jim O'Brien
(fourth season with Celtics)

TONY BATTIE

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
C 176 7.3 6.5 0.7

BPG SPG FG% FT%
1.21 0.49 53.9 74.6

ERIC WILLIAMS

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
SF 154 9.1 4.7 1.7

SPG FG% 3FG% FT%
1.05 44.2 33.6 75.0

MIKE JAMES[1]

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
PG 126 7.8 1.9 3.2

SPG FG% 3FG% FT%
0.82 37.3 29.4 73.2

PAUL PIERCE

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
SG 8 25.9 7.3 4.4

BPG SPG FG% 3FG%
0.78 1.76 41.6 30.2

RAEF LaFRENTZ[1]

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
PF 113 9.3 4.8 0.8

SPG BPG FG% 3FG%
0.51 1.32 51.8 40.5

BENCH PVR* 2002-03 KEY STATS

G-F JUMAINE
[1] JONES 182 9.8 ppg 5.1 rpg 1.4 apg 0.84 spg 43.4 FG%
C-F VIN
BAKER 243 5.2 ppg 3.8 rpg 0.58 bpg 0.42 spg 47.8 FG%
G-F KEDRICK
BROWN 253 2.8 ppg 2.7 rpg 0.67 spg 35.7 FG% 7.7 3FG%
F WALTER
McCARTY 265 6.1 ppg 3.5 rpg 1.3 apg 0.95 spg 41.4 FG%
G[1] MARCUS
BANKS (R) 278 20.3 ppg 3.3 rpg 5.5 apg 2.84 spg 51.4 FG%

NEW ACQUISITION[1]
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 94)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)