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9 Boston CELTICS
Ian Thomsen
October 27, 2003
The rebuilding begins. To wit: A bargain free agent starts at point
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October 27, 2003

9 Boston Celtics

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

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POS.

PVR

PPG

RPG

APG

BPG

SPG

FG%

3FG%

FT%

TONY BATTIE

C

176

7.3

6.5

0.7

1.21

0.49

53.9

 

74.6

ERIC WILLIAMS

SF

154

9.1

4.7

1.7

 

1.05

44.2

33.6

75.0

MIKE JAMES#

PG

126

7.8

1.9

3.2

 

0.82

37.3

29.4

73.2

PAUL PIERCE

SG

8

25.9

7.3

4.4

0.78

1.76

41.6

30.2

RAEF LAFRENTZ#

PF

113

9.3

4.8

0.8

1.32

0.51

51.8

40.5

#NEW ACQUISITION

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.

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