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Knight Agrees to $22-Million Contract With Boston Celtics

Pro basketball: He has mixed emotions about leaving Lakers but can't pass up big offer.

July 06, 1997|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Travis Knight on Friday agreed to a seven-year contract with the Boston Celtics worth approximately $22 million, even though he didn't want to.

The deal is not expected to become official for a couple days, after final details are worked out that probably will also include the Celtics renouncing several of their own free agents. Maybe then, perhaps on Monday, he'll be able to celebrate.

* REPRINTED FROM SATURDAY'S LATE EDITIONS.

There had been none of that so far, Knight having ached with his decision as much as he rejoiced in it. He did not want to leave the Lakers. He did not expect to leave the Lakers, even though they were limited by a salary cap technicality to an offer of $326,700 for 1997-98.

But the chance at financial security proved impossible to pass up, especially when it came with an out-clause after three seasons. So, after about 48 hours of soul searching, conversations with five Laker players, numerous talks with Executive Vice President Jerry West and General Manager Mitch Kupchak, Knight accepted.

At that point, you weren't sure whether to offer congratulations or condolences.

"I really have mixed emotions," he said. "I should be elated right now, but I'm not. I feel so much loyalty [to the Lakers]. I respect Jerry and Mitch so much and I understand what they say and I believe what they say.

"But you work at something as hard as you can, and then it's there. The security. That's the rest of my life, right there.

"I think, without a question, this has been the hardest decision I've made in my life. It was much harder than choosing a college. . . . The most difficult thing for me is that my heart and mind were in two different places. It's just, I don't know. It's been tough."

So continues a circuitous rise to prominence. Knight--already a favorite in New England because he played at the University of Connecticut, about a 90-minute drive from Boston--was a first-round pick by the Chicago Bulls last year, only to be renounced in a salary-cap move when he said he would not go to Europe.

The Lakers, one of the few teams to show interest, then got him for the rookie minimum of $220,000. He, in turn, repaid them by going from project status to the rotation within months, once grabbing 11 offensive rebounds to fall two shy of their Los Angeles-era record.

In February, he played in the rookie all-star game. When Shaquille O'Neal went down with a knee injury days later, Elden Campbell was forced to move to center, so Knight, the 12th man in November, became the starter at power forward. In 14 such assignments, he averaged 6.9 points and 5.6 rebounds in 25.6 minutes.

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