Celtics obtain LaFrentz, future No. 1 pick

Updated: October 21, 2003, 10:14 AM ET
Associated Press

DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks bulked up an already strong offense Monday, acquiring All-Star forward Antoine Walker from the Boston Celtics in a five-player trade.

The Celtics agreed to take center Raef LaFrentz and the six seasons remaining on a $69 million, seven-year contract signed before last season.

Antoine Walker and Raef LaFrentz
Walker and LaFrentz can still battle, after they switch uniforms.

The Celtics also get Jiri Welsch and Chris Mills, players the Mavericks got in an offseason trade that also brought Antawn Jamison from Golden State, and Dallas' first-round pick in 2004. The Mavericks will get guard Tony Delk from Boston.

"It's not every day that a 27-year-old All-Star becomes available," said Donnie Nelson, Dallas' president of basketball operations. "We feel we've got one of the most versatile coaches in the league. To add a player of Antoine's ability just gives (coach Don Nelson) more options to work with."

Nelson struck the deal with Danny Ainge, who became Boston's head of basketball operations in May. The two are close friends, with Nelson having been an assistant to Ainge in Phoenix.

Between his jobs with the Suns and Celtics, Ainge was a TV analyst and he said on the air he did not like Walker's game. Since joining Boston, he's said he had no intention of trading Walker.

Now Walker, a three-time All-Star who averaged 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds last season, goes from playing alongside one high scorer in Paul Pierce to being joined by four: Dallas' nucleus of Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Michael Finley, plus Jamison, who was added in August.

The Mavericks, the NBA's highest-scoring team the last two years, have now upgraded a roster that won 60 games and reached the Western Conference finals last season. It also counters the changes made by fellow Western Conference opponents San Antonio, Sacramento and the Lakers.

"Dallas likes to take chances and make things happen. They're on the cusp of winning a championship right now," Ainge said. "I can't sit here and tell you that we're an NBA championship team right now. I just don't see that. But I'm not satisfied winning 44 games."

Walker has size (6-foot-9, 245 pounds) but can run the offense. His dribbling and passing skills make him the prototype "point forward" coveted by the Mavs coach.

Walker led the Celtics in assists the last three seasons, and he and Pierce combined to average nearly half of Boston's points during that span.

"We see Antoine as a triple-double guy," said Donnie Nelson, the coach's son and an assistant coach. "I know in some form or fashion at the end of the game you're going to see the Big Three and Antoine Squared."

Donnie Nelson said Nowitzki will get more minutes at center. Shawn Bradley and Danny Fortson, also acquired in the Golden State trade, will help man the position. Eduardo Najera could play there, too.

Delk will be a backup swingman, with Travis Best still the primary relief for Nash. Nelson said Delk may be able to provide some of the intangibles lost when Nick Van Exel was sent to Golden State.

"He's not afraid, he's tough and experienced," Nelson said, referring to Delk. "He's got a knack for making big shots and big plays."

LaFrentz was acquired from Denver at the trade deadline two seasons ago, then re-signed last summer. He was mostly a disappointment last season, averaging just 9.3 points and 4.8 rebounds.

The Mavericks had coveted Welsch in their trade with the Warriors but were willing to give up on the project to upgrade their roster now. The 6-foot-7 swingman from the Czech Republic was a first-round pick last season but saw limited time as a rookie with Golden State.

The oft-injured Mills was seen as a trading chip from the time Dallas acquired him. The forward played only 112 games the last four seasons but has a big contract that expires after this year, which will help the Celtics clear room under the salary cap. He hasn't played this preseason.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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