NEW YORK -- With injuries threatening to ruin their season, the Boston Celtics have made a bold trade in hopes of strengthening their lineup.
Boston acquired 6-foot-1 point guard Sherman Douglas from the Miami Heat, in exchange for guard Brian Shaw. Douglas was expected to make his Celtics debut last night at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks.
Douglas is young (25) and talented, but his days were numbered in Miami when he criticized the team's front office last fall during a two-month contract dispute. The Los Angeles Lakers tried to acquire Douglas last month when he was a restricted free agent, signing him to a seven-year, $16.6 million offer sheet. But the Heat matched that offer to avoid losing Douglas without compensation.
Miami continued to shop Douglas after signing him, and when the Celtics offered Shaw, the trade was made late Friday. Douglas said he was a little surprised to end up with Boston, but not surprised to be traded.
"It can happen to anybody, and it happened to me," Douglas said yesterday afternoon in a telephone interview from his Manhattan hotel. "I'm just hoping it will be a good trade for me and a good trade for both teams."
That remains to be seen. Boston already has a young point guard, Dee Brown, who is recovering from knee surgery. Boston hopes Brown will return in late February, but when Brown does come back, how will he and Douglas coexist sharing time at point guard? The 6-1 Brown and Douglas are probably too small to play very much together in the backcourt.
"I can't foresee the future, so I can't answer that question," Douglas said. "I just came from a team that had three good point guards: myself, Steve Smith and Bimbo Coles. Since I just got here, I don't know what my role's going to be. But the Celtics have a lot of injuries. Right now I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win."
Right now, the Celtics need as many healthy players as they can get. Their latest injury was suffered by Robert Parish, the starting center, who severely sprained his left ankle Friday night in a 104-94 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in Boston. Parish did not travel to New York for the game yesterday, and it was not known when he would return.
Parish joined Brown and Larry Bird (back injury) on the Celtics' injury list. And Kevin McHale (bruised calf muscle) did not play Friday and was also questionable for last night.
Douglas is a fine penetrator and passer who averaged 18.5 points and shot 50.4 percent last season. Douglas' game is unorthodox but effective, and his young legs should help Boston's running game.
The Celtics thought Shaw, who is 25, was expendable because he had not played up to expectations.
As a first-round draft choice in 1988, Shaw was expected to be one of the team's building blocks, with the size (6-6) to play both backcourt positions. But after a strong rookie season, Shaw left the Celtics after a contract dispute and played one season in Italy.
Shaw returned to Boston last season, but he struggled during the playoffs. Shaw also started slowly this season, bothered by a hamstring injury. John Bagley has started most of the season at point guard for Boston. Against the Knicks last Wednesday in Boston, Shaw played only nine minutes, none in the second half.
Now Shaw will get a fresh start in Miami playing with Smith, the Heat's 6-8 point guard, who is one of the league's best rookies. Smith's unselfish play has made him extremely popular with the other Miami players, the fans and the team's management.