Celtics Make Bias Second Overall Pick of Draft
By Sally Jenkins
Every time he turned around, somebody seemed to be shoving something leaf-green or forest-green or money-green at him, whether it was a green felt cap or a green silky jacket or a green nylon bag. Make that Boston Celtic green.
All he lacks now is a Celtics championship ring. That, however, may be arranged. The Celtics made Bias their first choice, and the second player chosen overall, in the NBA draft at Madison Square Garden's Felt Forum.
"I don't have a ring yet," he said. "But I'd be pleased to wear one."
Bias, the 6-foot-8 all-America forward from Landover with the great leap and soft shooting touch, seems to be ideal for the Celtics. He averaged 23.2 points and seven rebounds for the University of Maryland, leading the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring.
In many ways, it's a fitting partnership. Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell has close ties to Celtics President Red Auerbach, and Bias spent a week last summer working with young players at Auerbach's New England basketball camp. Bias visited the Celtics two weeks ago as they opened the championship series against the Houston Rockets in Boston.
"I sat right there behind the bench and watched them warm up, and it was a dream," Bias said. "I thought then that could be me one day. It's a dream within a dream. My first dream was just to play in the NBA. To get drafted by the world champions is an extra one."
The Celtics already are stockpiled with talent, chief among them Larry Bird. But Bias said that he could be used at a variety of positions and that he had been assured by the Celtics that he would not spend as much time on the bench as most rookies.
"They've told me I'll be the sixth man," he said. "They said I'd get plenty of playing time. I'm not worried about that."
"He's just a great athlete," Auerbach said. "I've seen him play many times. I've seen him practice many times. He's got good work habits. He's a good kid."
"He's going to play. . .You ever hear of the word insurance? He's pretty good insurance."
"He's maybe the closest thing to (Chicago guard) Michael Jordan to come out in a long time," said scout Celtics scout Ed Badger, who watched Bias in about six games. "I'm not saying he's as good as Michael Jordan, but he's an explosive and exciting kind of player like that."
With the Celtics, Bias will benefit from several things he lacked at Maryland. He will have the opportunity to work with several big men, including 7-foot Robert Parish, and with Bird, who said he would be "a great teacher." At the same time, however, he will ahve to adjust to working within a shared offense again; no longer will his team's offense be built around him.
"Maryland had a great team, but we were always the underdogs," he said. "Now the Celtics are the top dogs, a team that gets to the playoffs every year. I can handle it. I never looked at myself as a star. You all did. As far as not having the ball as much, I haven't even thought about that. I'll worry about it when I get there. I'll say one thing. It will be nice to get to play with a guy over 7 feet tall."
Bias was long expected to be chosen by the Celtics if trades did not get in the way, so the selection was not a total surprise to him. He was expressionless as the Celtics announced his name.
He actually learned of the Celtics' choice before most others in the Felt Forum. Shortly after Brad Daugherty became the draft's first choice, a Celtics representative wandered over to Bias' seat behind the Boston table, and asked: "Are you packed for Boston?" Sitting next to him was North Carolina's Chris Washburn, who would be the third player chosen, but Golden State. Washburn slapped Bias, who smiled, on the shoulder.
"You better get ready to go," he said.
"You get ready, too," Bias laughed, "because you'll be next."
Bias was accompanied to the draft by his father, James, an equipment repairman. The younger Bias steadfastly maintained through the morning that he had no team preference, but the elder Bias was openly rooting for the Celtics. He saw no problems with his son fitting into a championship organization.
"Maybe he can play a few quality minutes for them," James Bias said. "That's all he asks. Even in college, Len was always a star to us, and he was a star even long before that. Basketball hasn't changed anything . . . Playing NBA style, he'll show what he can do. Once they see him one on one, they'll see he's a great scorer, not just a good one."
He graduated from Northwestern High in Adelphi, Md.
Shortly after the selection, Bias boarded a shuttle for Boston, accompanied by his father and Bill Shelton, a representative of Advantage International, the Washington firm that will represent him. He was told to hold a news conference there, and negotiations will then begin.
Shelton would not speculate on how the negotiations would proceed. But the Celtics are already close to their salary cap, which could hinder progress, and also could affect Bias' salary level.
"I have no idea how negotiations will go," Shelton said. "It's a little premature to talk or even think about that. We'll just go up there and move forward. All I know is that they are at or very close to the salary cap."
Nevertheless, Len Bias is about to come into a great deal of money. The first thing he was going to do was buy something.
"A car," he said. "A Mercedes."
Maybe something in green.