Grampa Celtic Talks Danny and the Great Turnaround

A year ago today, Danny Ainge was the general manager of a 24-58 team whose infamy included losing 18 games in succession. It was clearly going to be an active offseason.


Grampa Celtic Talks the Joe Johnson for Rodney Rogers Trade

It could have been a vintage Bill Cosby routine.

The Lord: "Jim O'Brien, this is the Lord speaking. Have I got a deal for you! You give up three of your guys who aren't playing, plus that No. 1 draft pick you don't want, and Phoenix will give you Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk."

Jim O'Brien: "OK, who is this?"


Grampa Celtic Talks the Rodney Rogers/Vin Baker Debacle

There's still plenty of time for more players to feel scorned and rejected. But as of now, three names stand out as the early front-line casualties of the NBA's New Economy.

We know one of them in Boston - Rodney Rogers. But there are two others whose destiny is also a direct result of the dreaded luxury tax, and whose teams simply let them go when they could have retained their services. Those two presently unfortunate lads are Matt Harpring and Keon Clark.

Now, before we go any further, we should note that Rogers, Harpring, and Clark should all find employment in the NBA next season. Once they do, they will paid slightly more than the average per capita of Bangladesh. But all three represent different ways in which the apparently sure-to-come luxury tax has forced owners and management to retool, rethink, and reconfigure on the fly.

We're all too familiar with the Rogers saga. The Celtics thought so highly of his contribution last season that they offered him a 62 percent pay cut. Sure, they would have liked to offer more. But once they ran the numbers, especially after the lower salary-cap figures came out, even a $1 million offer was about $1 million more than they wanted to spend.

The Celtics knew two things: Rogers could not accept their offer and he would not accept their offer. Without a luxury tax, he would have quickly re-signed and Vin Baker would still be in Seattle. But the Baker trade enabled the Celtics to jettison $15 million in salaries for this season while taking on $14 million. That's Paul Gaston's kind of math.

So Rogers, arguably the fourth-best player on the team, is now shopping and, if he hasn't signed anywhere by September, maybe that $1 million won't look so bad. (Meanwhile, the dust has settled on the February deal with Phoenix: the Celtics dealt Joe Johnson, a No. 1 pick - Casey Jacobsen - Randy Brown, and Milt Palacio for Tony Delk.)

Clark and Harpring sort of fall into the same slot - players from the draft class of 1998, the same class that produced Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, and Antawn Jamison. Clark went 13th to Orlando (and was quickly shipped to Denver), while Harp ring went 15th, also to Orlando.

Those two had completed four years of the five-year rookie contract and their teams had the option to keep their rights for a fifth year by making what's known as a tender offer. In the case of Clark, that amounted to a 38.3 percent increase from his salary of last year for an offer of around $2.5 million. Harpring got a little less, around $2.3 million. The offer was good until Oct. 1 unless the team rescinded it, which both Toronto (Clark) and Philadelphia (Harpring) decided to do.

These guys are not scrubs. These were key players on playoff teams. Clark played 81 games for the Raptors and was fifth on the team in scoring, second in rebounding, and first in blocked shots. Now an unrestricted free agent, he may be one of the more valued players on the market. In any other market, he would be of enormous value. But in any other market, the Raptors would have already re-signed him.

Toronto general manager Glen Grunwald said his team wanted to make a fair offer to Clark, but "fair" in Grunwald's book has a different meaning than "fair" in Clark's book. Had Grunwald not signed Michael Stewart and Hakeem Olajuwon to silly, pre-luxury tax contracts, there'd be money to keep Clark. But now Clark is available to the highest bidder and, theoretically, should get something greater than $2.5 million. The Raptors may have something left over to sign a lesser player, maybe someone like . . . Harpring.

Harpring merely started 81 games for the 76ers and was one of the few to make it through the season without some debilitating injury. "But, with the luxury tax," Sixers GM Billy King said, "it's a different ballgame out there. No one talks about the salary cap anymore. It's all luxury tax."

King made the tender offer to Harpring in late June. He rescinded it July 23. You have to wonder: What was Harpring thinking in that three-week stretch? Does he really think someone out there is going to pay him more than $2.3 million this year? Maybe he knows something we don't.

King said Friday that he's taken countless calls from agents begging him to sign their player to the veteran minimum, which tops off at $1.03 million. That's one reason he pulled the plug on the Harpring tender. The other was that if it had been signed, King could not have traded Harpring for a year and Harp ring would have been an unrestricted free agent this time next year.

The Sixers already have spent around half of their $4.5 million exception on Dallas free agent Greg Buckner. The other half, or some portion of it, may be offered to Rogers. (King said there was nothing going on with Rogers.) Given the way the summer has gone, Rogers should think long and hard about any offer, even if it's a big dropoff from the $2.6 million he made last year. Given the way things are going, with teams trimming payrolls and rosters, the next offer might be the best one because it also might be the only one.

Convinced about Vin

It's hard to find too many people around the league who think the Celtics didn't swallow hoop cyanide by making the Baker deal. One league observer said he thought GM Chris Wallace had "lost his mind" while another offered this observation: "I'm more worried about (Baker) off the court. But if he's not running around with (Gary) Payton anymore, that should be OK." Yet another offered that Baker may not be the lug a lot of people think he is. "There's a player in there and he doesn't necessarily have to play down on the box. If he's used at center, he can pop out on the wing and knock down the jumper, just like Rogers did." Meanwhile, Baker's exit brought about some real tear-jerkers from the Seattle media. Three columnists from the major papers that regularly cover the Sonics gave Baker the pinata treatment after the deal went through. From Blaine Newnham of the Seattle Times: "The Sonics found a way to get rid of Vin Baker. Good for them . . . The real loss this week was Earl Watson, not Vin Baker." From Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune: "Now, the Celtics have relieved the basketball fans of the Northwest of one of their biggest scapegoats and punching bags . . . And the happiest man around? (Jim) McIlvaine, who is now firmly ensconced in second place as the team's worst dollar-for-dollar experiment." From Art Thiel of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "His mammoth contract is so burdensome that the Sonics must accept the Celtics' detritus and smile about it. If the Celtics wanted to throw in baked beans that expired four years ago, the Sonics would be moved to suggest that a little microwaving will fix anything, and would take a second bowl." Now you know why Baker used words like "elated" and "ecstatic" to explain his feelings about the trade. In terms of bad guys in Seattle history, he fell somewhere between Ted Bundy and Brian Bosworth . . . The Sonics, meanwhile, may be in danger of losing Rashard Lewis, their marquee free agent. He is said to be furious with Seattle's offer, which was substantially less than what he wanted (there's a shocker) because Seattle felt it had to commit $15 million over three years to center Jerome James. Lewis was so peeved he agreed to visit Dallas for a tour of the Cuban Country Club. The Mavericks could only offer Lewis the midlevel exception, but Cuban is known for taking care of his players down the road. The loss of Lewis would be a huge blow to Seattle, which also must deal with the obligatory contract extension demand (for next season and beyond) from Payton . . . King mentioned that the luxury tax, not the salary cap, is the number that has everyone spooked. Not one team has meaningful cap room. The Bulls? Even if they renounced Charles Oakley ($10.9 million) and Travis Best ($6.7 million) they'd be at $39 million, or a little more than $1 million under the cap. The Clippers won't have cap room as long as restricted free agent Michael Olowokandi's $10 million is on the books. . . . Nets assistant Eddie Jordan took full advantage of the few teams that inquired about his services and wrangled a new deal with the Nets which, sources say, is worth $1.5 million over two years, a megadeal for an NBA assistant. Geez, maybe that's enough to convince Byron Scott that it would be OK for Jordan to talk to the media next season . . . Chauncey Billups got just about everything he wanted from the Pistons: the promise of a starting job, a maximum salary out of the midlevel slot ($4.5 million for the first year), and some security (six years) for a guy who will be on his sixth team in six seasons. But one thing he could not get: No. 4. The Pistons retired that in honor of the man who arranged Billups's signing: basketball boss Joe Dumars. Billups has worn No. 4 most of his career, but will instead settle for No. 1 with the Pistons. To give you an idea of how quickly and efficiently the Pistons moved, Billups was contacted by 14 teams. He visited one - the Pistons . . . As good as Billups's deal was, and in this climate, it's a big one, you also have to like the five-year deal Pat Garrity got from Orlando. Five years? My guess is he would have jumped at one year with a team option . . . The Suns, who are young and rebuilding, dipped into the veteran free agent pool for Scott Williams, in whom a lot of teams expressed interest. One major reason for the Williams signing: his experience and locker room demeanor. "It became very clear that Scott stood above a lot of players out there with the same kind of experience because of the type of person and character that he is," said Suns honcho Bryan Colangelo. "There is not a person that I've talked to that doesn't have something very positive to say about Scott and what kind of influence he can have on a locker room and on a team." In a strange twist, Williams and his wife had just bought a home in the Phoenix area, following Williams's in-laws, who had retired to the area. They closed on the house and then Williams took a veteran minimum offer (around $1 million) to stay at home and play for the Suns.


Grampa Celtic Talks More About Beantown Legends

Most cities have a superstar or two in their history. We live in one where, since 1925, we have had superstars, SUPERSTARS, and **SUPERSTARS!**

No kidding. For the past 75 years, Boston has had at least one unquestioned, first-ballot Hall of Famer performing for one of its professional hockey, baseball, football, or basketball teams. The Celtics alone have had about a half-dozen guys who would be under serious consideration as the greatest player in the history of many NBA teams.


Grampa Celtic Talks Teddy Ballgame, Robert Gordon Orr, #6, and #33

Ted Williams put down his paper and placed his reading glasses on the table.

"That kid will be up here someday, won't he?" inquired The Thumper.

"What kid?" replied Bill Russell.


Celts Meet Bucks for First Time since Playoff Sweep

1983-84 Boston Celtics
Record: 1-1

Some folks remember the Maine. Others remember the Alamo. Still others try to remember the kind of September. The Boston Celtics remember the Milwaukee May Day Massacre. The NBA's schedule maker must be a clever fellow, blessed with either a macabre sense of humor or a keen feel for the dramatic. Here it is, two days after Halloween, and the Milwaukee Bucks are in town to help the Celtics open their 38th home season tonight at 8.

These are the same Bucks who spit on the once-proud Celts in four straight games last May. Milwaukee's flashdance sweep was the first ever suffered by the Boston franchise, and it opened up the gates for a tumultous summer that saw several key members of the Celtics' cast wave goodby. One of tonight's multiple subplots is the return of Tiny Archibald in a Bucks uniform. Boston's floor leader for five seasons was unceremoniously dumped in midsummer, then signed with the Bucks. Tiny will be Milwaukee's starting playmaker tonight, but memories of The Sweep remain the Celts' primary motivation.

"I think we'll have some extra incentive," said Cedric Maxwell. "It's unusual to be pumped up for an early game, but I think our pride is still probably wounded. We weren't prepared and they beat us handily last year. I think we'll be up a lot more this time. You can't gain it all back - what we lost as far as our pride goes - but this would be a start." "I'm sure we haven't forgotten the way we ended last year," adds Robert Parish. "This should be a very intense contest. We have to establish ourselves against a good ballclub, especially since our first outing (Friday's 127-121 loss in Detroit) wasn't exactly pretty."

"Ugly" is the best description of the Milwaukee Massacre. The Celts were beaten in straight sets, 116-95, 95-91, 107-99 and 107-93. The Bucks advanced to the Eastern Conference finals against Philadelphia while the Celtics staggered home for an endless summer of "What happened to you guys?" "The Bucks embarrassed us," says M.L. Carr. "I'd like to beat Milwaukee six times this year, then meet them in the playoffs and beat 'em again. I don't want to take aything away from them, but it could have been any team beating us the way we were playing then. It could have been Phoenix. It could have been New York. It just happened to be Milwaukee."

Bucks' coach Don Nelson, who burned some bridges with mentor Red Auerbach during the sweep, says, "This is just one of the early tough games for us. The sweep was nice, but it was just one step for us. Our goal last spring was to win a championship and we didn't, so I don't feel very triumphant coming back to Boston." Nelson will start Archibald in the backcourt with Sidney Moncrief. Marques Johnson, Bob Lanier and Alton Lister will start up front. Archibald and Lanier played only 21 and 23 minutes respectively in Milwaukee's season opener vs. Indiana. Charlie Criss, Junior Bridgeman, Paul Pressey and Kevin Grevey are Nelson's spare guards, and Harvey Catchings, Paul Mokeski and rookie Randy Breuer fill in underneath.

Listor plays some center when Lanier is out of the game, and Nelson has been looking at Pressey as a small forward. The Bucks are the oldest and most experienced team in the league. "I worry that older players have the tendency to get injured more and may not recover as quickly, but I like my squad," says Nelson. "We have respect for them, but we know we can beat them, " says Larry Bird. "They embarrassed us and the only way to get back at 'em is to go out and beat 'em." "Let's put it this way," adds Kevin McHale. "If we have to beat a team Wednesday night, there's nobody I'd rather beat than Milwaukee. We have to vindicate ourselves."

Negotiators for the NBA and the NBA Referees Assn. met for four hours yesterday and NBA
legal counsel Russ Granik reported "no significant progress." Granik also said, "We are prepared to go all season with the substitute officials. We think they'll get better each week." The NBA said it had filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against the referees' union for allegedly "engaging in a pattern of attempted coercion and intimidation" of substitute refs . . . Archibald hit 4 of 4 floor shots and 2 of 2 from the line in the Bucks' opener. "I think the fans will show their appreciation for the things Tiny did while he was here," says Carr . . . Moncrief has a slightly bruised shoulder but expects to play . . . Milwaukee assistant coach Gary St. Jean scouted the Celtics last weekend.


Garnett Shines in First Exhibition Game

KG's Rookie SeasonOctober 15, 1995

Timberwolves vice president Kevin McHale is trying to add a strong veteran influence to the team. Experience often translates into victories. That's usually how it works. But the Wolves' younger generation insisted on not being left out of the process Saturday night. Kevin Garnett, Mark Davis and Jerome Allen gave the Wolves a peek into what could be a bright future with impressive performances in the Wolves' 106-98 exhibition victory over the Milwaukee Bucks at Barnett Center.

Garnett, playing in his first NBA exhibition at 19, was the featured attraction for the crowd of 4,564. His 13 points, three assists and three rebounds showed he might be ready for a quick ascension to the pros directly from high school. ``It still hasn't sunk in yet that I'm in the NBA,'' Garnett said. ``Me and friend of mine were talking about that the other day. To me, it's just like playing some ball.''

Wolves coach Bill Blair wanted to give the rookies a chance to get the jitters out of the way. What he saw might have surprised him. Garnett showed poise, Davis showed a flash of the spectacular, and Allen showed he might be able to run the Wolves' offense when needed. ``I'm really pleased with our young guys,'' Blair said. ``They give us a different look than we've had before. We're much quicker and that's really important for us.''

Davis scored 19 points in only nine minutes of action. Allen played 21 minutes and had two points, five assists and no turnovers. But all eyes appeared to be on Garnett, who got a surprise visit from his mother. Mrs. Garnett and a friend drove to the game from Minneapolis without telling her son. ``I tried to get his attention, but he didn't see me,'' Mrs. Garnett said. ``He was really focused on what he was doing.''

It is obvious Garnett could be a special story this season. He was the only Wolves player pictured in the souvenir game program for fans. Milwaukee's Glenn Robinson was the Bucks' featured player in the program. Coincidence? Or just an early attempt to get Garnett ready for the big time? When Garnett got up to check in at the scorer's table with 2:29 left in the first quarter, fans started to buzz. The crowd gave him a loud ovation when he stepped onto the court to replace Doug West.

Garnett missed his first shot, a short jumper, but he converted a fast-break layup moments later off a pass from Darrick Martin. More cheers. Garnett remained in the game until 3:43 remained in the second quarter. He had nine points, including a three-pointer, and two turnovers. He appeared exhausted when Davis replaced him. Davis used the final 3:43 to make a major statement for his potential role with the club. He made his first attempt, a leaning bank shot off the dribble.

Davis ended the short stint with a team-high 12 points, including a three-point play and a desperation three-pointer inside the halfcourt line to beat the halftime buzzer.
Garnett and Davis combined to score 21 of the Wolves' 33 points off the bench in the first half.


Garnett Plays 38 Minutes, Opens Some Eyes

KG's Rookie Season
October 28, 1995

The Minnesota Timberwolves moved to 6-1 in preseason, and rookie Kevin Garnett played a game-high 38 minutes and filled in for the absent veterans with 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals. The Wolves played the final six minutes with Michael Williams, Christian Laettner, Tom Gugliotta (nine points, six rebounds), Mark Davis and Garnett.``Coach Bill Blair could have played me until four in the morning if he wanted to,'' Garnett said. ``I'm glad the coaches are starting to have the confidence in me.''

Opponents are shooting more than 5 percentage points less against the Wolves (down to 42.2 percent from 47.4) in the seven games, a tribute to more aggressive defense and perhaps the wingspan of 6-foot-11 rookie Kevin Garnett. Garnett, who leads the Wolves in blocked shots (11), makes his Target Center debut tonight. The learning process has been rough at times, but Garnett has not embarrassed the club as a kid playing a man's game. The high school phenom is averaging 9.0 points and 5.1 rebounds and leads the team in minutes per game at 26.3.


Garnett May Have to Fight for Spot in Rotation

KG's Rookie Season 
 October 25, 1995

Rookie Kevin Garnett might have to fight for a spot in the rotation. He played only 14 minutes and was 0 for 4 from the floor. Garnett also had the misfortune of trying to contain Bucks forward Glenn Robinson, who had a game-high 34 points. ``Kevin got lit up tonight, but the guy he was guarding had something to do with that,'' Blair said.


Wolves Sign Garnett

KG's Rookie Season
October 3, 1995

Yesterday the Minnesota Timberwolves officially welcomed Kevin Garnett. The 19-year-old signed a three-year contract worth about $4.6 million. Garnett, who bypassed college to enter the NBA draft, will earn $1.325 million this season, $1.554 million in 1996-97 and $1.757 million in 1997-98 according to the rookie wage scale established for the No. 5 pick in the new collective bargaining agreement.


Bill Willoughby Offers Advice to Garnett

June 28, 1995
KG's Rookie Year

Bill Willoughby, who jumped from high school to the NBA in 1975, had some observations and recommendations for 19-year-old Wolves draftee Kevin Garnett:

On skipping college: ``He could sign a contract worth $30 million or $40 million, and people are telling him to go to college? Come on. ... Few people have that kind of opportunity, a chance to put money in the bank and be secure.''

On playing time: ``I told Kevin to stay confident and love the game, even if he's coming off the bench in the last 10 minutes. But deep down I know the only way to be happy is if you're playing. If the coach keeps him sitting, he'll have trouble. If they give Kevin the ball, just like if they'd given it to me, he'll be an all-star.''

On making the adjustment to the NBA: ``He's not just a ballplayer now, he's a professional. It's a man's game.''

On ego: ``He's already on the cover of magazines, on TV. ... He's ahead of a lot of 19-year-olds right now, but they'll catch up.''

On financial advisers (Willoughby says he was swindled out of much of the money he earned in eight NBA seasons: ``They'll tell you they're taking care of your money and instead they're ripping you off. I told Kevin to put his own money in the bank.''


Playoffs Open Tomorrow against Bullets

1983-84 Boston Celtics
April 16, 1984

The Celtics will be home for Easter and can send someone to scout the Knicks-Pistons series, which starts tomorrow night in Pontiac, Mich. Boston's playoff path is finally in focus. The Celtics open their best-of- five series with the Washington Bullets tomorrow at 8 p.m. at the Garden. Game 2 will be Thursday night in Boston at 7:30. Game 3 in Landover, Md., is set for Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Celtics will fly home after Saturday's game.

If a Game 4 is needed, they'll play Tuesday night in Washington. If there's a fifth game, it will be in the Garden on April 26. If the Celtics beat Washington, they'll meet the winner of the New York- Detroit matchup in a best-of-seven series. The winner of that round figures to play the 76ers in the Eastern Conference final.


Larry Bird won the NBA's free-throw title with a percentage of .888 (374-421) . . . Danny Ainge (sprained left ankle) sat out his fifth straight game and says, "It's tough watching, but I realize we've got two more months to play, and we've got a lot of good players, so there's no sense coming back when you're not 100 percent." . . . The Celtics finished with a 13-11 record against the Atlantic Division . . . Darryl Dawkins fouled out 22 times this year, down one from last season . . . Did you notice that Bill Fitch's Houston club clinched the bottom spot in the West with a 146-128 loss in San Diego Saturday night? Big Brother Bill is now only a coin flip (vs. Portland, which owns Indiana's pick) away from the No. 1 pick . . . Before yesterday's game, Bird was presented with the Jack Barry Sportsmanship Award, given annually in honor of Barry, a beloved Globe sportswriter who passed away in 1975.


Marcus Webb Says He's Matured


April 17, 1994


When he arrived in Boston last year as a new Celtics player, Marcus Webb quickly became a fixture in clubs and bars from Daisy Buchanan's in the Back Bay to the Harbor Club on the waterfront.

Webb often traveled with a small entourage of fellow pro athletes and girlfriends. Young, attractive and rich, Webb and his friends cut a swath through some of the city's most fashionable nightspots.

But for Webb, the good times came to a grinding halt.

The Celtics forward first gained notoriety when he told the team he missed a doctor's appointment and a practice because police wrongly stopped him while driving on Route 9. Police said that no such incident occurred.

Then, within a 10-day period in March, Webb was arrested twice, first for allegedly slapping an ex-girlfriend and then for allegedly raping his girlfriend at the time. Another ex-girlfriend sued for child support.

The Celtics soon after fined him for lying about the status of his driver's license. Finally, the team cut him. Webb wound up in a jail cell because he could not raise $25,000 bail.

"I'm a very changed person today because of all those things that happened in Boston," Webb said last week in a telephone interview from Pau, France, where he plays for the local team in the French professional basketball league.

Webb said he did a lot of growing up in Boston. But he says he didn't do all the things he was accused of doing.

"I don't want to think about it all. It's over. It's just something that happened," he said.

Webb eventually agreed to plead guilty to sexually assaulting his former girlfriend and was sentenced to 30 days in prison.

After his release from Concord state prison, Webb was given a tryout by the Los Angeles Clippers. But the Clippers were too nervous about possible public relations problems to give Webb a fair chance, according to his agent. Webb packed his bags for Europe.

Looking back, Webb said the best thing that happened to him in Boston was meeting his fiancee, Kathryn West of Cambridge. An August wedding is planned in Montgomery, Ala., Webb's hometown.

In the meantime, Webb, 23, is averaging 19 points and 9 rebounds a game. He's one of the premier players in the league. But he wants to return to the NBA. If he does, he said he'll do things differently this time around.

"I've got family responsibilities now," he said. "I'm more mature."


Webb Waived

March 28, 1993


Marcus Webb doesn't mean to brag, but he knows he played ball better than anyone back home. He dressed better, too. And he's sure he can outcook the Boston chef who's just sent over some smothered cabbage and sweet potatoes.


Marcus Webb Gets Feet Wet



Marcus Webb made his Celtic debut at 10:16 of the fourth quarter. He scored the first basket of his pro career at 9:05 on a little post-up on the block, and finished with 11 points in 10 minutes of action.


Webb of Intrigue

July 14, 1992

Had circumstances been different, Marcus Webb feels he wouldn't be banging bodies at Brandeis this weekend, looking for a job. Instead, he'd be wondering where to invest his first million as one of the NBA's top draft picks, his lifelong dream about to become a reality.


Remembering the 29-3 Start

The Celtics are 29-3. Take a step back and reflect on that utterly astonishing record. They could go .500 the rest of the way - which would be a dramatic dropoff from the way they are playing - and still finish with 54 wins. They are (a) a Paul Pierce 3-pointer (which he's been known to make on occasion), (b) two Ray Allen free throws (money) and (c) a silly Tony Allen foul from possibly being 32-0. Conversely, they also are (a) a Sam Vincent brain cramp (a beauty), (b) a Dwyane Wade jumper (which he's been known to make on occasion), and (c) some Chauncey Billups free throws (money) from being 26-6.

To what do we attribute such astounding success, other than the fact that the Celtics are playing really, really well? Here are a few possibilities.


Celtics Dancing with DeClercq

July 15, 1997

The Celtics may not have any money to spend, but that unimportant technicality isn't stopping them from making deals.


Pitino Poised to Throw Dough at DeClercq

July 15, 1997

Focusing on their most glaring need, the Celtics are close to signing free agent center Andrew DeClercq to a multiyear contract, a source said.


Bird Reups

September 28, 1983

Larry Bird, Boston's all-star forward, is apparently on the verge of signing a contract with the Celtics for more than $15 million.

Bird and the Celtics' new owners yesterday had reportedly reached general agreement on a multiyear contract that would guarantee Bird more than $2 million a year and bring him more than $15 million over the life of the pact.

Neither the Celtics nor Bird's agent, Bob Woolf, would verify the figures, but Woolf acknowledged yesterday that ''we are very close to agreement with the Celtics,'' and made clear that he had been pressing for a contract that would exceed the $13.2 million, six-year contract that Moses Malone signed with the Philadelphia 76ers last year. 

''A number of top experts tell me that Bird is the best basketball player ever to play the game, and I believe the new owners concur,'' Woolf said, expressing hope that the Celtics would be rewarding Bird ''with a contract commensurate with his skill.''

Unlike the Malone contract, which reportedly included $350,000 a year in incentive bonuses, the Bird negotiations are said to have focused on a fully guaranteed contractwithout such bonuses.

Camp Opens This Week

Woolf said he expected a final agreement before the opening of the Celtics' training camp this week, the deadline Bird has set for concluding a new agreement with the Celtics. He is entering the last year of a five-year, $650,000-a-year contract and has said that he would not negotiate with the Celtics once training camp begins but would instead pursue free agency next year.

Meanwhile, Robert Parish, the Celtics' center, threatened to stay out of training camp, which begins Friday, unless the club renegotiates his $650,000-a-year contract.

Parish's new agent, Wayne Traynham, met with Celtic officials yesterday but neither side was immediately available for comment. Parish has three years remaining on his currentcontract.