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LaFrentz delayed, delivered

MRI on knee gives Celtics pause but he ultimately passes physical

WALTHAM -- The start of the post-Antoine Walker Era in Boston was unexpectedly delayed last night, but the five-player trade between the Celtics and Mavericks became official at approximately 10:30 p.m. once the results from player physicals were complete and reviewed. Two hours earlier, Celtics director of basketball operations Danny Ainge said the team was awaiting blood test results for new acquisitions Raef LaFrentz and Jiri Welsch, and an MRI generated some concern about LaFrentz's right knee.

Reached late last night, Ainge said, "We were waiting for some blood results to come back and we were looking at the MRI. And since [LaFrentz] had missed practice anyway, we just wanted to make sure and discuss everything with all parties involved. So we were in no rush, because they had already missed practice. If we had got all that stuff done at 6 o'clock like we had hoped, it probably wouldn't even have been an issue.

"He has a sore right knee, tendinitis in his right knee, and we could see something on the MRI and we just wanted to make sure. And everything checked out great. If there were concerns in the blood work, we would have gotten phone calls from the hospital."

After the team's early-evening workout, Welsch addressed the media on the practice court, talking about his hectic day and high hopes for his time in Boston. The Celtics planned to introduce LaFrentz at a press conference in the Hall of Fame room after he completed his physical, but that was postponed until shootaround today.

"I didn't really know what was going on," said LaFrentz. "It was kind of weird. I'd spent virtually all day in physicals. I think I had about a 7 1/2-hour poking and prodding session. Once I got done with that, I saw the practice facility, met the guys. And while I was doing that, they were busy chatting amongst themselves about some other things. But it all worked out in the end and I'm very happy."

At 7:50 p.m., LaFrentz left the doctors' offices adjacent to the team training facility and was escorted across the practice court by senior director of communications Bill Bonsiewicz and into the training room.

Shortly thereafter, Dr. Brian McKeon, a member of the Celtics medical staff, walked across the court and conferred with Ainge, McKeon, team owner Steve Pagliuca, and trainer Ed Lacerte. During the conversation, McKeon pulled out MRI films, which Ainge said were of both players.

"The doctor was educating me on the MRI stuff as we were sitting there," said Ainge. "But the only concern we had was the MRI of Raef's right knee. It was a `hot spot.' "

Recalling the scene and all the curious onlookers, Ainge joked, "We were just messing with you guys. We were just having fun. You guys were scrambling and we were cracking up. We were laughing at you guys filming and taking pictures."

LaFrentz has had a relatively brief injury history during his five-year NBA career. During his rookie year, 1998-99, he tore the ACL in his left knee in February and missed the remainder of the season. He underwent surgery in March and appeared in 81 games the following season. With the exception of his rookie year, LaFrentz has never played fewer than 69 games.

After conferring for approximately 20 minutes, McKeon, Ainge, Pagliuca, and Lacerte went upstairs to Ainge's office, and were joined by general manager Chris Wallace and director of player personnel Leo Papile. Ainge and McKeon could be seen making calls. Meanwhile, LaFrentz was spotted waiting in the trainer's room. A little more than an hour later, the deal became official, as Bonsiewicz told reporters that LaFrentz and Welsch had passed their physicals.

After meeting some of his new teammates, LaFrentz said they seemed "like a fun group of guys to work with." The power forward/center also said he was eager to play again with former college teammate Paul Pierce.

"I have to talk to [coach Jim O'Brien] and see what he envisions as my role," said LaFrentz. "I know I can shoot the basketball. I know I've been a successful center in this league now for five years now, going on my sixth. I'm confident in my abilities. I'm confident in what I can bring to this team. Hopefully, I can add a little bit of a defensive presence with some shot-blocking and do the things I've done in the course of my career thus far.

"In Dallas, I just tried to fill holes. Wherever we were weak, I tried to bring something to the table. I hope to be able to do the same thing here, whether it be outside scoring, somewhat of an inside presence, a defensive man in the middle. I'll just have to talk to Coach O'Brien and see what he envisions as my role."

LaFrentz should get some answers this morning at shootaround, a day later than expected. O'Brien pushed practice back yesterday until late afternoon in hopes that both LaFrentz and Welsch would be able to participate. But on this long day, all Welsch did was put on a No. 44 practice jersey and shoot free throws.

"Frankly, I'm a little aggravated right now," said O'Brien, "because we moved practice back to 5 o'clock and I had the whole schedule planned to acclimate Raef and Jiri and that just went down the drain.

"You don't have a whole lot of time to get these guys in by the first game and get them understanding [the system] and we just blew a day."

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