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McDyess seems to be steering into a U-turn

By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / November 11, 2008
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The Celtics and 16 other NBA teams outside of Detroit are going to roll the dice. But once 30 days pass, expect coveted free agent forward Antonio McDyess to return where he is most comfortable and re-sign with the Pistons.

The Denver Nuggets, who just acquired McDyess in a trade with Detroit last week, yesterday bought out the last two years of his contract (worth $6.8 million each) for a little more than $6 million, according to NBA sources. Assuming McDyess isn't claimed off waivers, he will become an unrestricted free agent tomorrow but can't re-sign with the team that traded him, Detroit, for 30 days.

Such NBA powers as the Celtics, Lakers, Cavaliers, Hornets, Raptors, Rockets, and Suns are among those interested. However, an NBA source very close to McDyess said as of yesterday he plans on returning to Detroit, and many people close to him say they'd be shocked if he went elsewhere.

"I think he's going to Detroit," said Celtics guard Sam Cassell, who is good friends with McDyess. "I know he's comfortable with Detroit. He has a place there and everything. His comfort level might be there."

NBA teams have nothing to lose by trying to change McDyess's mind. His agent, Andy Miller, said he plans to talk to his client today in hopes of getting the list of suitors down to 3-4 teams.

Miller said he had a long conversation with the 6-foot-9-inch, 240-pounder Sunday night but wasn't certain what order of importance the factors of location, money, and a contending team were.

"If he wants, he'll give me some pecking order," Miller said. "That will give me direction."

McDyess is currently at his offseason home in Houston. Cassell spoke to him on the phone Saturday, but they didn't talk about him coming to Boston.

"I just talked to him about how he was doing," said Cassell. "I didn't ask him about coming here. I didn't realize that [the Celtics] were interested in him."

The Celtics have $2.3 million remaining from their mid-level exception to offer McDyess, but the Lakers and Cavaliers can offer more than $5 million. Of course, one big draw for the Celtics is that they have a legitimate chance of repeating as NBA champions. McDyess has never won a title.

Boston also offers the opportunity to play for the most storied franchise in NBA history, and with The Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce. Garnett and McDyess share the same agent in Miller, although Miller didn't think Garnett would try to use that as an advantage. Celtics president Danny Ainge also coached McDyess in Phoenix.

McDyess averaged 8.8 points and 8.5 rebounds for the Pistons last season. Acquiring him would give the Celtics a replacement for veteran P.J. Brown, who is expected to retire.

"It's not a hard sell," said Cassell. "He knows what we have."

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell voiced expectations of the Celtics having a legitimate shot.

"Wherever he lands, he can help someone," Mitchell said. "Boy, the rich just try to get richer, don't they? That's why I don't like buying the argument about rich people, 'Oh they've got enough money.'

"The Boston Celtics won a championship. Look at all those banners they've got. Yet some kind of way, I keep hearing the Boston Celtics name floating around with Antonio McDyess. Why would you ask me that unless you think it's a possibility? Rich get richer, man."

While Mitchell's words may sound great to Celtics fans, they may not pan out, because McDyess has a strong fondness for Detroit.

After jumping around from Denver to Phoenix to Denver to New York, McDyess stretched out his long legs comfortably in Detroit and doesn't seem interested in starting from scratch. He loves Pistons president Joe Dumars and the way the organization has treated him.

An NBA source said McDyess let it be known before the trade that he was not going back to Denver and wanted to return to Detroit. Another NBA source said McDyess fought the possibility of being dealt to Toronto in recent years to remain in Detroit. The Pistons also have available money to give him a new contract after this season.

"At this point in his career, he doesn't want a major change," said one of McDyess's former coaches.

With last season's Jerry Stackhouse situation in mind, the Pistons are being careful about a McDyess return.

The NBA wouldn't have let Stackhouse return to Dallas last season had he been part of the Jason Kidd trade with New Jersey because Stackhouse said the plan was for him to re-sign there.

While there are NBA executives who feel the situation is prearranged for McDyess to return to Detroit, it would be hard to prove, with the Pistons saying the right things and Miller talking about interest from numerous teams. Detroit coach Michael Curry also has said he is worried about McDyess going elsewhere.

"That's probably the team we're hearing the least amount of peppering from," said Miller, referring to the Pistons. "People are assuming he's going back. We're going to get the list down to 3-4 teams and then we'll go to the next step."

Expect the Celtics to call Miller tomorrow to express their interest, along with more than half the NBA. It wouldn't hurt for Garnett, Ainge, and Cassell to make calls to McDyess, too. The Celtics have nothing to lose. Thirty days is a long time. After the Garnett trade, anything is possible, right?

"I don't think anything needs to be said [about Boston] other than they're a championship-caliber team," Miller said.

Marc J. Spears can be reached at mspears@globe.com

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