Help wanted, but there's no big hurry
While Dikembe Mutombo said he wanted to come to Boston, the Celtics weren't quite ready to commit to him.
The four-time Defensive Player of the Year listed the Celtics among the teams he was interested in signing with for his last NBA season. While the Celtics had mild interest, they expected Mutombo to re-sign with Houston all along, and he did.
Mutombo told the Globe last Thursday that the Celtics didn't make an offer because they are still weighing their big man options.
"I wanted to play about 40-something games," said Mutombo. "The only money that was on the table for me was San Antonio and Houston. Yao Ming talked to me about coming back.
"Boston talked to me about being interested, but never made an offer. I believe they also had interest in P.J. Brown, Alonzo Mourning, and Joe Smith, who might be released by Oklahoma City.
"I wasn't going to sit at home for days to pass by while they make a decision. It left me to decide to go to San Antonio or come back here [to Houston].
"Boston wasn't ready. I think they will want to do something at the end of January. I think they're interested in four guys and then will pick one."
With Mutombo signed and Brown telling the New Orleans Times-Picayune last week that he plans on staying retired, the only free agents left that could intrigue the Celtics are Mourning and Robert Horry. Horry, however, doesn't seem interested in playing again.
Since Brown's departure, the Celtics have been in need of a veteran big man who can add length off the bench. Leon Powe and Glen Davis are both talented but undersized.
The 7-foot-2-inch, 260-pound Mutombo averaged 3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 39 games for Houston last season, and the Celtics seemed concerned about what he could contribute.
"I wanted to come," said Mutombo, who will be in town Wednesday with the Rockets. "My question was, how long would it be till they make a decision? They didn't have an answer."
The Celtics may not have an answer for a while.
Despite their recent losses, the sky hasn't fallen. The Celtics won't make a kneejerk move to add a veteran big man or a veteran guard with scoring skills off the bench. As they did with Brown and Sam Cassell late last season, expect them to take their time to make sure they get the right piece to their puzzle.
The Celtics will keep an eye on what big men are waived by Saturday, when contracts become guaranteed for the rest of the season. Potential candidates include Memphis's Darius Miles, Chicago's Michael Ruffin, the Lakers' Josh Powell, Miami's Jamal Magliore, Milwaukee's Austin Croshere, New Orleans's Sean Marks, and Toronto's Jake Voskuhl.
One NBA source said the Celtics seem interested only in players that are free agents or are bought out. But stay tuned. Don't be surprised if Celtics president Danny Ainge has something up his sleeve.
As Mutombo said, the Celtics are still trying to find out exactly what they want to do. Championship teams with elite records can take their time.
"I like our team," Ainge said. "Nothing at all is going on right now."
For Rivers, it's all about the GatorsCeltics coach Doc Rivers, whose home is in Florida, has a growing relationship with the University of Florida's football team and coach Urban Meyer. Rivers spoke to the team during the offseason, often communicates with Meyer via e-mail, and tries to use football to motivate the Celtics at times.
Rivers, whose daughter plays on the Florida volleyball team, is rooting for the Gators to beat Oklahoma in the BCS Championship Game Thursday.
"[Basketball coach] Billy [ Donovan] I know," said Rivers. "But really, with Urban it's been really good. I spent some time with him this summer. We created a video during the playoffs that has been one of their themes this year. 'Keep punching,' the whole Muhammad Ali thing.
"It's funny. When I went to the first game, they actually had it up on the screen at the stadium - not the same one, but that theme.
"He had me come in and speak to the team. They had a 'Champions Day' every year and I spoke to the team. It was neat.
"I love football because of the execution. Football, you have to have precise execution every day down the field. If I say, 'In and out,' and you go the other way, it's a turnover. If I say, 'On three,' and you go on two, the whole team is penalized.
"I tried to get these guys to understand if we can get that same mentality in basketball, we could be the best-executing team in the world on defense and offense."
Rivers was asked to speak to the Gators again before the BCS Championship, but time didn't permit it. He plans on watching the game while the Celtics are in Cleveland, where they play the Cavaliers Friday.
Asked for a prediction, Rivers said, "Florida. All SEC."
Marc J. Spears can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org