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Knicks trade four players for Chris Mills

October 22, 1997

BOSTON (AP) _ The New York Knicks accelerated their quest for a championship on Wednesday, trading four players _ including their three youngest _ to the Boston Celtics for forward Chris Mills.

New York dealt second-year forwards Walter McCarty and Dontae’ Jones, rookie forward John Thomas and veteran guard Scott Brooks to the Celtics. The Knicks also will have the option of choosing from any of Boston’s six second-round picks over the next four years.

``We’re playing for right now,″ New York coach Jeff Van Gundy said before Wednesday night’s exhibition game against the Celtics. ``... I think people get too concerned with youth. You want players who are good and who are in their prime.″

The trade was surprising on both sides _ but especially for the Celtics, who signed the 27-year-old Mills just two months ago to a seven-year, $33.6 million contract after he left the Cleveland Cavaliers as a free agent. Also, Brooks does not seem to fit in on a team that already has an abundance of point guards.

``Our dream is a lot further along down the road than the Knicks,″ Celtics coach Rick Pitino said, adding that more moves will be necessary before the Oct. 31 season opener. ``The Knicks feel like they’re on a championship drive right now.″

Mills figures to have his playing time greatly reduced by going from the Celtics’ starting lineup to a backup role behind small forward Larry Johnson. That’s why, Mills said, Pitino gave him veto power over the trade.

``If I didn’t feel like I was comfortable with it, he wouldn’t do the deal,″ Mills said. ``... (But) I’m going to a team that can contend right away. My main objective is to help the team win. If they feel like they need me down there to do that, I’m very happy.″

Knicks general manager Ernie Grunfeld said Mills will also help out at off-guard. And although Allan Houston is now New York’s youngest player at 26, Grunfeld denied that the team is devoid of youth.

``Chris Mills is only 27 years old, so he has his future ahead of him,″ Grunfeld said. ``He’s just hitting his prime.″

McCarty becomes the third member of the Celtics’ current roster to have played for Pitino at Kentucky, joining Antoine Walker and Ron Mercer.

None of the players involved in the deal were at the FleetCenter for Wednesday night’s exhibition game. They are required to pass physicals for the deal to be final.

By acquiring Mills, it seems the Knicks apparently were unwilling to go into the season with the unproven McCarty and Jones as their only backups to Johnson, who missed 31 games in 1993-94 with a back injury.

John Wallace, the backup small forward last year, was traded to Toronto in a three-way deal completed two weeks ago that brought backup center Chris Dudley to New York.

The two trades have left the Knicks without any of the three No. 1 draft choices they selected in 1996, when they picked 18th, 19th and 21st overall, nor Thomas, their only pick from the 1997 draft.

Mills is a four-year veteran whose scoring average increased every year until dipping from 15.1 to 13.4 last season when he played for the low-scoring Cavs. A career 38 percent shooter from 3-point range, he will give the Knicks another scoring option off the bench other than John Starks.

McCarty will have a shot at eventually moving into the starting lineup for the Celtics, who used Eric Williams at small forward last season and then traded him over the summer to Denver for two second-round draft picks when they needed salary cap room to sign Mills.

Jones spent his rookie season on the injured list after recovering from foot surgery. He averaged 14.7 points as a junior as Mississippi State before leaving early to apply for the NBA draft.

Thomas, the No. 25 overall pick, averaged 9.0 points and 6.3 rebounds in his senior season at Minnesota. He played 18 minutes in three exhibition games for the Knicks, averaging six minutes, 3.0 points and 1.3 rebounds.

Brooks, a nine-year veteran who missed New York’s last exhibition game because of a pulled hamstring, played sparingly for the Knicks last season. Boston will be his sixth NBA team.

``We were intrigued and encouraged with the prospects of our young players,″ Grunfeld said. ``However the chances were that they were not going to see the amount of substantial minutes that Chris will.″

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