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Maxwell Trade Is on Hold, but Walton Still May Go

Times Staff Writer

A trade that would bring forward Cedric Maxwell of the Boston Celtics to the Clippers for free agent center Bill Walton is on hold indefinitely because Maxwell’s left knee has not fully healed since surgery in February.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Walton will remain a Clipper.

Walton, 32, has until the end of July to sign an offer sheet with any National Basketball Assn. team. Besides the Celtics, the Lakers are interested.

The Clippers backed off on acquiring Maxwell after an examination of his left knee showed that it is 25% weaker than his healthy right knee. Maxwell had arthroscopic surgery to remove torn cartilage.

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Still, Clipper General Manager Carl Scheer said recently that Walton would soon meet with Celtic President Red Auerbach. Because the Celtics are significant ly over the salary cap, they cannot sign Walton or any other free agent unless they trade Maxwell, who earns $800,000 a season.

Scheer is expected to meet with General Manager Jerry West of the Lakers to discuss Walton’s situation at this weekend’s NBA meetings in San Francisco.

“West did say to me recently that he has some interest in Bill,” Scheer said Wednesday. “In fact, West had interest in Bill last summer.”

It is believed that the Lakers are considering not picking up Bob McAdoo’s option and using part of his $937,000 salary to sign Walton this summer. But West said any talk about giving Walton an offer sheet is premature.

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“There’s nothing concrete,” West said. “We really haven’t done anything at this point. We just got the draft out of the way. I’ll have conversations with a lot of general managers in San Francisco. I’m sure Carl and I will talk. About what, I don’t know.”

Walton, who was unavailable for comment Wednesday, was interested in signing with the Lakers last summer, but no offer was made.

Asked if he was concerned that Walton might sign an offer sheet with the Celtics, West said: “He can meet with who he wants to. It’s important for Bill to be happy wherever he goes, to try to strike the best deal for himself. He has the choice now.”

Walton was the player the Celtics wanted for Maxwell, but the teams also talked about a Clipper draft pick. Scheer, however, denied that it was the Clippers’ first-round pick in 1987, as was reported in a Boston newspaper.

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Negotiations were serious enough that the Celtics gave permission for the Clippers to fly Maxwell to Los Angeles Tuesday for the knee examination, performed by Dr. Tony Daly, the Clippers’ team physician. Daly told Scheer Tuesday that Maxwell’s left knee is 25% weaker than the right knee.

Scheer said: “It leaves us not yet ready to take the plunge into (acquiring) Maxwell. At the present time, he is a risk. He may well be a healthy player but, today, he is not. If we’re fully convinced that he is healthy at a later date, then we might be in contact (with the Celtics).”

Maxwell, 29, is a seven-year veteran with the Celtics. A 6-foot 8-inch, 217-pound power forward, he has averaged in double figures every season in Boston.

Ron Grinker, Maxwell’s agent, said Wednesday that his client will rehabilitate his knee in the next 30 days and then most likely undergo another examination by the Clippers’ doctor.

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Scheer, however, said that the Clippers probably would wait six weeks before deciding whether to give Maxwell another physical.

“It’s not a question of the Clippers looking at him again,” Grinker said. “I don’t think they’ve stopped looking at him. (The Clippers) made a decision that they’d like to have Cedric. Subject to doctors’ findings at this time, they cannot make a proposal to the Celtics. “Thirty days from now, when he’s re-examined, and if the knee responds like Dr. Daly says it should, I think they’ll discuss the possibility of a trade again. I don’t think anything is imminent.”

Clipper Coach Don Chaney, a close friend and former teammate of Maxwell, has made no effort to hide his interest in acquiring Maxwell. He said Wednesday, however, that Maxwell isn’t the only power forward the Clippers are considering.

“There are a lot of guys we’re looking at, but we won’t destroy our team just to get a power forward,” he said.

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“We have a good enough team now, with (first-round draft pick) Benoit Benjamin at center, that we could be all right without another power forward. I don’t know what Bill Walton’s status will be. I don’t know if he’ll take advantage of his free agency and sign an offer sheet, or whether we’d match it, or match it and trade him.”


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