Rest in Peace former Boston Celtics center Eric Montross
It is heavy hearts that we muist report on the passing of former Boston Celtics center Eric Montross. The former University of North Carolina national champion has lost his battle with cancer at the young age of 52. UNC provide the following statement:
Montross disclosed that he had been diagnosed with cancer just this past April. After winning a national championship in college, newly appointed Boston Celtics general manager selected Montross in the 1994 NBA Draft. Montross didn't disappoint as a rookie averaging 10 points and 7.3 rebounds. He would earn a well deserved selection on the NBA's All-Rookie team for that 1994-95 season.
Montross had a bit sophmore slump during the 1995-1996 season, but the Dallas Mavericks were still interested enough to not only offer the Celtics a 1997 unprotected first round pick in the coveted Tim Duncan draft, but also a pick swap in that June's NBA Draft. The Celtics used the pick swap to select future All-Star Antoine Walker. The 1997 Mavs pick wouldn't land #1 for Duncan, but #5 instead where new Celtics presidnt Rick Pitino selected Ron Mercer (In retrospect Tracy McGrady should have been the pick).
Montross was flipped to the New Jersey Nets after only a few months in Dallas as part of a massive nine player trade in February of 1997. The Nets acquired a haul of Montross, Sam Cassell, Chris Gatling, Jim Jackson and George McCloud, while the Mavs ended up with Shawn Bradley, Ed O'Bannon, Robert Pack and Khalid Reeves.
Montross was then traded two additional times in 1997. First to the 76ers and then to the Pistons. Montross remained in Detroit until February of 2001 when he was traded to the Rpators. Montross would close out his NBA career north of the border playing for Toronto through the 2001-2002 season.
I'm not sure why Montross wasn't able to replicate his rookie success, but I'd guess a great deal of the issue was that while he was never a great free throw shooter in college, he at least shot in the 60's from the charity stripe. Starting with his second year in the NBA he declined from a 68% FT% to a 38% FT%. This made Montross less playable for the rest of his career. Montross ended up shooting just 48% on free throws over his eight NBA seasons, only once hitting the 50% mark after his strong rookie campaign.
Still I will always remember Montross who was faced with the task of going up against Shaquille O'Neal and the #1 seed Orlando Magic in the 1995 playoffs. Montross and the Celtics gave a valiant effort in that series, which was also the final basketball games played at the original Boston Garden.
And as mentioned above, Montross' Celtics success enabled Carr to draft Antoine Walker as well as receiving a top 5 pick in the 1997 Tim Duncan sweepstakes. Montross had a long successful post NBA career serving as a radio analyst for his alma mater North Carolina Tar Heels.
Once a Celtic, always a Celtic. Our prayers go out to the Montross family at this difficult time.