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CELTICS DECLINE TO SWAP SHAW FOR CHANCE AT AUGMON OR MACON

Brian Shaw for Stacey Augmon. Brian Shaw for Mark Macon. Would you make either of those deals? The Boston Celtics, in effect, said they would not when they declined to swap their starting point guard for Washington's No. 8 pick in the 1991 draft last week.

For Shaw, whose brief tenure as a Celtic has been a rocky venture, it was an enormous vote of confidence. Boston officials said after being eliminated from the playoffs that they would not shop Shaw around the league. It appears they meant it, although that does not mean they will refuse to entertain offers.The fact that there is interest means other basketball people are willing to judge Shaw on his solid 82-game regular season, not just a poor 11-game postseason.

But questions about Shaw's true position (is he a point guard or isn't he?) and potential (or lack thereof) to establish himself as a perimeter shooting threat must have made the Celtics' brass think twice, even three times, about Washington's entreaty. In addition, were his defensive lapses during the playoffs the result of a bad ankle or bad habits?

It all comes down to known and unknown quantities. Shaw may not be destined for superstardom, but he did prove his worth as an NBA regular, and there's absolutely no doubt he can play in this league.

No such guarantees exist for the player available at the No. 8 slot. The consensus is that the top six picks, in no particular order, will be Larry Johnson, Billy Owens, Kenny Anderson, Dikembe Mutombo, Steve Smith and Doug Smith. After that, it's unclear.

Let's say the Celtics really loved Augmon (how could you not?). Let's say they traded Shaw with the intention of drafting the former Olympian and NCAA champion. They could have arranged a contingency deal with Washington whereby the deal was on if Augmon was around as the eighth pick and off if Minnesota grabbed him at seven.

Now. What about Macon? Unless something unusual happens, he will be around at No. 8. In fact, most experts forecast him to be there at No. 11, when Cleveland picks. Here is a player who might be one of the most fundamentally sound guards in the game. His stock is somewhat iffy because of a wacky four-year career at Temple, where enormous pressure was heaped on him at every turn. There are many who believe he will never shoot better than 40 percent in the NBA. Don't count me among them.

Did the Celtics do the right thing by passing? They will point to players such as Dennis Hopson, a "sure thing" at the No. 2 spot, who is a certified NBA bust. Or maybe they are holding out, waiting to see what other clubs will bring to the table. As we speak, the Clippers are offering their No. 9, but maybe they will up the ante with a body.

Michael Adams for the No. 8 pick? Denver said yes and was willing to throw in its No. 19 pick (Detroit's pick via Dallas, which acquired it in the Mark Aguirre-Adrian Dantley deal, then traded to the Nuggets in the Fat Lever deal) to make sure it happened.

Do not shed any tears for the former Boston College star, who got traded because he wanted his contract reworked. The Nuggets want Chris Jackson to be their starting point guard and are losing money hand over fist.

Adams immediately got a 15 percent raise because of a trade stipulation in his contract, and he can now spend more time in what used to be his off-season Maryland home, which happens to be 10 minutes from the Capital Centre.

Mychal Thompson's comments about the Lakers' front office and his teammates' losing respect for him did not sit well with general manager Jerry West, who was peeved at the timing (the day before Game 4), as well as Thompson's printed suggestions that coach Mike Dunleavy play the rookies more. "Mychal has always had too big of a mouth," West said. "He's been saying stuff like that all year. But this certainly wasn't the time." When West was asked to compare Thompson to Larry Drew, another L.A. veteran who has a year left on his contract but probably won't be back, he said, "The differences in their personalities are too great to list. One is b.s. all the time. On the other hand, what Larry says, he means." Thompson was rumored to be negotiating with Il Messaggero, but the Spanish papers are reporting he's all but signed with Real Madrid.

After Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did such a great job in containing Magic, Johnson was asked if they were the best ever. "No, DJ (Dennis Johnson) was the best," he answered. "He wasn't as quick as those other guys, but he was just as strong, and he had better hands. He had the best hands of anyone I've ever played against. He was also very, very smart."

If someone really wanted to mess with Chicago, all they need to do is present John Paxson with a big offer sheet. The Bulls are offering Paxson a two-year deal worth almost $2 million, but he wants three years. Take him out of Chicago's lineup and the chemistry collapses.