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The Boston Celtics traded center Eric Montross and the ninth pick in the NBA draft to Dallas on Friday for the No. 6 pick and the Mavericks' first-round choice next year.

"We believe there's a quantum leap from six to nine," Celtics boss M.L. Carr said. The team's coach and director of player personnel said he was eager to make another move up the order for Wednesday's draft.The Mavericks were badly in need of a center last season, primarily starting 6-foot-9, 213-pound Lorenzo Williams, who averaged three points and eight rebounds in 65 games.

Montross, from North Carolina, was the ninth pick in 1994 and started 75 games as a rookie, averaging 10 points and seven rebounds per game. Last season, he averaged seven points and nearly six rebounds before ending his season March 22 with a sprained ankle.

"Montross gives us a 7-foot, 270-pound presence in the middle who plays hard every night," said Mavericks first-year coach Jim Cleamons. "He's a young talent who is somewhat unproven, but who has an outstanding background and great potential."

Montross and Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd played together in college on an All-Star team.

"He gives us an offensive outlet at the center position," Kidd said. "He also gives us a big body, which we need."

In addition to improving his draft position, Carr said unloading Montross' salary gives the Celtics an extra $900,000 under the salary cap that can be used in the free agent market. And having an extra pick in 1997 will help the team rebuild from what could be by then the longest championship drought in the history of the franchise.

The sixth pick gives the Celtics their highest choice since 1986, when they took Len Bias second; he died of a cocaine overdose two days after the draft.