Hamilton a Celtics mystery Getting weight down first order of business

THE BALTIMORE SUN

BOSTON -- It is an hour and a half before the Chicago Bulls' first appearance in the FleetCenter and I am in search of the Boston Celtics' mystery man.

Thomas Hamilton.

The 7-foot-2 mountain of a man who supposedly weighs in the vicinity of 375 pounds and sits at the end of the Celtics' bench in sweaters large enough to double as tents.

The same Thomas Hamilton the Celts signed about a month ago and immediately placed on the injured list with a case of strep throat. The same strep throat that never seems to go away, penicillin or no penicillin, a Celtics version of a medical miracle.

The same Thomas Hamilton who has been called everything from a graceful elephant and someone who could be as pTC "unstoppable as Shaq," to someone so hopelessly out of shape that he probably has a better chance of hitting Powerball than ever seeing serious minutes in an NBA game.

The Celtics' mystery man.

In a game where you can teach anything but height, someone 7-foot-2 commands attention, no matter how much baggage he brings with him. In a game where height can turn a coach into a genius, there's always someone who is going to take a large unformed piece of clay and try and turn it into art.

And here is a 20-year-old kid, as green as sporing grass, with a big upside.

This much I knew. Hamilton is from Chicago where he once played on the same high school team with Rashard Griffith, the ex-Wisconsin star who failed to make the Milwaukee Bucks.

He graduated from high school in 1993, committed to the University of Pittsburgh at the tail end of the Paul Evans era, but was ineligible to play as a Prop 48 and left after the first semester. He entered his name in the '94 NBA draft, and actually was worked out by the Celtics.

This past fall, he showed up in Toronto's camp, primarily because he grew up in the same neighborhood as Isiah Thompson, the Raptors' poobah. And helped himself. Raptors coach Brendan Malone said that if he ever lost weight and got in shape he could be as unstoppable as Shaquille O'Neal in the low post. Eddie Pinckney was quoted recently as saying that no one could guard Hamilton in Toronto's camp.

So there he was shortly after six Monday night sitting in the Celtics' locker room.

"Do you have a minute?" I asked.

"I'm not supposed to talk," he said. "They told me not to say anything."

A real mystery man.

"What have you been doing for the past year?" I asked.

He shrugged.

"Have you lost weight since you got here?"

"Some," he said.

He seemed uncomfortable, shy, as if not accustomed to having a sports writer ask him questions. He spoke softly.

"What happened at Pittsburgh?" I asked. "Why did you leave?"

"It wasn't cool," he said. "I wasn't playing."

Eventually, Jon Jennings, one of the Celtics' assistant coaches, came into the room and told Hamilton he had to get into his sweats and do some work on the treadmill.

For the future awaits.

A lot of treadmill miles down the road.

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