Point Of Different Direction

GTS: Khalid El-AminKhalid El-AminEl-Amin, who won an NCAA title with UConn in 1999, is back in New England. University of Connecticut photo By Reagan Berube

Khalid El-Amin is different.

Unlike Mark Blount and Jerome Moiso, El-Amin is not guaranteed an NBA roster place for the 2001-02 season.

While Joe Johnson, Joe Forte and Kedrick Brown all carry the cache of being the Celtics' first-round picks, El-Amin is former second-round pick looking to catch on with his second team.

His height, weight and body type are not like the average basketball build. But unlike Joey Beard and the three other free agents on Boston's Shaw's Pro Summer League roster, El-Amin already has NBA experience. He has already proved he can succeed at the highest level.

El-Amin is different, no doubt about it. But ironically, the fact that he is unlike his teammates is what landed him in Boston this summer. He is atypical of most other players on the Celtics summer league roster because he has proven he can man the point guard position.

Although Boston has Kenny Anderson and Randy Brown under contract (and hope to sign Milt Palacio this summer) and plan to give Antoine Walker limited minutes at the point, the Celtics may still need reinforcements at the position over the 82-game stretch. The team used seven players at the position last season, who combined to miss 114 games due to injury.

By opting to come to Boston this summer, it not only shows the coaches his interest in the team, but also gives El-Amin a crash course in the Celtics scheme. That may make him an option for the upcoming season.

In some respects, the Celtics view El-Amin's situation in the same light as they did Adrian Griffin in 1999 and Blount in 2000. When the Celtics saw what these aforementioned players could do during the Shaw's Pro Summer League, they were viewed as bonus draft selections.

"Khalid had interest in going somewhere else," said Celtics Director of Player Personnel Leo Papile. "We told him to look at our situation last year. We had bad injuries at the point and we had some older guys at the point. Basically what I told him was that if you look at the 2001 draft, he would have been coming out this year had he decided to stay (for his senior season in college), and if you look at the point guards drafted, Raul Lopez, Jamaal Tinsley, Tony Parker, I honestly think he would have been the first point guard taken.

"Last year, Mark Blount was a bonus first-round pick. In Khalid, I think it is the same thing. The question here is roster spot availability. I told Khalid he is not coming in here to be a camp body. He is coming in to win a job."

El-Amin left the University of Connecticut after his junior year to enter the 2000 NBA Draft. Coming off a national championship and an All-American season, many predicted El-Amin would be a first-round selection. But as the draft approached, his stock dropped -- some say because of his size (5-10). He ultimately went to Chicago with the 34th overall pick.

Still, El-Amin's production early on was no different than what he had done in college. He exceeded expectations and earned the Bulls starting point guard position, ahead of the team's first selection in the 2000 draft, Jamal Crawford. El-Amin then won a spot on the Eastern Conference team in the Schick Rookie Challenge.

But the season did not end the way it began for El-Amin, as the Bulls waived him in the final month of the season. The team, which won just 15 games, looked to go in a different direction.

The late-season letdown didn't disappointment El-Amin, as he continued to work with personal trainer to remain in playing condition. Through the first several days of practice at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint, it is clear that he still displays a frame more like that of an NFL fullback than a NBA point guard. But El-Amin does not appear to have lost any of the speed, quickness or decision making skills that made him one of the more promising rookie point men in the league last year.

"We want Khalid to show what he can do," said Celtics head coach Jim O'Brien. "He is going to get a pretty good amount of playing time because Milt (Palacio) can't play the whole game. We want him to shine because we want him to be in the NBA.

"We think he can because up-tempo, pressing, three-point shooting style is exactly what he can excel at. If you are playing in the half court set up, then his size might be a detriment to him. But in the open court, he is extremely quick and explosive offensively. We hope that he helps us win games this week and that he shows the other 28 NBA teams that he definitely belongs in the league."

The immediate problem El-Amin faces in Boston is lack of roster space. Unlike the past two seasons, when the team filled vacancies by signing Griffin and Blount, the Celtics may not have space on the 15-man roster. Whether or not he lands in Boston not only depends on how he plays but also what the Celtics decide to do with the one roster spot they are likely to have open.

O'Brien admitted over the weekend that the team is most interested in signing a veteran -- namely free agent Bryant Stith -- to help develop the team's young talent. Chris Carr is also an option the Celtics will look at, as well as any other veteran that could step in immediately and help out.

"We need a veteran," said O'Brien. "There are no veterans on our team. We are not interested in another young guy, God knows we have an abundance of young guys on our team."

Still, El-Amin could not have found a better situation. Because of the lack of familiarity within many summer league players, teams tend to rely heavily upon point guards to regulate and ensure that the lessons coaches are trying to teach are carried out on the floor. El-Amin and Palacio are expected to be the two players quarterbacking the Celtics squad -- a team with two NBA-caliber post players in Blount and Moiso, as well as three rookies who are hungry to show off their scoring skills. With six games over a seven day period, there will be plenty of minutes fore both Palacio and El-Amin.

"To me summer leagues are all about point guard play," said O'Brien. "If you have two good point guards, you have a good chance to winning. If you do not have good point guards, summer leagues could be a nightmare."

El-Amin realizes this and is excited about his chance at the Shaw's Pro Summer League.

"I am definitely aiming for a chance to play and a chance for the Celtics to see me and what I am capable of doing," said El-Amin. "I want to show them I am capable of running an NBA team. I feel good about my chances.

"This is definitely exciting. I have guys that can finish from the wing position to the post players, so I am very comfortable with the teammates I am going to be playing with. Hopefully I can get it together and run the team like it should be run."

El-Amin is not trying to anything different than what he has done throughout much of his basketball career -- make a difference.