Wilcox rediscovering winning feeling with Celtics

Wilcox rediscovering winning feeling with Celtics
October 2, 2012, 1:55 pm
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Chris Wilcox won the state 2A championship with his Whiteville High School (NC) team as a junior in 1999. He won the NCAA national championship with the Maryland Terrapins as a sophomore in 2002.

So what's he won in the NBA?

. . . (Crickets) . . .

Going into his 11th NBA season on his sixth team, Wilcox has yet to feel something literally half the players in the NBA feel each year: the playoffs.

It's not all his fault. After all, he was drafted by the Clippers a team that at the time was going nowhere, fast. That transition from a winning culture to a losing one was a shock.

"It was tough because growing up you're always on kind of a winning-type team, then all of a sudden you get to the league and your first year you don't win 20 games, then the next year you win like 22 games," Wilcox recalled. "And it's just like, 'Dang, I can't get a break,' you know what I mean? We got a good squad but we can't win nothing. And it was tough."

Those first two seasons would be a pretty good representation of how the next seven would be. Three-and-a-half seasons into his Clippers career, the team started to win some, but around that same time Wilcox had fallen out of favor with them. He was then traded to Seattle for Vladimir Radmanovic, but that trade was the first of many moves Seattle would make and not to better the team.

"Then it seems like OK, bam, I get my break and I go to Seattle, and as soon as I get to Seattle they break that whole team up, you know what I mean?" he said. "Then it's like boom. Then they move the team to Oklahoma, as soon as I get adjusted to Oklahoma, I get traded to New York (he was originally part of a package to playoff-bound New Orleans in a deal for Tyson Chandler, but Chandler failed the physical), and then Oklahoma goes to the playoffs. So then it's like alright here we go again."

Bam. Boom. A lot of sound signifying nothing. Statistically, Wilcox had his best years in Seattle the team just didn't win. He ended the 2008-09 season in a limited role on a bad Knicks team.

"When I got to New York, it didn't last long and then the end of the season, boom, that was over with. Then I get to Detroit (2009-11), they've been a winning program so I'm like, 'OK, bam, I finally get to go to the playoffs.' I get there . . . no playoffs. So it's just been tough for me, but finally I get to a situation where we have a chance to win it."

Wilcox once a proven winner wouldn't let the losses beat him down to the point where he accepted them and went through the motions, but his stats and his team's performance didn't always tell that story. While frantically piecing together a team in a lockout-shortened offseason last year, Danny Ainge gave Wilcox's agent a call. Doc Rivers knew he could get more out of him.

There would be no mistakes this time around: The Celtics were absolutely, 100-percent-without-a-doubt making the playoffs, and Wilcox looked to have a big role in it. Immediately that season he connected with C's point guard Rajon Rondo, and it was finally finally! going to happen: the playoffs.

"Last season, I get right there, and it's like, 'Hold up, you're not ready for it.' "

Another obstacle not a trade got in the way. Wilcox was diagnosed with an enlarged aorta. He needed surgery and would miss the rest of the season. The Celtics had no choice but to release him shortly after the news; they needed a body. Just like that, the playoffs escaped Wilcox again, this time in the unlikeliest of ways. But while he wasn't technically on the team, he found out that he was by no means on his own either.

"It takes you to go through something to realize what you really have in the end . . ." he said.

The Celtics and Wilcox agreed on a one-year deal for the veterans minimum in July. The decision to return was an easy one for him, but perhaps it was for a different reason than the first go-around.

"This is family to me," Wilcox said. "When I was at my lowest point in life, these were the guys that were with me, these were the guys that were calling, checking up on me making sure I was straight, making sure I had the right doctors, things like that. So I knew that there was no question that if they even called me there was no question that I was coming back, you know what I mean? Despite the money and everything, this is a more family-oriented team and this is what I wanted to be around."

It's taken 10 seasons and a heart condition, but Wilcox has finally found a team that he loves, one that loves him back.

And he'd love to make the playoffs with them, too.