Lex Nihil Novi - Wasting a Pick on Ainge

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Lex Nihil Novi - Wasting a Pick on Ainge

Post by bobheckler on Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:29 am


Wasting a Pick on Ainge

It was 1981 and we had just won the championship, former Celtics general manager Jan Volk said the other day. 'We had our first-round pick and two fairly high second-rounders. We took Charles Bradley in the first round (with the 23rd and last pick). We took Tracy Jackson from Notre Dame, and then we decided to take a shot on Danny.

And though it was very much a shot in the dark, it was one worth taking with the extra second-round selection (and there was even talk from the Celts they'd take him in the first round). Under normal circumstances, Ainge would have been a top-five pick. But despite averaging 24.4 points and winning the John Wooden Award in his senior year at Brigham Young, Ainge was committed to baseball and had sent a letter to all the NBA teams essentially letting them know they shouldn't waste a draft pick on him.

But the Celtics had one to waste.

Then again, Ainge was in Chicago with the Jays on draft day and went to the Bulls' draft event to see if he would get picked. He left for the ballpark before the Celts nabbed him with the eighth pick of the second round. The C's then had to convince him to leave baseball.

'Red (Auerbach) had even talked to Danny before the draft, and Danny told him he was sticking with the Blue Jays,' Volk said.

'Later, there was a trial over Toronto's contention that we had interfered with their contract. When Danny was on the stand testifying, he was asked about the conversation with Red. One question was, 'Did you tell him you were not going to play basketball?' And Danny said, 'Yes.' Then he was asked, 'Did you tell him you were going to play baseball?' And Danny said, 'Yes.' Then he was asked, 'So what happened?' Danny said, 'I guess he didn't believe me.''

Good thing Auerbach didn't trust Ainge. The Blue Jays won the federal court case, the Celts reached a settlement with Toronto, and Danny turned out to be one of nine All-Stars from the '81 draft - the only one of the nine who was taken in the second round. (Mark Aguirre went first overall, Isiah Thomas second.)

'We took the chance on the pick because of the way it was positioned,' Volk said. 'We took the chance because we had two second-round picks. Danny is in Boston because of that.

'The other thing to consider is that if another club had drafted him, he very possibly could have stayed where he was and played baseball. He also could have stayed with the Blue Jays if our offer wasn't good.'

The Celtics faced similar negotiating pressure in 1979 with Bird, who had, as he had promised to potential NBA employers, gone back to Indiana State for his last year.

The Celts had jumped in on Bird in the 1978 draft at least in part because they had two first-round picks, Nos. 6 and 8. Would they have taken Larry and waited the year for him if they had just one pick?

'That wasn't the circumstance, so it's hard to say what we would have done,' Volk said.

But the C's weren't the only team in that two-pick situation. The Trail Blazers had the top overall choice and also No. 7.

'We saw Portland as our primary competitor for Larry,' Volk said. 'We knew he was going to be in play for them at 7, so we weren't going to get cute. We weren't going to take the sure-thing pick at 6. We took Larry.'

And when Volk uses the term 'sure thing' to describe the non-Bird pick, what he means is that the Celtics knew he wasn't going to be able to help their 32-50 team right away and, more importantly, if they didn't sign him before the next year's draft, he would go back into the deck and be chosen by someone else.

After Portland took Ron Brewer at No. 7, the Celts took Freeman Williams at 8. Williamsthen became part of the trade in the Boston-Buffalo franchise swap, heading west as the Clippers replaced the Braves.

'I don't know for sure, but I think we probably would have taken Larry at 6 even if we didn't have the eighth pick,' Volk said. 'But that question was never on the table because it never had to be. We were well-positioned. We felt strongly that the teams ahead of us were not going to take Larry because he was going back to school.

'They (the team that became the Clippers) took Freeman Williams in the trade because he was going to play right away. We didn't have a problem with waiting a year for Larry. Red had the stomach to do that. A lot of general managers wouldn't have done it because they couldn't have afforded another bad year - and it's assumed if you're picking where we were that you didn't have a stellar season.'

It's also interesting to note that the Celtics picked up a future second-round pick in the multi-player deal with the Clippers-to-be.

And they used that pick to select Ainge.

MY NOTE:  Picking Danny Ainge was the first step to making him a Celtic for Life, and that has paid post-playing career dividends in #17 and this team.  "Wasted, my ass.


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Re: Lex Nihil Novi - Wasting a Pick on Ainge

Post by gyso on Mon Sep 24, 2018 9:00 am

That was a fun article to read. What it was and what it could have been (much less).

History is often determined by the odd choices and chances one makes, rather than just sticking with the tried and true. I got a 10-year position once because, after a failed job interview, I dropped off my resume to another engineering firm in the same town. I decided, why not, I have my resume with me and it will just take 10 minutes.

This year, something similar happened. I emailed my resume to a guy who had been an intern with my ex-company in Maine. He had been hired by another company after he graduated and suggested that I throw my hat into the ring. While I was in Maine last week, his boss contacted me and now I have some contract work for a couple weeks and probably more.



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Re: Lex Nihil Novi - Wasting a Pick on Ainge

Post by RosalieTCeltics on Mon Sep 24, 2018 12:37 pm

If Red were alive, the story would have been much more colorful. He always viewed drafting Larry as one of the biggest steals of his career (and how can we forget Russell coming here or the Mchale/Parish deal?)
But when he talked about drafting Danny he was so proud of what he had done because of how Danny emerged as such a smart and successful GM. Too bad he did not live long enough for #17 and now, this team and it's smart, bright coach.

Think back of all the deals Red was responsible for, we were so lucky to have him for as long as we did. Colorful, that is putting it mildly. Danny would have made him proud!!!!

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Re: Lex Nihil Novi - Wasting a Pick on Ainge

Post by cowens/oldschool on Tue Sep 25, 2018 12:10 am

Actually the recent moves Danny has made, the Nets deal, the Kyrie deal, the Tatum deal and the draft choice, these are pure genius and pure Auerbachian, even though Red refused to trade Bird and McHale, despite Danny’s pleas as a player back in the day. Two budding stud wings like Jaylen and Jayson, even getting effective role playing guys like Baynes and Theis. Lucking into a defensive force like Williams....we are stacked, stacked stacked and young. Danny has done some 
amazing, breathtaking deals, Red would be proud.

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Re: Lex Nihil Novi - Wasting a Pick on Ainge

Post by wideclyde on Wed Sep 26, 2018 11:45 am

For those of us (most?) who remember Ainge as a player we can all probably agree that he was pretty good.
But, as a GM he has been far better than he ever was as a player even in his first few years as the GM.


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Re: Lex Nihil Novi - Wasting a Pick on Ainge

Post by beat on Wed Sep 26, 2018 12:17 pm


Best headline ever.

DA was the man.


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