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Irish Coffee: Danny Ainge would trade anybody

01.26.11 at 11:53 am ET

Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦ 

For the right price, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge would’ve traded just about anybody — Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen — during the C’s .500 stretch last season. 

Heck, he would’ve traded Larry Bird and Kevin McHale in the 1980s, too, according to the latest piece from Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen.

Here are five things that we learned from Thomsen’s conversation with Ainge: 

1. During the 1988-89 season, Ainge urged Red Auerbach to trade Bird to the Pacers for Chuck Person, Herb Williams and Steve Stipanovich, as well as McHale to the Mavericks for Detlef Schrempf and Sam Perkins

“I’ll never forget being at that Christmas party and we discussed them. He told us all at that time he wasn’t going to trade any of us, that he wanted us to finish our careers as Celtics. And a few months later, they traded me for Joe Kleine and Ed Pinckney. … 

(Interjection: It’s kind of funny that the guy who pleaded Red to deal Bird and McHale got traded himself. Coincidence? You tell me.) 

“But you could get Detlef Schrempf and Sam Perkins in their early 20s for Kevin McHale on a downward-slide team that was not going to win a championship. Stipanovich would be hurt and wouldn’t play, but Chuck had a good career. Those guys were still young, and instead you were getting two or three more years of Larry, but you were only getting 75-80 percent of Larry. We didn’t have a chance to win the championship in ’88-89 because Larry wasn’t playing — he was in those ankle casts. I don’t think anybody really believed we were a championship team during the 1988-89 season or after that. We were just hanging on.” 

By the way, here are the best seasons from Bird, Person, Williams, Stipanovich, McHale, Schrempf and Perkins after the 1988-89 season: 

  • Bird (1989-90): 24.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 47.3 FG%, 33.3 3-PT FG%, 93.0 FT%
  • Person (1989-90): 19.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 48.7 FG%, 37.2 3-PT FG%, 78.1 FT%
  • Williams (1990-91): 12.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.5 blocks, 50.7 FG%, 63.8 FT%
  • Stipanovich: never played after the 1987-88 season (injury)
  • McHale (1989-90): 20.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.9 blocks, 54.9 FG%, 89.3 FT%
  • Schrempf (1992-93): 19.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 52.3 FG%, 51.4 3-PT FG%, 83.9 FT%
  • Perkins (1991-92): 16.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 blocks, 45.0 FG%, 81.7 FT%

If it were me, with the benefit of hindsight, there’s no way I would’ve traded Bird for that package during the 1988-89 season. McHale? Well, that’s a different story. 

Would you have traded Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen last season? For the right price, Danny Ainge would have. (AP)

2. Hindsight wouldn’t change Ainge, as he would’ve considered dealing Garnett, Pierce or Allen for similar packages last season — regardless of the fact he believed the 2009-10 Celtics had a better title shot going forward than the 1988-89 Celtics: 

“It’s not even close to the same. I was playing at that time, and no way were we a championship-caliber team in ’88 — not after Larry had had surgery on both Achilles and his back, and Kevin had had a screw put in his foot. They were never the same after that. 

“Our guys had injuries [last year]. But they were playing at a very high level. It’s a different world now — the [financial] rules are different. I happen to know what was being offered for Larry and Kevin at that time, and it was pretty awesome. … 

“If I’d had those kinds of offers for K.G. or Pierce or Ray last year, I might have done it, too, given the way things were going last season.” 

If the old Big Three and the new Big Three were all on the table for Ainge, is there anybody who he wouldn’t trade for the right price?

3. Based on how they played during the playoffs last season — which at times Ainge considered better than the 2008 run — the Celtics planned to bring everybody back, regardless of whether or not Doc returned to the bench. 

“They played better last year in the Cleveland and Orlando series than they played on our [2008 postseason] run to the NBA championship. I felt we needed to keep them together and let them have some more cracks at it, regardless of what Doc’s choice was going to be.” 

4. Not only is Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals a motivating factor for this Celtics group, but the Heat’s hype is, too. 

“When you get that close, it is a motivating factor for guys in the offseason and the next year. Then there was all of the attention that Miami got [after its success in free agency] — our veteran guys have a lot of pride, and I think that’s another small motivation to prove they’re not done yet. They still have a lot left in the tank.” 

5. According to Ainge, only six teams have a shot at winning the 2010 title. By my count, there’s seven: Celtics, Heat, Bulls, Magic, Spurs, Lakers and Thunder. 

“We’re leading the Eastern Conference halfway through this year: It’s proof that there’s something left for us. It’s good to have a chance, and I have a lot of respect for the half-dozen teams in the league that have a legitimate chance of winning a championship this year.” 


Based on 5,000 computer-generated potential outcomes of this NBA season, according to analyst John Hollinger’s statistical power rankings, the Celtics have the following chances to reach a few milestones: 

  • Playoffs: 100 percent
  • Atlantic Division: 99.4 percent
  • No. 1 seed: 49.5 percent
  • NBA Finals: 24.8 percent
  • NBA title: 11.8 percent

Considering the Celtics have almost a 50 percent chance of winning the Eastern Conference based on these projections — and the Heat have the next-best shot at 29.2 percent — it’s surprising that the Magic and Heat have better odds to get to the finals (26.1% and 25.9%, respectively) and win the title (12.8% and 12.7%). 

According to these numbers, the Lakers only have a 26.0 percent shot at the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, as the Spurs are the overwhelming favorites to capture homecourt advantage at 70.1 percent. Yet, the Lakers have a much better shot than the Spurs to get to the NBA Finals (39.6% to 24.1%). 

And both those teams have better odds to win the title than the Celtics, as the Lakers have a fairly ridiculous 25.8 percent chance and the Spurs have a 13.3 percent shot. 


HoopsHype’s Nima Zarrabi sat down for a Q&A with Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson — a Natick native and the son of former Celtic Don Nelson — who provided some insight into why Dallas selected Dirk Nowitzki over Pierce in 1998. 

“Nobody bats 1.000. We all have the ones we would like to forget. When you have Dirk’€™s frame, his mentality, those are the ones that are easy. Those are the players that are really hard to screw up on. Certainly there is risk. The risk with Dirk was that he was so young at the time. Believe me, we knew. 

“We had Paul Pierce and Dirk ranked in the Top 3 of that draft, so you can imagine when it got down to No. 9 and they were both still on the board. My dad knows about rebuilding like anyone’€™s business. He did it in Milwaukee, did it in Golden State. He knew more than anyone in the room, that when he selected Dirk, it was going to be a painful process and there’€™s a pretty good chance you don’€™t survive it. Especially when a kid is so young. He’€™s from Division II middle of Germany. 

“[Sarunas]Marciulonis played in big-time games, had a body that was fully developed. He wasn’€™t afraid of anything, that guy stood up against Russian tanks. 

“With Dirk, it’€™s almost like a kid from American suburbia. Yeah, he has skill and the mindset but still, you have to be patient for two years. And you’€™re going to get your butt handed to you until this kid matures. That was the last thing Dallas wanted to hear. They hadn’€™t made the playoffs in like 10 years and we’€™re preaching patience. 

“What flashed in my dad’€™s eyes that draft night was that Paul Pierce is a ready-made, here-and-now product from right up the road. He was the surefire thing. The safe money would have been on Paul, he steps right in. The smart money is on Dirk because he is 7-feet and Paul is 6-6. They are both great players but it is so incredibly hard to get size and skill in this league. People kill for it. They both are 1 and 1A in that draft. Believe me when I say we were just happy to survive with Dirk [laughs]. 

“People put their necks on the line. Dirk first and foremost. He could have played in Europe for another two or three years. He took the majority of the risk. But there were a lot of guys in that draft room that put ‘€˜em out on the table too.” 

For the record, Nowitzki has a regular-season MVP award; Pierce has a Finals MVP honor. Oh, and Pierce has one ring; Nowitzki has none. 


He may have been a Laker once, but Byron Scott still has respect for at least one member of the Celtics. The Cavaliers head coach heaped praise upon Ray Allen

“I think Ray is one of the all-time greats. His longevity is a tribute to him and how he takes care of his body during the offseason and his work ethic. I always thought of him as a great player but he’s surpassed everything I thought he would as a player. 

“He’s kind of up there in age, but he really hasn’t seemed to slow down. Every night you’ve got to be aware of where he is on the basketball floor. He moves without the ball. He knows how to play the game very well, and that’s why he’s been so successful.” 

Allen made a trio of 3-pointers against Cleveland to close the gap to 20 between he and Reggie Miller for the all-time record. Count Scott among those who believe Allen will hold that record for a long, long time: 

“If Ray breaks it, it’s not going to be broken — not in my lifetime.” 


Once again, Paul Flannery, Mike Petraglia and myself attended a blowout victory at the TD Garden — this time a 112-95 win over the lowly Cavaliers. As always, though, plenty of news flowed from Celtics camp, as word came down that Kendrick Perkins was returning 10 days ahead of schedule. 

Here’s a few nuggets to quench your thirst before guzzling these stories: 

  • Flannery’s Three-PointerDoc Rivers, as he so often does, put it best. ‘€œThere’€™s people in the crowd that work hard every day. Blue collar. Perk identifies with all those people. If you are a guy that works 9-5, you’€™ve got to love Perk because that’€™s who he is.’€
  • Perkins postgame‘€œI’€™ve got to play a few more games first. I surprised myself on a few plays today, just finishing, a couple rebounds, it felt real good. I know I can do better, I could do more. I was mad at myself, I didn’€™t block any shots today. I was little winded and little off-key. I’€™ll get better.’€
  • Allen postgame‘€œWe’€™ve kind of been less than ourselves over the last three or fourth months, just waiting. We’€™ve had great success with the guys we’€™ve been using, but we haven’€™t had the lineup that’€™s been consistent here over the last three and a half years, when we’€™ve been successful and won some big games, including the championship.”
  • Pierce on his ankle‘€œI just tweaked it a little bit. That’€™s why I left to the trainers a little early and got a little treatment. I don’€™t think it should be anything serious. I should be fine.’€
  • Fast BreakGiven his recent struggles, the Celtics had to be pleased to see Nate Robinson knock down 3-of-8 3-point attempts. He led the charge, as the C’€™s got at least seven points from all five available guys off the bench (including Perkins). Glen Davis (11 points) and Von Wafer (10) also reached double figures. Their collective performance allowed Doc Rivers to rest Pierce (23:58), Allen (25:16) and Garnett (17:45) — although, in somewhat of a strange move, Rajon Rondo played almost 44 minutes.

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee or a future mailbag? Send an e-mail or a Twitter message to @brohrbach.) 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Kendrick Perkins, Larry Bird
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