The Celtics are a mess. Last night, they lost to the Atlanta Hawks, and are under .500, and are 9th in the East with a 15-17 record. In a worrisome season for the Celtics, the silver lining is that only 4.5 games separate the 4th and the 14th in the East. The team needs a shakeup, and who better to do it than the GM whose nickname is “Trader Danny.” Or is it?
Danny Ainge‘s nickname makes a lot of people disregard the fact that drives Boston fans crazy – the Celtics (almost) never make significant mid-season trades. The offseason is when the Celtics front office hunts, and under Ainge, they have a famous track record of winning trades. But sometimes you need to overpay, and Danny Ainge rarely does that. The Hayward trade exception and the team’s obvious issues should be the rare occasion when Ainge does exactly that.
While Ainge may have won a lot of trades, it has hurt his reputation amongst the players. It’s been around for a while, but particularly after the Isiah Thomas trade, players started talking about the lack of loyalty in Boston. “Danny will trade his mother if the deal is right,” stuff like that. Where does that lesson come from? Red Auerbach.
Ainge was part of some of the greatest Celtics teams of all time – the Bird, McHale, Parish era. He had a front-row seat to Red Auerbach and learned the secrets of the trade from one of the greatest team builders in all sports. But the greatest lesson Ainge learned from Auerbach wasn’t one Red was trying to make – quite the opposite.
“I remember Danny Ainge telling me years before he did it ‘I will never make that mistake Red Auerbach made, I will never let my nucleus grow old.‘”Jackie MacMullan, The BS Podcast
The “it” in the quote is trading Pierce, Garnett, and Allen before it’s too late. At first, glance that may seem cold, like an accountant measuring value and shipping guys off (which, by the way, is the GM’s job description). But Ainge’s resolve comes from emotions he went through a few decades earlier.
“There’s no question in my mind because Danny Ainge was on that team, and watch them fall apart physically. Bird, Parish, and McHale. Although, mostly Bird and McHale, because Parish went on and played several years and people forget won a championship in Chicago. Don’t underestimate the fact that Danny Ainge was the only one Red Auerbach ended up trading from that nucleus.”Jackie MacMullan, The BS Podcast
If Len Bias and Reggie Lewis hadn’t tragically passed away, Auerbach might have even continued the Celtics’ strong record in the 90s. But there’s no denying the last few years of Bird and McHale were a hard watch, and in today’s NBA, you trade them while they still have some value. That’s at least what Danny Ainge would’ve done.