1981-82 Celtics Ponder Drafting Ainge

All is quiet on the Ainge Watch.

His bat infested with termites (he's hitting in the mid-.100s), the Toronto Blue Jay infielder has become an object of great interest among basketball aficionados as today's NBA draft approaches. Diamondologists among you may not be fully aware that the skinny outmaker for the Blue Jays is one of the foremost amateur basketball players in the world.

How high would an unfettered Danny Ainge go in today's NBA draft? "No. 1," claims Bill Fitch. Yes, folks, he's that good.

The Blue Jays may now know as much as anyone about the NBA draft, since at least a half-dozen basketball teams have inquired about the chances of the former Brigham Young star abandoning his baseball career in order to play basketball. One of those people was Atlanta Hawks' general manager Stan Kasten, who is an old friend of Blue Jay vice president Pat Gillick.

"They're still very high on Ainge," reports Kasten. "Pat used to say that they looked at Ainge as another Brooks Robinson, and they still like him a lot."

The Blue Jays have invested a lot of money and time in Ainge, and they point out that he can't be sure of his baseball future until he spends a year thinking about nothing but baseball. He has never even been to spring training, for example.

Boston was a logical team to think about drafting Ainge, since the Celtics pick at 23, 25 and 31 and appear to be in a positon to "waste" a choice. But Fitch isn't about to waste anything, nor is Red Auerbach. "Nothing has changed," Fitch said late yesterday afternoon. "Ainge appears committed to baseball, and I can't see using a pick to take Ainge as things stand. If you don't sign him, he goes back into the pool next year."

Somebody will take Ainge, of course, but Fitch doubts it will be before the third round. "I don't see anyone that rich' in talent that they can afford to throw away an early pick on Ainge," Fitch contends, "not when there are as many good bodies available for two rounds as there are this year."

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