Ainge May Sit Out Season

1981-82 Boston Celtics

Feeling in one of my usual friendly and helpful moods, I have decided to dispense some solid advice to a couple of the local franchises this morning.

As the guiding light (behind the scenes) of the better moves that Red Auerbach has made in bringing the Celtics back to the top, I will make the old redhead a genius again by telling him to trade Danny Ainge. Immediately.

As one whom the Patriots have consistently ignored (which is a key reason they can't make the climb to the top), I will nevertheless attempt to help again by counseling them to trade Russ Francis as soon as possible.

First, Ainge. Auerbach says the Celtics have not tried to trade his rights and aren't thinking of it. "We still want the kid to play for us," he says.

What Red doesn't know is that with each passing day, Kid Ainge is thinking less and less about playing for Boston. "Every day that goes by we come closer to looking at different alternatives than Boston," says Bob Quinney, the lawyer for Ainge, the baseball-basketball player in limbo somewhere between Boston and the Toronto Blue Jays.

"The way we look at it, Boston apparently does not want to pay Toronto's price. We have talked with Toronto, and they say they are not going to change. Toronto feels that if we go back into the (basketball) draft next spring, some other team will get the rights to Danny Ainge, and that team will give Toronto the price it wants," says Quinney, who puts that price tag at $1 million, which we printed in this space more than a month ago.

So to me, the solution is simple for the Celtics. Either they decide themselves to be held up for the $1 million by Toronto and go get Ainge, or they put him out for bid next week to every team in the NBA.

That would be interesting, wouldn't it. Quinney and Ainge are convinced there are many clubs in the NBA who would pay off Toronto immediately and sign Ainge to a contract, presto. Just like that. The Celtics say there are no such teams.

Well, let's find out. What will some of the teams currently at the bottom of the league do to get a kid who was supposed to be one of the top five in the draft last year, one who is expected to be a helluva pro?

The Celtics spent a second-round pick for him. The worst they should get back is a high No. 1, or maybe a pair of No. 1s. Now, with the club the Celtics have, there is little chance they are going to pick inside the top 15 for several years.

All they have to do is take the bid of the team they feel will end up closest to the bottom this season, even with Ainge playing for it.

But, if the Celtics are correct, and all of the people who are whispering to Ainge and Quinney are merely blowing smoke, then the player, the agent and most importantly the Blue Jays will realize they are being conned and return to reality.

If the Celtics do not opt for a trade, the next move will be an arbitration hearing in baseball between the Players Assn. (representing Ainge) and the Blue Jays. "We hope to have the hearing before the end of the year," says Don Fehr, counsel for the Players Assn. "We have other cases to deal with first. And we have to get these things together by agreement with the club involved. I don't think Toronto wants to rush it."

But even if Ainge is ruled a free agent by the arbitrator (who will rule upon the legality of the restrictive nonbasketball clause in his baseball contract), Ainge still might wait until the next basketball draft, feeling he can do better there than with the Celtics.

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