1981-82 Boston Celtics
The Celtics expect to sign Danny Ainge to a long-term contract before the end of this week.
At the same time, they're planning to lodge tampering charges against both the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers.
Both developments came to light yesterday, and they're related.
Although Celtics' owner Harry Mangurian and general manager Red Auerbach are saying nothing publicly about the imminent signing, things have been moving quickly. And, unless something unforeseen happens in the negotiations, Ainge could be a Celtic by this weekend.
The breakthrough in negotiations came early this week when Don Ainge, Danny's father, moved in to assist agent Robert Quinney in breaking the stalemate between the Celtics and Toronto Blue Jays. The elder Ainge worked with both teams in trying to ease the situation.
The Blue Jays' contract stipulates Ainge cannot play basketball, but the Blue Jays also have said they are willing to let him out of that contract in return for compensation. To that end, they'd given the Celtics until Nov. 30 to work out a deal with Ainge.
But there was a hangup.
Several weeks back, Quinney said he had been told by the Blue Jays that two or three other NBA teams were willing to pay Toronto's $1 million asking price to set Ainge free.
That's where the tampering comes in, and that's where the talks had been stalled.
Mangurian reportedly is extremely upset about this because he believes both Los Angeles and Philadelphia worked behind his back to drive up the price on Ainge. In doing so, they gave both the Blue Jays and Ainge false hopes as to: 1. What Toronto would get for a settlement; and 2. What Ainge would get for a contract.
Spokesmen for both NBA teams denied the charges.
And well they might. If the NBA finds the Lakers and 76ers guilty of tampering, the Celtics would be awarded their No. 1 draft choices. In addition, NBA Comr. Larry O'Brien has the authority to fine each team up to $250,000. Mangurian plans to ask O'Brien to take that money and give it to the Celtics to help defray the cost of signing Ainge.
"We're going to press them (NBA) to do something about it," said Auerbach yesterday. "I've been told both teams (Philadelphia and LA) will deny it, but I still want a full investigation."
A high-level Blue Jays' source told the Associated Press that Sixers' general manager Pat Williams and Jerry West, a consultant with the Lakers currently filling in as a co-coach, called the American League team recently, each offering $1 million for Ainge. The source said other teams have made it known they would be willing to pay the Blue Jays' asking price.
That source is believed to be Peter Bavasi, who stepped down as Blue Jays' president on Tuesday. The word is that one of the reasons for his unexpected resignation was his slipshod handling of the entire Ainge affair.
"We have had no communication with them (Blue Jays) concerning this, and we are not contemplating it," said Bob Steiner, public relations director for the Los Angeles Forum, responding for the Lakers. "I have no idea where these rumors got started."
"There's absolutely no truth to that," Philadelphia's Williams said. "Boston has the rights to the kid. Boston has given no indication they are interested in trading him. I can't see them having any interest at all in talking to us."
However, it now looks as though LA and Philly could be in big trouble with the league, especially if the investigators go to Bavasi, who is believed to have received the offers, and get his cooperation in completing the investigation.
The Celtics have said for two months that they believed other NBA teams were tampering with Ainge, and now it looks as though those beliefs could be confirmed in the near future.
Boston's NBA rights to Ainge run through the June 1982 draft unless it decides to trade him first.
Ainge played basketball at Brigham Young University along with pro baseball for the Blue Jays during the summers. He was chosen by the Celtics in last spring's NBA draft.