8.23.2009

Red Nabs DJ in Trade for Robey

http://hoopshype.com/dennis_johnson_celtics.jpg

June 1983
1983-84 Boston Celtics


Maybe Dennis Johnson will show up with an attitude that'll make Sidney Wicks look like John Havlicek. Maybe Rick Robey will prove to be the greatest thing to hit Phoenix since air conditioning.

Then again, maybe the venerable Redhead has done it again. Maybe Celtic fans will be sipping green beer next June, saying, "We knew we were on the right track when Red swapped Rick Robey for Dennis Johnson and a first-round pick last June."

The Celtic offices on the second floor of the Garden were the hottest spot in New England again yesterday. First, Celtics general manager Red Auerbach and owner Harry Mangurian assembled three members of the print media for the purpose of blasting Kevin McHale's agent, John Sandquist. When the last of the mortar shots was fired, Mangurian was slipped a note, the session was terminated and Red took one long puff and said, "If you aren't doing anything, why don't you guys stick around for another half-hour?"

Thirty minutes later, Auerbach announced that Boston had swapped Robey and two second-round picks to Phoenix in exchange for four-time All-Star guard Dennis Johnson, plus Phoenix' first- and second-round picks in today's draft.

Dennis, one of 16 Johnsons in the 1982-83 NBA Register, is a 6-foot-4, 200-pound, 28-year-old. He's a seven-year NBA veteran who was MVP of the 1979 playoffs when he played backcourt for the champion Seattle SuperSonics. The Sonics cited "attitude" problems when they sent him to Phoenix for Paul Westphal in June 1980. DJ is a four-time All-Star who's been named to the NBA's first-team All-Defensive team for five consecutive seasons. His best offensive season was 1981-82, when he shot 47 percent from the floor and averaged 19.5 points per game for the Suns. Last season he averaged 14.2 points and shot .42 percent while teaming with Walter Davis in the backcourt.

"I'm going to a very good team with no regrets about leaving," said DJ. "All the times I came to play in Boston, I heard about the Boston tradition and mystique. Now, I get to be a part of it."

The Celtics have a glut of guards. Danny Ainge, Gerald Henderson, Quinn Buckner, Tiny Archibald and Charles Bradley are still on the roster. The acquisition of Johnson makes it easier for the Celtics to dump Archibald, who wants his release (he has one year left on his contract).

DJ certainly makes Buckner excess baggage, but it's clear the Celtics are through dealing.

"We had to get a good, big, defensive guard," said Auerbach. "Now we got a guy that can play Magic (Johnson) and (George) Gervin and (Reggie) Theus and (Andrew) Toney. He can shut guys off, which is something we did not have last year and could not have gotten in the draft. We now feel our backcourt is as good as any in the league."

Asked if he could stop Andrew Toney, Johnson said, "We only play them twice a year. At times he's come out on top and at times I have come out on top, but when I'm on the court he knows I'll be right there giving it to him."

What about Johnson's attitude?

"We checked him out carefully and he's a good kid with no bad habits," said Auerbach. "He was emotionally unhappy for a short time in Seattle, but Lenny Wilkins (coach of the Sonics) said he's a helluva kid who works hard."

Johnson said, "People perceive you for what you do on the court. I'm gonna get on the court and play the way I should play. That's what I say about my reputation."

The immediate impact of the deal will be felt today when the Celtics draft 21st instead of 28th. This draft is not considered very deep and the Celtics believe they've helped themselves immeasurably by moving up seven notches.

"This enables us to get the player we want," said Auerbach. "Seven picks later we would lose the pick we want."

In addition to the Robey-Johnson exchange and the swapped first-round picks, the Celtics dropped from 45 to 52 for their second selection.

The loss of Robey will be felt only if Boston fails to come up with a serviceable backup center. Robey came to the Celtics from Indiana in exchange for Billy Knight in 1979 and his playing time diminished markedly in the last two seasons. Bill Fitch buried Robey after the 1983 All-Star game. Robey played an average of five minutes per game, scoring 4.2 points per game in 1982-83.

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