Danny Ainge's career as a player and executive may warrant #44 in the Boston Garden rafters
BOSTON -- Wyc Grousbeck took stage at the Sloan Sports Conference. Things got a little contentious in a discussion with Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé, and surely, when Ranadivé took a jab at the Boston Celtics possibly 'tanking' games -- that will surely be the headlines across the Internet and possibly in the media in the coming days.
But the most interesting angle was when discussing Danny Ainge. CLNS Radio's own Dr. Andre Snellings was at the panel at the Sloan Sports Conference:
Wyc: plans to put Danny Ainge's number in the rafters one day, but doesn't think Danny will let him #SSAC14— Andre Snellings (@ProfessorDrz) March 1, 2014
Ummm...wow. It was funny - when Ainge was on TNT (and this is now ancient history sadly), he was teamed with Kevin Harlan and John Thompson. Seemingly everytime TNT did a game in Boston (and in the late 90s-early 2000s when Ainge was working for Turner -- that was rare), Harlan and Thompson (a former Celtic himself) would take jabs at Ainge for not having his number retired, especially considering what passes as the standard in Boston for retiring jersies.
Ainge would frequently joke that if they ever put up Bill Walton's number up in the Garden rafters -- that's when he'd make a stink. (Walton's number 5 will go up, but it will be Kevin Garnett who sends it up there. Not Walton.)
However, retiring Ainge's jersey doesn't sound as sacreligious to some as it should. Ainge was a valuable role player for two Celtics title teams and a member of arguably the greatest and most recognizeable starting five in NBA history (the only number of the Dennis Johnson-Danny Ainge-Larry Bird-Kevin McHale-Robert Parish starting five whose number is not in the Garden heavens is Ainge's.)
Red Auerbach would constantly state that players who made appropiately sacrifices and dedicated themselves to the embodiment of the team and the Celtics, and most importantly, contributed to championships (plural) deserve to be honored. That's why Don Nelson's #19, K.C. Jones' #25 and others are up there with the obvious and standouts like Bird, Havlicek, Russell, Cousy, McHale, et all.
Ainge certainly meets these qualifications. And he provided a certain character to those mid-80s Cetics teams. When the Celtics fatefully dealt him in the middle of the 1989 season -- those Celtics lost a bit of their identity. It had a very similar effect to the dent to "Ubuntu" when the Celtics sent Kendrick Perkins away to Oklahoma City at the trade deadline in 2011. Sure enough, Ainge would play a vital role in the 1992 Portland Trail Blazers and the 1993 Phoenix Suns -- as those teams would win the West in those years.
But more importantly, Ainge is now starting to build up an impressive resume as an executive. He already rebuilt the Celtics once -- blowing up an asbestos-clogged dump, and then reassembling a championship monument from the pile of rubble. And now he may be on his way again.
If Ainge is able to successfully build mulitple championship caliber Celtics teams that span different eras, should their be any question the Celtics retire his jersey? (Which by the way would also mercifully disallow Ainge from handing out his old #44 to some of his cherished binkies like Jiri Welsch and Brian Scalabrine.)
Heck, Red Auerbach even has a #2 up in the rafters honoring his accomplishments. But as Wyc said today: Would Danny let him?