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When It Came to Building a Championship Team, Boston's Red Auerbach and a Supporting Cast Had All the Answers and, Eventually, the Top Players : THE MAKING OF THE CELTICS

June 09, 1985|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

Did you know that the Lakers enabled the Celtics to draft Larry Bird?

Or that by showing Bob McAdoo the door, the Celtics were able to acquire two starters?

Could Rick Robey have beaten the Lakers with a 21-foot jump shot in Game 4 of the championship series?

The 1984-85 Celtics weren't built; they were heisted.

The man who deserves most of the credit is their president, Red Auerbach, although he had a supporting cast of General Manager Jan Volk, Bill Fitch, the former coach, Coach K.C. Jones and personnel director Jimmy Rodgers.

They have benefited from the NBA's free-enterprise system.

Translation: The rich get richer at the expense of the poor. And the poor agree to it, in some cases inviting it.

For the Celtics, it was no trivial pursuit. As you will see, they had all the answers.

Question: How did the Lakers make it possible for the Celtics to draft Bird?

Answer: In June of 1977, the Lakers traded Lucius Allen to Kansas City for Ollie Johnson and two draft choices, a first and a second in 1978.

Six months later, during the 1977-78 season, the Lakers sent the first-round draft choice they had received from Kansas City along with Don Chaney and Kermit Washington to Boston for guard Charlie Scott.

The 1978 draft choice the Celtics received from Kansas City, by way of the Lakers, turned out to be the eighth selection in the first round.

Because they had that selection, the Celtics were able to gamble with their own first-round draft choice, the sixth selection, and take Indiana State's Larry Bird.

He still had a year of college eligibility remaining in 1978-79, but under NBA rules at the time, he was eligible for the 1978 draft because he already had been in college for four years.

That gave the Celtics rights to Bird for the 1979-80 season as long as they signed him before the 1979 draft, which they did.

"If we hadn't had that draft choice from the Lakers, I don't know whether we would have taken Bird," Volk said. "We wouldn't have been getting a player we could use immediately in the first round. We weren't in a position at that time to forfeit a number one."

As it evolved, the Celtics didn't get a player in the draft they could use in 1978-79. They used the eighth selection obtained from the Lakers for Portland State's Freeman Williams, who never played in Boston.

The Celtics had a 29-53 record that season.

The next season, with Bird as rookie of the year, they finished 61-21.

Incidentally, Charlie Scott played the final 43 games for the Lakers in 1978 and was traded to Denver when the season ended.

Q: Which three players, including two starters, did the Celtics acquire because they let McAdoo go, and who was the major figure in that deal?

A: The Celtics might not have Robert Parish and Kevin McHale if M.L. Carr hadn't played out his option with Detroit and signed as a free agent in 1979 with Boston.

As compensation, Detroit asked for McAdoo.

The Celtics agreed under the condition that the Pistons also send two 1980 first-round draft choices to Boston.

Boston was only too glad to part with McAdoo, who came to the Celtics 40 games into the 1978-79 season from New York in a deal engineered by John Y. Brown, the Celtics' owner at the time and later the governor of Kentucky.

Afterward, Brown became known in Boston as Why John Brown?

Both general manager Red Auerbach and player-coach Dave Cowens were opposed to the deal, which cost the Celtics three first-round draft choices and a player to be named later.

Cowens had another reason for not liking the deal. He was the starting center and didn't want to share playing time with McAdoo.

But Brown was insistent. The story in Boston is that Brown wanted McAdoo because Brown's wife-to-be, Phyllis George, had enjoyed watching McAdoo play for the Knicks.

"You want him, little lady?" Brown is supposed to have said to George. "You got him."

In the 20 games McAdoo played for the Celtics, he averaged 32 minutes. But he never felt wanted and was grateful, at least for a while, for the trade to Detroit.

As for the two 1980 first-round draft choices the Celtics got in the deal, they traded them before the 1980 draft to Golden State for Parish and the Warriors' first-round draft choice.

One of the draft choices from Detroit was the first selection, won in a coin flip with Utah. The Warriors, who had the third selection, wanted Purdue's J.B. Carroll.

Because the Celtics preferred McHale over Carroll, they traded the first selection to the Warriors and took McHale with the third selection.

"If we had kept the first selection, we would have drafted McHale," Volk said. "The only question after we made the trade was whether Utah would take McHale or Darrell Griffith with the second selection.

"But even if they had taken McHale instead of Griffith, we wouldn't have been unhappy. We could have found a place in our lineup for Griffith."

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